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Discussing blueprints with Chris Spooner

Chris Spooner is a very talented freelance graphic and website designer based in Sheffield (UK). He has a very impressive portfolio, but most people will know him as the founder from his blog: Blog.SpoonGraphics. He launched another blog a while ago called Line25. His second blog is already growing every day with high quality articles.

Last week, I had a chance of chatting with this friendly guy. You can read the full chat conversation here, sharing some personal and useful stuff with the rest of us.

Discussing blueprints with Chris Spooner

At first, I wanted to call this post "Spooning with Chris Spooner", but that would really turn some heads. I called it "discussing blueprints", referring to his new blog (that has a sweet blueprint layout).

Now, lets sit down, take a drink and chat with this creative man behind the scenes of SpoonGraphics and Line25 (he's a monster lover too).

Discussing blueprints with Chris Spooner

Hi Chris! First of all, I want to thank you for taking the time to "discuss blueprints" with me. Most of the readers will already know you from SpoonGraphics, but for those that don't, could you please introduce yourself? Where do you live, what do you do and what do you love to eat?

Thanks Marco! I'm Chris Spooner, a freelance designer from the city of Sheffield, UK who writes articles and tutorials for SpoonGraphics, Line25 and the occasional guest post on similar design blogs.

I love to eat cookies.

Chris has sent you the following item:


Cookies! Well, who doesn't like them.

You started Blog.SpoonGraphics (B.SG for short) in 2007. Since then, the site kept on growing and growing. A while ago, you were a Baron on royal design blogs. Now, you would almost be a Duke.

When (and why) did this success start?

Soon after launching the initial posts started gaining some exposure, this simply continued after each new article or tutorial. Occasionally a popular topic would gain a decent amount of traffic from being featured on a number of other blogs and websites, which helped boost up the figures for the following months.

I was stoked at being Baron Chris Spooner on the Royal Design Blogs post, a promotion to Duke status is fantastic :-) .

Chris has sent you the following item:

Character Design

Do you have any milestones set for B.SG, like getting an X number of subscribers before a certain date, or changing the layout anytime soon?

If there aren't any milestones set for B.SG, do you have them for your own, like learning a programming language (as a designer)?

I kind of take the growth of my sites as they go, I like to check the subscriber stats on a daily bases but I don't have any particular plans to achieve a certain amount by a particular date. I recently worked on a refresh of the design, which makes use of some CSS3 features currently only visible in Safari, when Firefox 3.1 comes out it will act as a mini-redesign with the site appearance being that little more enhanced due to the new support!

On a personal level the main reason I love writing tutorials is the opportunity to develop and practice skills in various scenarios. There's always new tips and tricks to be learnt on every project which helps develop my skillset. I would love to take a little more time to learn some of the more advanced Wordpress theming, such as custom options panels etc.

Chris has sent you the following item:


CSS3 indeed has some very neat features: I've used a couple of them in some of my last articles too. Pretty strange to see that Internet Explorer 8 (still!) doesn't support CSS3. Sucks.

You just said that you check the subscriber stats daily: Is that what gives you the most satisfaction in what you do? Or are other stats more important: Twitter followers count, hits, comments etc.?

Achieving a huge spike of traffic after crafting a post is very satisfying, it makes the work involved worth while. Otherwise taking all the site stats into consideration its fantastic to see how the site has grown over the years, it's something I never expected so any boost in subscribers or visitors is great to see.

Chris has sent you the following item:


You recently launched another blog called "Line25". B.SG is about design in general, L25 about web design.

Although L25 hasn't been around that long, it already has a warm welcome in the (web)design community. The 1K RSS subscriber barrier has already been crossed and loads of comments are left on several hot articles.

Why did you started this blog and how did you come up with that wicked name?

I'm passionate about web design just as much, if not more than general graphic design with it being a big part of my daily working life. I had written a couple of web design related articles on Blog.SpoonGraphics which proved pretty popular, so I fancied expanding it a little further. With Blog.SpoonGraphics being quite popular for its Illustrator tutorials, I didn't want to suddenly oversaturate it with web design posts, so establishing a second blog sounded like a good idea! This also gave me the opportunity to relive the early stages of growing a blog and establishing a group of subscribers.

I originally had the name of WebLounge, but the domain had already been taken. I tried emailing the registered owner who wasn't using the domain, but they refused to sell. I then went through what must have been 50 name ideas, all of which were taken (and often unused), even the most obscure of words! I finally settled on using something with a number, so I decided on Line45, searched for the domain - it was taken! At least with this name idea I had another 98 number options to go for, so I opted for the number 25, giving Line25.

I thought I was on to a winner - I'd eventually found a name that was available! I registered the domain then headed over to Twitter to setup the Line25 account.... @line25 - Unavailable :-( By this time I was tearing out my hair so I settled for the slightly longer What a nightmare!

The idea behind this name is quite simple, I picked out a word that had relations to the web design topic, in this case it links back to line numbers we work with when coding, and the number being one that flowed easily off the tongue. I then decided to hide a free icon pack on line 25 of the holding page coding as a bit of a novelty for anyone checking out the source.

Chris has sent you the following item:


Whoah, what an answer. I had the same problems with my name. It really sucks that all "good names" are already taken or registered but aren't used. Luckily that you found a good one, since "Line25" really sounds good, is hard to misspell and just rolls over your tongue.

I also asked this question to Janko, but what do you think is the most underrated webdesign/webdevelopment technique out there? The obvious following question, would be: which one is the most overrated?

A technique I love to use when designing web layouts is adding very subtle gradients to page elements. So subtle that it's hardly noticeable, but when compared to the same element when just filled with a flat colour the difference is amazing.

The illusion is gives is the cast of light over a surface, which helps add depth to the design.

Chris has sent you the following item:


And what about the most "overrated" webdesign/webdevelopment technique out there? Maybe you think that there's some stuff that's used too much out there that's pretty old and ugly, or something that you didn't like in the first place.

The whole Web2.0 "style" of reflections and glossy highlights looks a little old now I think. Although some of the core techniques, such as the gradient mentioned above still work well if used subtly.

Yup. Pretty funny to see that "Web 2.0" was all about glossy reflections, gradients etc. These days, the "semi-grunge" seems to have the upper hand.

I assume that you learned a lot while blogging on B.SG. What kind of things are you planning on doing differently on L25, that you first did on B.SG?

Blog.SpoonGraphics has always been attached to my personal site, so it seemed a little weird offering guest posts and interviews, so these are two topics I'm pushing more on Line25. From developing Blog.SpoonGraphics I've also learnt what types of posts do well and gain more exposure through social media, so I can use this knowledge to hopefully craft link worthy articles and tutorials!

Chris has sent you the following item:

MyNiteLife Logo

Talking about guest posts/interviews, who (from the "blog-o-sphere") would you really like to meet in real life and why?

I'd love to meet up with all the people I connect with on Twitter and through my blogs, it would be fantastic to have a mass get together! Hopefully sometime in the future I'll catch up with a few people at conferences, or if we do a couple of trips abroad.

As I recall, this will be the first summer that you'll be able to work "outside" since you just became a freelancer (how awesome would that be!). What did you do before you became a "pro-blogger" or freelancer? And why did you decide to change?

That's right, I decided to go freelance last September, and so far I'm loving it. Beforehand I worked at a local design firm as the primary web designer. With my blog developing nicely it began to bring in a decent income as a base which allowed me to go for the switch to fulltime freelancing, it acted as a kind of safety net being a consistent monthly earner.

Now I'm enjoying the mix of blogging and freelancing, both of which go hand in hand. The blog often brings in exciting and creative projects from the design community while freelancing gives me new ideas and ingredients I can bake together into new articles and tutorials.

Being my first year of freelancing I'm looking forward to living the lifestyle and working in the garden in the summer, but no doubt it will only last a day or so with the darn glossy screen on the Macbook!

Chris has sent you the following item:


You made a pretty clear line between design (B.SG) and development (L25).

What part of the webdesign/webdevelopment process, from getting in touch with the client until placing everything on the server, do you love most and why? What part of the process would you really want to skip?

I love the initial part of creating the design concept the most, this is where I can put my ideas, sketches and creativity into practice to produce a life-like visual of the website. I also enjoy coding up the concept into xhtml and css, the continuation of developing the website from concept to final design and seeing the progress in real-time is very satisfying.

When coding up the site we often come across layout problems with CSS, especially when attempting something out of the ordinary. Although I quite enjoy solving these issues, I would sometimes really love to skip the process of fixing bugs in Internet Explorer, especially when the particular element is created with valid code and displays correctly in every other major browser.

Chris has sent you the following item:

Ice and Fire

Ah yes, the famous "IE debugging step". Wouldn't everyone just love it if all browsers would display a page all in the same way.

Since you have such a wide range of stuff to do, you probably need loads of apps to make everything work. What do you have in your toolbox to be such a succesful blogger / freelance webdeveloper/-designer?

I rely mostly on the Adobe suite, mostly spending my time in Photoshop and Illustrator. I also use Dreamweaver for coding, although I'm looking to try out a few alternatives such as Coda, CSS Edit or Expresso. I've tested out Coda briefly, but I've found I tend to give up on new apps too soon before getting used to the different shortcuts and workflows, I'm determined to give them more time!

Otherwise, Firefox is my browser of choice with the add-ons of Firebug and the Web Developer Toolbar. I use TweetDeck for my Twitter antics and base my blogs on the WordPress platform.

Chris has sent you the following item:

Willmakers Logo

Chris, I want to thank you for this chat conversation. I learned some new stuff from you, and I hope the readers from Marcofolio will too.

For some final words: Do you have any websites that you frequently visit for inspiration? And when people want to find you, where can they start looking?

I have a bunch of sites I visit on a regular basis in my feed reader and I'm constantly adding new blog discoveries to the list. A few off the top of my head are, Design Bump and CSS Globe.

If people fancy stopping by at my websites, I'd love to welcome them at Blog.Spoongraphics and Line25.

Tags:  chris spooner blueprints interview spoongraphics line25 personal

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