An Interview with Designer and Developer Benjamin De Cock

Benjamin de Cock is a freelance designer who works out of his home office in Belgium. His focuses are interface and icon design, and he’s 28 years old. Benjamin spends most of his time designing Stripe and Kickoff. We caught up with Ben to talk to him about his design practices and approach.

What software/hardware do you use daily?

I exclusively use Adobe Fireworks CS6 as my design tool. I look more and more at Sketch 2 which is very promising but still a bit young to make the complete switch in my humble opinion. When I design for iOS, I also use quite a lot of LiveView and — surprisingly — iPhoto to quickly import screenshots to the Mac through Photo Stream.

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I’m not doing a lot of front-end development anymore but when I do, I still use the dying TextMate. I gave Coda 2 a quick try but I felt it wasn’t the right tool for me as I’m usually looking for extremely light text editors. I’ve heard great things about Sublime Text and Chocolat but since I lost some interest in coding, I must admit I haven’t found the motivation to properly try those apps yet.

As for the hardware part, I work on a MacBook Air 11″ (always closed) connected to a Thunderbolt Display 27″. I should probably mention my iPad too as I work quite a lot on it. For example, I do most of the email stuff there and I truly enjoy the experience. Many people find it difficult to type on the iPad but it’s not the case for me. Editing text still feels complicated to me (I hope Apple’s working on improving the loupe or an alternative to it) but typing works just fine with me. I wouldn’t say I’m as fast as I’m on a real keyboard but I’m honestly close to it and I love the feeling of my fingers on the glass. :)

Where do you get your inspiration from?

It may sound cliché but I look at everything Apple makes, from their website (the iPad’s feature page is still amazing) to their device boxes. I honestly still haven’t found another company where the attention to every detail feels so important. I guess I should also mention Dribbble. While I have mixed feelings about it (showing some graphics out of context rarely makes sense), it’s still a great resource if you want to get inspiration on execution.

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What triggered your passion of design and development?

Showing things to people and see those people actually using your creations has always been fascinating to me. Designing something exclusively for me wouldn’t be motivating at all. With the web, I have this amazing opportunity to easily share my work with so many people around the world so it was a no-brainer.

As for the development part of the process, I must clarify I’m not a developer at all. I’m very comfortable with HTML and CSS (which is definitely not what I call “development”) and I also do some JavaScript but that’s everything I know. I always wanted to understand how things technically work but I’m not really interested in implementation details. It also feels important to me to be able to prototype some of my UI ideas to see if they can actually work. I think every software designer should have at least some notion of the technical side of the apps they’re designing.

What’s a typical day look like for you?

I usually start the day around 9am by answering the important emails on my iPad and checking some RSS feeds and tweets before moving to my office. I try to then focus exclusively on designing things, hiding all kinds of notifications that could disturb me. I repeat the same scenario after lunch and I usually leave my office around 6pm to take care of my son.

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What would you recommend to anyone wanting to get started in the world of design?

I’m a huge believer in practice. Trying to replicate existing graphics is a good way to start learning your design software and to see how the original designer made all the details. Learning to make many iterations of the same mockup is very important too. We, as designers, are often too connected with the graphics we create. Trial and error is a frustrating but essential workflow to reach something really good. Experience is king.

Thanks a lot for your time – keep up the great work!

Thanks for having me Daniel!

 

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