Once again we are back with another intriguing interview, with a certified cool dude from the design community! Seriously, why are they all dudes? Any ladies would like to be interviewed??? Anyway, watch out, here he comes, consider yourself warned! No seriously, this interview was a real pleasure! Nothing is more refreshing than a blatantly honest guy, who is not afraid to be himself. Cerven Cotter hails from the UK, and at first glance he may seem like your run of the mill tattoo wearing, skateboard riding, red bull drinking (and when I say red bull drinking I really mean red bull drinking) designer, but there is so much more than meets the eye. He has a huge personality, and though he does not take himself or life too seriously, he does see good design as something not to mess with! Enjoy the third interview in our Interview Series, and remember to please contact me if you are interested in being featured in an upcoming interview. And of course, stay tuned for next week when we will interview Jacob Goube from Six Revisions! and the week after that is a surprise! So, here is Cerven Cotter!
Thank you so much for doing this interview for Admix Web. Can you give us a brief background on yourself?
Ready? Let’s go! I grew up surfing and riding my skateboard, all on a diet of punk rock. I started designing while at school making use of my notebooks and desks as my canvas. I discovered computers and the Internet, hit the ground running using tables and spacer gifs and found some design freedom in flash. Next thing I know, I’m pursuing design in the printed world of publishing mainly due to constant freelance writing. Last few years I’ve completely refocused my design on the web and have since dropped the use of tables in favour of css based design while flash remains distant memory. I am hoping to keep pushing things forward at full speed for as long as my 29-year-old tattooed body will allow me. I think the RedBull intake helps.
Do you consider yourself a web designer, web developer, or both?
If I said I was a developer I would be lying. Hell, most times I don’t even think I’m a web designer – let’s just say I’m a creative designer with a good understanding of how people need, err want? to consume information.
Why Design/Development as a career? What were your inspirations for that profession?
Apparently, I have always been talented in terms of design, so my parents tell me and would probably tell you too if you asked them. I’ve used pens and pencils, design software, and even the written word to express my love for being creative. I refused to do art at school – nobody was going to tell me how to be creative or what to create. Through my freelance writing I got given the opportunity to be part of the ‘cool’ publishing company and once in house I got drawn to the art department. Let’s just say I never sat around as a kid going, “one day when I’m old I want to be a designer…” I do recall saying, “I will never have a job.” Being a designer isn’t a job; it is just what I do. However, thanks to people in power, they know how drain the passion, making this feel like a job.
Are you self taught or did you study design/development?
99% self taught. The other 1% could be attributed to a brief course to get an ‘electronic publishing’ diploma – fairly useless considering by that stage I knew all the tricks and techniques they showed us in the Adobe collection.
How many years have you been in the field, and how has the field changed during that time?
I guess being in the field is better than being out in the pasture, right? I’ve been dabbling in design since I was 14 or so and really focused on the web for the last 4 years so. As for changes, well, there are too many hacks that think just because they have a computer it makes them a designer. The Internet is already littered with so much crap, please; we don’t need any more rubbish. I do love how the visual aesthetic has shifted on the web; beauty and function are really starting to come together. I like to think this is largely down to the design community pushing limits and realizing the Internet is largely about information distribution and not just looking pretty.
Can you describe a day in the life of Cerven Cotter?
Roll out of bed around 6:30am. Coffee and a smoke. Feed the little monster. Hit the office. Design. Redbull. Lunch. Design. Redbull. Design. Design. Race home. Hang with the wife and the monster. Feed the fish. Dinner. Coffee. Work. Work. Coffee. Work. Roll into bed at about 1 or 2am. Repeat. More exciting days include going to watch bands, getting tattooed, going for a skate and spending quality time with the family.
What does your workspace look like?
I have two workspaces, the office and my home setup. The office has a great industrial feel with an untreated wooden floor, brickwork and white wall combinations. It is also home to the growing Redbull can collection (redbulltower.com anybody?) At home things are a little more cluttered than I’d like but I do have the luxury of having nano reef aquarium right next to me.
Would you define yourself as introverted or extroverted? How does that effect client relations?
Extroverted would be the right definition, I think… As for clients – I am who I am. I do what I do and if they don’t like that, then I don’t want to work with them, simple as that. Life is too short to go around bending over just for another pay cheque.
If you could give a Shout Out to someone who has inspired you in your life, but may not know it, who
what it be?
I’ve had a few people influence my life and it is impossible to single out one person. On the top of the list would have to be my very supportive and encouraging wife and in the same breathe, my son Cale who makes me smile every single day. My parents for always being there to lend a hand, the old Cape Town blunt magazine crew for teaching me so much and all my friends around the world (the rockers, the designers, the SKUNX) that have always shown me love and support, they know who they are.
What is your favorite color? Does it infiltrate your designs?
I do have a penchant for black and contrasting colours, red in particular. I never let my personal preferences control a project I’m working on, unless I’m possibly part of the target audience. It isn’t what I like or even what the client likes – it is what the users like and identify with at the end if the day. If they don’t like it, who is going to use the website or app?
How do you balance your raw inspirations for a project, with the client’s sometimes bad ideas?
There will always be those people who want it done their way even if what they want is completely missing the mark. All you can do as a designer is give reasons for why their idea is terrible and offer a solution. Stubborn clients normally have the worst looking and working websites – I’m done working with clients like that, if they know best, they should just do it themselves or get a monkey to do their bidding.
What was your first design you actually marketed? How do you feel about it now?
Ha ha ha. I think it might have been my first attempt at an online portfolio for myself – thinking back, it was horrendous, way too many gimmicks, but I blame flash for that. I really wish I still had that work somewhere… as a reminder of how NOT to design for the web.
What is your favorite type of design work? And, what has been your favorite project?
Design for the web would be my favourite type of work and in particular working with clients that allow me to deliver the best possible solution – no restraints. As for a favourite project, mmmmm, the new stuff I’m busy with now, quite excited about the redesign of pixeldeath. Any new project I’m working on is my favourite.
Explain the significance of your company name.
Not really a company as such, but I work under the banner of pixeldeath – sounds really harsh right? Well, that is how ‘we’ roll. I say ‘we’ when referring to pixeldeath as sometimes I collaborate with other people that bring different skills to the table. Everybody is creative this, studio that, blah design, blah, blah. I settled on pixeldeath because although “we create cool stuff”, it brings an element of danger to the work we do. Everybody says, “Excuse me?” or “what was that?” when I mention the name. It’s good to say it again and more often than not I get to say it 3 or even 4 times. It’s kind of a talking point, I think.
Are you a Mac or a PC? Why?
Apple Mac. Do I really have to give a reason?
What design tools do you use? Which tools would you suggest to fellow designers/developers?
My arsenal of design tools is fairly run if the mill. Photoshop, Freehand (yeah, I’m old school), Dreamweaver (code view only and for site management), CSSedit, Billings 3, Indesign, iTunes (“When I got the music, I got a place to go…”), and of course Safari, Firefox, Tweetie, Skype and Adium. I also use Illustrator on the odd occasion. Although not an applications, WordPress is my go to CMS system with Magento being my preferred ecommerce platform.
Do you work better under pressure or do you need time to cultivate your ideas?
There is never enough time to get everything done and I’m constantly under pressure with on going work. It’s good though, it really pushes you. For my own personal projects, I take my time, only person I got to answer to is myself, and I’m a great easy going client who lets the designer do their thing, ha ha.
Tell me about the Blog: Revert. What made you start it and why do you write?
Revert will be the pixeldeath.com blog. Shockingly enough, the blog will be focused on design while also touching on branding and social media. The blog will be aimed at and written for non-designers to help and educate them about the power and value of good design.
What are some of the design and development blogs you read on a regular basis, why?
I keep a good few design and web related blogs in my RSS reader. I don’t get caught up with the actual sites; I just scan my reader and then read any articles that seem appealing. I do enjoy the material that UXbooth publishes. A List Apart is another good one along with LogoDesignLove and David Airey‘s updates seem to catch my eye fairly often. Gomediazine have had some great interviews recently, which have made for good reading.
Where do you see design, the web, and development in 10 years?
As for the industry, hopefully browsers will have learnt to speak the same language’ and allow us as designers to make the internet the best possible user experience.
Please share some pearls of wisdom for up and coming designers in the field.
Don’t follow the trends, carve your own niche. Follow your heart and pursue your passions. And, question everything!
Can we see some examples of your work?
How can people get in contact with you?
Best way to get in touch is to visit my personal site at Cerven Cotter – you can connect with me on various platforms ways including Twitter, facebook and linkedin. You can also go to pixeldeath and join the mailing list/RSS feed to be notified of the relaunch of the site and of course the debut of Revert, the pixeldeath blog. Keep an eye on, deathdestroy.com, this is my personal blog.
Holly Lamarche is a writer and attorney from New Orleans, Louisiana. Holly lived in Santo Domingo for two years, where she taught at a local private High School, and she currently writes and edits part-time for AdmixWeb and lives in Lafayette, Louisiana.
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