One Minute With…
Drew Wilson

Valio

Hi Drew, thanks for taking time to chat with One Minute With. Tell us a little bit about yourself and your work.

I started off doing design at an early age and moved into doing graphic design on the computer around ’95-ish. I made my first website around ’96 and have been building websites ever since. I’ve considered myself a designer all along, but then I started getting into development around 2002 – Diving into PHP, and then it took off from there. Now I do both – Both design and development.

Walk us through a typical day in the life of Drew Wilson. When it seems like you’ve created about 5% of the entire internet, how do you find time to relax?

A typical day: I wake up, like most people (I do sleep). I have a son (1 and a half years old) so I hang out with him and the wife in the morning for a while before I go to work. He gets up early so we’re up for a couple of hours before I go to work which is actually in my house, in my office – I don’t go very far – I’m very fortunate, and my wife doesn’t work, so she gets to stay at home with my son. It’s a pretty cool situation: I just work in the house, and I cut off at about 5, like most people, and hang out again with the fam – We do some things, eat dinner, and then usually I’ll hang out with my wife afterwards: Watch a show or something, and then, if I have something pressing to do, I’ll do some more work at night before going to bed.

That’s typically how it goes down, but I also consider health a big deal in my life. We eat really well, and one of the main things that I do, and I would encourage other people to do, is to make sure to get plenty of physical exercise, because the kind of job I have, that we have as designers and developers, slowly kills our bodies because we’re sitting down all day long, for so long. We’re definitely not meant to do that: tons of bad things happen to your spine, weight, heart, and health in general – it deteriorates your body much faster than it should, so I make sure to work out as often as I can – I do that multiple times a week: I ride my bike to the workout spots 4 miles away, do an hour, and then ride back.

Drew

How did you get into design?

My dad has a comics and collectibles business where he buys and sells really old comics. He had the first mail-order catalogue in that industry, back in the late 80s. He would take photos, print them out, and paste up his catalogue on a sheet of paper, and then have the newspaper place run it. That was super old school, so then he moved on into computers when Adobe Photoshop 2 came out, so I’ve been exposed to Photoshop since around version 2. I was a young kid at that time so I didn’t do much – Just played around with it a little bit. I started doing graphic design because of the fact that my dad had owned that software. I grew up on Macs, and when I was 15, I actually bought my first computer, with my own money. It was a G3 tower, about $5,500, so it took all my savings (I had two jobs at the time)

You have created some absolutely massive self-initiated projects, including Pictos and Screeny. How does working for yourself compare to working with a team or with a client? Which do you prefer, and why?

Let’s get this right out there – I can’t stand client work – That’s why I moved away from it. I was never in a position where I could do that before, so it’s not like I moved away from it because I could – I couldn’t: it took a little while for that to happen. Pictos enabled that to happen: I had no idea that it would be super-successful, but it was. It enabled me to move away from client work completely, and now I am able to just focus on apps and ideas that I have, and make those things happen. This takes a long time, being a one man team, so I do like to work with other people, but it’s very difficult to find people who are in a similar position as myself where they have a lot of time to spend on making apps and don’t have to worry about spending time to make money. It’s difficult to find those kinds of people, because I am not in a position where I have enough money to pay somebody fulltime, otherwise I would.

Screeny

From web design and development, to Mac app design and development, and a little bit of icon development on the side – You’re a master of many trades. If, in some crazy hypothetical universe, you could only do one – Which would it be, and why?

Haha, let’s pretend this doesn’t exist right now! No, if there was some crazy, Twilight Zone world I had to get sucked into, I would prefer to be a designer, and just do interface design. I just love coming up with concepts, and designing things. It doesn’t necessarily have to be web work, or app work, or anything like that – It could be some little cool poster-dealio. I like messing with photos as well.

You’ve organised Valio Con, a design conference in California. How was creating this different to your usual ventures? And how is Valio Con different to most design conferences?

I have done a lot of event planning in the past at one of my previous jobs, and it’s definitely a different beast, because rather than thinking about the experience that someone’s going to have, in their home, by themselves, you have to think about an experience you want to create in a real life situation – There’s a lot of new variables and challenges in it, but it’s super fun.

Valio Con is different from other conferences in that it has a small feel, although there are other ones with small feels. Valio Con includes the hotel cost in the price of the ticket – Everyone stays in the same location, so there’s this really cool vibe everyone gets because everyone’s together, hanging out, constantly – Nobody’s by themselves in their room doing nothing. It’s a great time to meet people, and to network. Even though it’s a short amount of time, you really get to know people really well because of the fact that you’re with each other all the time and doing more than just sitting in a conference room. There’s a lot of cool activities we have that people can do.

Pictos

Where do you see yourself, in, say, 5 or 10 years? Do you still hope to be doing the same thing, or do you wish to have moved on to something else?

In five years, I hope to see myself with enough money to continue doing what I’m doing, but on a larger scale. I have a lot of really big ideas that I want to do, but I just cannot do them because I don’t have the money to hire people, and it’s very difficult to get funding. Even if you do get funding, there’s a lot of things you have to give up. I’m not talking about equity in your company, I’m talking about creativity, and having to worry about making good on the investors’ dollar, and you can’t shift focus too much. I just want to do the things the way I want to do them. That would be easiest and best for everybody if I could just afford to do it myself, so hopefully one day I’ll be at that point where I can take on these larger ideas that I’ve had.

What design tools could you not live without?

If I was stuck on a desert island, I would have to have my iMac, Photoshop, and really any text editor would be good, but if I chose one, it’d probably be Coda. Just those three and I’d be good to go.

Screeny's Website

And finally, what tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in design or development?

It’s definitely a different community from when I started – There are infinite amounts of resources. When I started there was just Webmonkey, and that was about it.

I would say the best thing you can do is probably hop on popular websites like Dribbble, Twitter, and start following the people who are doing really cool things. There’s a lot of them out there, some who aren’t very well-known. See what they’re doing and keep up with that stuff, because that will expose you to so much about how the industry works, about how the community works, all that kind of stuff.

And of course, refine your skills: If you enjoy design more, refine that; if you enjoy development more, refine that, but I definitely suggest everybody have a well-rounded skillset, so that they understand how the server works, they understand how the browser works, and they understand how the design works, so that way, no matter what path you choose, you’re much more effective in the field you go into.

Thanks Drew!

Thanks a million to Drew for talking to me! I really enjoyed talking with him, and hopefully you love his answers as much as I do!

Why not check out Drew’s site, and follow him on Dribbble and Twitter?

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1 Comment

  1. grainne

    Nice interview Conor and great advise Drew re the exercise as constant 13 hour days at a PC not good. I think a lot of start ups whether they’re designers, developers or the founders do this. Its addictive to consume information online and keep working like a maniac.

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