Laura Kalbag is a freelance web designer from Reigate in Surrey. She’s mad about mobile, WordPress and is incredibly fussy about writing semantic HTML. Recently she’s worked with startups, developers, small businesses and individuals doing all sorts from logo design to web and iPhone apps.
Q: How did you become a website designer, and what drives you to carry on?
A: I knew I wanted to study Graphic Design since I did a packaging design project at school when I was eleven. I ended up studying Graphics at GCSE, A-level and then as part of an Art Foundation course. All very much the kind of course a traditional Graphic Designer would take which I found pretty boring.
I started out making my own sites using various wizard software when I was fifteen/sixteen. After a brief misdirection with tables, I started learning HTML and CSS properly and by that point I was a fully-fledged web obsessive. I wasn’t ready to work as a designer and wanted more experience so I went on to study a Foundation Degree in Digital Design and a degree in Graphic Communication where I tried to learn all I could about a more traditional design approach whilst building my development skills to a point where I felt more confident. By the time I graduated I felt ready to deal with projects on my own so freelancing seemed like the right way to go.
The thing that really drives me to carry on is that I get to work with some really smart developers, exciting startups and all-round lovely people. Nothing is more motivating than working with interesting and creative people.
Q: What one piece of advice would you give to newcomers to the design industry?
A: Ignore the naysayers. Especially in the design industry, there’s a lot of people being pointlessly competitive and bitchy. I don’t think that kind of attitude is necessary to become a designer. Find some supportive people who will give you advice and help you become more confident in your own work. I was really lucky to be mentored by Ryan Carson and Mike Kus from Carsonified and the mobile guru, Chris Book. The advice and support of these guys alongside all the amazing people I’ve met on Twitter made my transition from student to freelance web designer very easy.
Q: Which upcoming designers do you think we should look out for in the near future?
A: I’m pretty bad at keeping up with the work of other web designers, I admire a lot of sites but rarely find out who designed them. Scott Coello is an awesome friend I met at uni. His drawings and animations are creative and always funny, he’s a very inspiring person to be around.
Q: Name a few of your favourite websites of the year so far.
A: I am obsessed with Gowalla. Not only is it a fun iPhone game, but their design is so unusual. I’m really big on colour and their bright colours and adorable illustrations always make me smile.
FreeAgent (referral link will give you 10% off) is perfect for all my accounting and business needs, it’s perfect for UK businesses as it helps you with your taxes. It’s got tons of features and balances functionality with a really gorgeous interface.
Since I started using Tumblr a few weeks ago I’ve been addicted to it’s design. Even the iPhone app is perfectly designed. It’s one of the apps that made me start up this Tumblr as an iPhone app design gallery to inspire me when I’m designing iPhone apps.
Q: What hardware and applications do you swear by, and do you have anything on your hardware/application wishlist for 2010?
A: I couldn’t do any work if I didn’t have a lovely Macbook Pro running Windows. I do all my design work on the mac-side but test across Mac OS X and Windows XP browsers for cross-compatibility. I swear by Coda, MAMP Pro and Virtual Box for development and Photoshop/Illustrator for design work (always starting on paper though!)
Q: What developments in the technology you use every day are you most excited about?
A: Fonts on the web and CSS3. Easily. It’s always going to be a pain being backwards-compatible for the IEs but nowadays you can really do some beautiful things without having to rely on excessive images. @font-face and tools like Typekit make me reel from all the choice, it’s very exciting times.