This post is part of Flywheel’s “Designer Spotlight” series, which features an interview with a designer/coder/mover/shaker who uses Flywheel.
Introducing Kelly Tomlinson.
Kelly is a UI/UX designer at Cremalab, a design + development shop in the Crossroads of Kansas City. She also does freelance design & consultation and is actively involved in the Kansas City startup community.
What do you do?
Am I the only one that always feels like this is such a loaded question? So I am a UI/UX designer at Cremalab and I do event coordination & community engagement. I’m pretty actively involved in the startup community and I help organize different events such as Coffee & Design (TBA), Startup Grind, and Startup Weekend. I do freelance design work and consulting, and am working on a couple of startups of my own. In between all of that, I carve out time for friends to try out new restaurants and go to fun events. I’m also pretty active and I watch a lot of movies.
Where are you located?
In the middle of the map! Or, you know, Kansas City. I’ve been here for a couple of years, originally born and raised in Phoenix, Arizona.
What’s your workspace like?
I suppose it depends on the day. My office is in the Crossroads in a pretty fantastic brick & concrete building, outfitted by Turnstone. Other days it’s in my living room at a desk or couch. As for my desk itself, it kind of depends on the day, or even moment. Sometimes it’s fairly clean, sometimes it’s covered with sketches and sticky notes.
How long have you worked as a designer?
I started “designing” when I was fourteen, with a hijacked version of Paint Shop Pro and then “graduated” to Photoshop 8. So, twelve years? Dang.
Is there something that sparked your interest in design?
LiveJournal. No joke. When I was a freshman it was all the rage and I became obsessed with those 100×100 avatars and wanted to make my own. So I started with that, as a little icon maker and then grew to fan art and wallpapers, then designed flyers and websites for local bands at my high school. Eventually I realized it was exactly what I wanted to, so I went to school for it and freelanced a lot while I served/bartended. Then at some point it just sorta became my main squeeze.
Where do you find inspiration when you design?
As cliché as it may sound, everywhere. Of course there’s the internet with Behance and Dribbble and the hundreds of other inspiration sites – those are the easy go-to’s. But there is incredible design everywhere if you just step outside from graffiti, posters, flyers, and especially signage.
What are three things you to do get the creative juices flowing when you’ve hit a roadblock?
When I really hit a block, I tend to close up what I’m working on and hit a few sites to get some inspiration and then go to sketching before I open a document back up again. If it’s really bad, I step away for awhile and either clear my head or engage in something else. I try to be really conscious if it’s taking me twice as long to do something because I’m only half-present. If that’s the case I try to hone in my focus or go resolve whatever the other thing is that’s occupying my energy.
What are some bands/artists you listen to while you’re designing?
Portugal. The Man, The Naked & Famous, The Lone Bellow, MS MR, Twin Forks, M83, The American Dollar, The Republic Tigers
What’s the best part of your day as a designer?
The reaction when a client finally sees their project come to life. Or, when I see it 🙂
What’s the hardest part about being a designer?
Coming up with something out of nothing. A lot of people think having zero constraints is the ideal situation but it’s really not. Aligning your vision with the client’s vision can be difficult and challenging sometimes, there’s compromise in every solution. Also, it took a long time to convince my mom that what I do is a real thing.
If you couldn’t design, what would you do?
Be a serial restauranteur.
Have a favorite design-related website?
Oh my. There are just so many. I really use twitter & a couple of newsletters to aggregate content. I’m a big fan of UXpin though.
Any up-and-coming designers who you think are awesome?
Admittedly, I am pretty terrible at keeping tabs on designers or how well known they are. I follow a handful of pretty awesome people on Dribbble though.