"Your passion should guide your path in your life."
Starting a business is tough. Just ask designer Philippe Hong -- he founded two!
The designer, who also works as a senior product designer for KeyPay AND a judge for the CSS Design Awards, sat down with us to share his advice for anyone starting a business, what he looks for in award-winning designs, and his easy tips for cultivating a long and happy career in design.
DesignRush: What inspired you to go into design?
Philippe Hong: When I was young, I always liked to draw things, and was always curious about how things work. After high school, I decided to continue down that path and went to a design school. I first learned the fundamentals of design, but it was mostly graphic and print design. I was a bit of a nerd, so I knew that I had to do more digital stuff. So after doing my first hackathon in mobile app, I completely fell in love with the startup and tech environment. This is when I started doing proper web design.
DR: You mention on your website that you're a self-taught designer. What was your process for learning UX design and how long did it take?
PH: As I said, I started doing hackathons in France. I really enjoyed the rush part of putting 200 percent of your capabilities in two days to build an app. I learned a lot from those hackathons, but I also worked on some freelance projects, for startups and design agencies.
DR: So it was just practice, practice, practice. Tell us about your creative process. Where do you find inspiration and how do you implement that?
PH: I always try to know what the problem the client is trying to solve is. I put everything in writing and try to mockup the general user flow. I never start working on the visual first. The visual part is at the end for me.
For the visual part, I try to ask the client some adjectives or words that describe his business. From that, I get inspiration from multiple websites such as Dribbble or Behance. Then I start sketching some ideas by combining the inspirations and the client needs.
DR: So how do you design something aesthetically pleasing while maintaining a client's needs or desires?
PH: I always try to explain the design aspect to the clients, because they usually don't understand the meaning behind each design component. Also, for me, if you can’t explain a design to a client, it means that your design isn’t right.
DR: That is a fantastic rule of thumb. We're at an interesting time in technology and design. Where do you think web design is heading in the next few years?
PH: UX has definitely changed the web design process. More and more people are aware that UX is an important part of design thinking, which is good. Now people don’t expect the design to just look good, but to work seamlessly and efficiently.
DR: Going off of that, are there any trends you expect to see in 2018?
PH: For me, design trends are heading towards AR and VR. AR, in particular, is on a really strong path.
DR: You're the founder of both Vyte and Bukket. Tell us about those projects. How did you come up with those ideas and how long did they take to implement?
PH: I co-founded Vyte with Martin, a friend of mine I met at that hackathon in Paris. After working together at that, we decided to start this project together. Vyte helps to avoid the back and forth while scheduling meeting. We designed and developed it for a year and officially launched in 2014. Not long after the launch, we landed a Techcrunch article, which was pretty good. Since then, we've continued to work on it and grow the team.
I co-founded Bukket with my friend Mizko because we struggled with finding and storing inspiration for our designs. It started with a Chrome extension for people to grab screenshots, make videos, then see how people will use and interact with it. So far, we have 10K users and plan to continue working on it.
DR: What was the hardest part about starting those ventures?
PH: Starting a venture is not easy. And I challenge anyone who can say the opposite. The most difficult part is growing from your first customer to the one that will make your company profitable.
While you have to be mindful of keeping your costs low, you also have to build and grow your team. I found it very hard, but the challenge is worth the hassle.
DR: Do you have any advice for someone thinking of starting a business or app?
PH: My only advice is to only start a venture into something you’re passionate about and know that there is a need for that. If the need is only for you, it doesn’t work.
DR: You're also a judge for CSS Design Awards. What categories do you judge, and what qualities in designers or particular pieces of work do you look for?
PH: I judge most of the time the website of the month and the website of the year. In general, I find that a lot of websites focus too much on the visual aesthetic and not enough on the usability. I judge mostly on the balance of those two elements.
DR: Okay, last one. Do you have any final thoughts, comments, or words of wisdom you'd like to share with someone in the industry?
PH: I have found myself really enjoying what I do. I wake up every day excited to start working. However, I know a few people that lost their motivation and goals by working on something that is not exciting for them.
Your passion should guide your path in your life. Always try to be curious to learn new things. The world is moving fast, and you have to be up-to-date every time. The design industry is an awesome industry with awesome people, and I don’t regret at all choosing this path.
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