John O’Nolan is a website designer, developer, keen twitterer, entrepeneur and search engine optimisation expert based in the United Kingdom. His regularly updated blog boasts over six hundred regular readers (according to his RSS feed) and he has nearly five thousand followers on Twitter. In 2005 he founded Lyrical Media, a small website design company that, since earlier this year, he has been running as a full-time business.
I was given the opportunity to ask John just ten questions, and here’s what he had to say.
Tell the readers about LyricalMedia, how it came to fruition and where you want it to go in the future.
I originally started up Lyrical Media in 2008 while I was working at a local web design agency so that I’d have a company name to freelance with on the side. At the beginning of 2009 I’d moved jobs and decided that it was time to stop working for people who I didn’t like, and work for myself. I resigned my position as the lead designer and head of internet marketing for an international extreme sports company, incorporated Lyrical Media as a UK business, and here I am today!
Lyrical Media has grown fairly rapidly this year and both the size and quality of clients has dramatically increased. Over the coming 12 months I’ll be looking to continue to grow the company and work on a couple of exciting side projects that we’ve got in the works.
What inspired you to become a designer and what inspires you to stay a designer?
I did a lot of art at school and whilst I was growing up, part of which revolved a little bit around design so it really just evolved from there. Mix in a tech-oriented family and that’s how it extended fairly quickly onto the web.
As for staying a designer – visual communication is something that I’ve always been passionate about. Design is in quite literally everything in the world, so it’s a hard thing to avoid! Aside from running my own business, my goal has always been to be a designer of some sort, though when I was younger I thought that my future lay in architecture rather than the web.
Give one piece of advice to newcomers to design and those who are starting up their own companies.
For new designers the main piece of advice I’d give is to be more subtle. The classic mistake that all new (web) designers make is to go too far with effects such as gradients, drop shadows, rounded corners, etc. Instead of making a gradient from white to black, try a gradient from dark grey to slightly-darker grey. Subtle effects are far more visually appealing than ones which are really obvious.
For designers getting into the business world my biggest piece of advice is to choose your clients carefully. It’s a line that gets repeated often, but one that the majority of people still ignore. If you have any sort of gut feeling about a client being a pain to work with, don’t work with them. Hold out for a good client. I had a bad client earlier this year cost me about $15,000 – it only takes one of those before you realise that you can’t afford to work with people who give you even the slightest headache.
Do you have any upcoming projects that we should be excited about?
I have several, but unfortunately none that I can talk in great detail about! I recently completed a small design contract for Ubisoft, which has led to a couple more contracts for some very large companies who I’m excited to be working with.
Aside from that I’ve got a web application in the works and a small side business relating to the web design industry that I hope to have a lot of success with in 2010.
Which upcoming designers do you think we should watch out for in the future?
Difficult question, I don’t know if they’re “upcoming” or not – but some designers who you might not have heard of who I have a large amount of respect for are Spencer Lavery, Rob Hawkes, Luc Pestille, Albert Lo, and the guys at Impulse Studios in Canada.
What applications and hardware do you swear by?
I’m sure you will have heard of most of these already so I’ll keep it short: Apple computers, Adobe design software, Nikon cameras, Wacom tablets, Sennheiser earphones, Logitech peripherals, HighRise, FreeAgent, Dropbox, Verb, WordPress, and of course Firefox.
Any hardware or software on your wishlist for 2010?
Biggest thing on my wishlist for 2010 is the Apple tablet, which I’m hoping will be released in January. Aside from that I’d like to get my hands on a couple of new camera lenses, and some new tattoos (if that counts).
Name a few of your favourite website designs of 2009.
What’s your view on HTML5, will you be using it and if not, when?
I think HTML5 sounds great in principle, but to be honest I don’t really like to get into all the political debates about markup – it gets incredibly boring. There’s already one Jeremy Keith in our industry, god help us if there are ever two of them.
I tend to adopt new things as they become relevant to me – so as soon as I see something that can only be done with HTML5 that I want to do, that’s probably when I’ll start using it.
And finally, á la Inside the Actors Studio, what turns you on?
Well I grew up studying art and music (my two biggest passions), so those are the two things that really get me going. I studied music and music business at university for 2 years, but eventually realised that I just wasn’t as good as any of the people who I looked up to. Luckily with design that wasn’t the case, which is why I turned it into my career.
I’m hoping to bring a bit of focus back to my love for music in the future with the web app that I’m working on!
About the Author
Luke Jones is a freelance website designer and SEO from the United Kingdom. He has been working for himself for over a year and specialises in site usability and accessability standards. If you enjoyed this post, then you could follow him on Twitter (@traxor) or visit his website (Traxor Designs).
If you have any comments for the author, please use the contact page on this site and write ‘FAO Luke Jones’.