Interview with Collis Ta’eed

First I want to thank Collis Ta’eed for taking the time out of his busy schedule to do an interview for Fuel Your Creativity. Collis travels the world and lives in different countries, most recently Hong Kong, currently Australia, next stop Canada. His design focus is on Web Design & Print Design.

Please tell us more about your art and design background and what made you become an artist and web designer?

This is embarrassing but the very first time I used Photoshop was because I wanted a wallpaper with a gorgeous girl on it, and oddly I couldn’t find any I liked.  So I asked my flatmate who was in design school and he showed me how to use the pen tool to cut stuff out, and then I was hooked.

A little while later I found DeviantArt and started contributing and talking to people there and got a lot of encouragement to make more stuff.  Eventually I thought it would be really cool to do this for a living so I started trying to figure out web design.  Though I wanted to be a graphic designer, my flatmate counseled me to at least keep a bit of the computers from my degree in there.

How did you get started? Did you study something in particular or are you self-taught?

After studying Math & Comp Sci at university and realizing it wasn’t what I wanted to do, I started teaching myself.  I read a *lot* of photoshop tutorials, magazines and design books, went to design conferences and talks, started attending night school and studied every piece of design I came across in daily life.  It took quite a while but eventually paid off.

What do you feel are the most important skills for a web designer to have/develop?

I think the most important skill for a designer to have is a fascination with how things look and function. When you look around you realize that design is everywhere there is man-made objects, and there’s so much to analyze and process.  I love staring at signs, the typography in movie credits, posters, labels, foreign languages, and anything else that has design in it.

How do you typically start a new project?

With the exception of logo design, I start everything in Photoshop – logos start in Illustrator! I started my design career in Photoshop and that’s where I feel the most comfortable, creative and work the fastest.

Where do you go for design inspiration?

If I’m indoors I go online, especially for web design.  There are so many great galleries of work and ideas out there.  I also like finding stock illustrations or photos and letting them be the starting point of a design.  When I’m outdoors I just look around for inspiration.  I also quite like reading design magazines as they help keep me up to date with what people are up to.

Tell us how you started Eden & why?

One of my wife Cyan’s big dreams has always been to travel the world, and in particular to live in different parts of the world.  After we got married, one day we were discussing our freelance business and we realized it was always going to be really difficult managing clients and living in different locations.

I’d been tossing an idea around about a microstock marketplace for Flash, and the prospect of running a website where no-one would ever really need to phone us or demand last minute revisions to a brochure, sounded pretty good. So we set about building what is today FlashDen -  and it’s parent Eden.

What did you do before Eden formed?

Once upon a time I studied mathematics in university.  Though I had some ability, I had no real interest and consequently really didn’t get very far.  It was a good lesson though, if you want to be successful it’s always best to do what you love. Once I switched to teaching myself design I suddenly found myself reading magazines, pouring over borrowed design books, combing the web for resources and doing whatever it took to get good.

After working for a while as a designer, my lovely wife Cyan (who is also a designer) and I went freelance for about two years. Freelancing gave us the flexibility to find time to build and launch Eden in early 2006.

How many sites in total do you have?

At the time of writing there are 7:

  1. FlashDen
  2. AudioJungle
  6. FreelanceSwitch
  7. FaveUp

And we have 3 more planned for the next couple of months, so it’s going to be a bit busy!

How many people and who are part of Eden?

Lots :-)  The company is *really* distributed and includes many talented freelancers from all over.  There are four directors – myself, Cyan, my best friend Jun and my brother Vahid! But we also have a crack development team – mostly in Melbourne, a support team in Sydney and Hobart, FlashDen & AudioJungle reviewers in Europe, the US and the Middle East, Site Editors in South America, Australia and Canada, and writers from all over the world.

We don’t actually have an Eden office anywhere, just lots of bandwidth!
What is the best part about having your own company?

The best thing for me is the excitement. I love my work and I spend hours daydreaming about what will be and how to make that happen. I get to plan and experiment, work with amazing people all over the world and do the coolest job ever!

What are your best methods for finding/attracting clients?

I don’t freelance anymore but oddly I get asked to do design work more than when I did.  So I guess you could say the best method I know is to build a public profile. When a client doesn’t really know necessarily what is good design or what isn’t, it’s much easier for them to trust someone they’ve heard of, because it effectively means they are trusting a group consensus.  So if you can figure out how to bill yourself as an expert of some variety, then it can lead to more work.

How did the other family sites come about?
About 6 months after FlashDen was launched I started experimenting with blogging and quickly found I loved the blog format and WordPress platform. So a few months later one day in my spare time I put together a design for a site about freelancing.  Three days later we launched FreelanceSwitch and it quickly became evident that we’d unsuspectingly filled a niche.

A few months after that I put up a couple of old photoshop tutorials on a domain we’d bought called PSDTUTS and once again the site just went like a rocket. In the months after PSDTUTS launched we came to realize that not only was the site popular, but that there was a strong business model there in having a premium membership.  This was great news because having income for the site means growth! So this year we’ve started expanding from Photoshop to vectors and web development, and soon to audio development.

What big plans do you have for the future?

Lots and lots!  One set I’ll mention is that for our TUTS sites we are now working on consolidating the set under a single brand – TUTSPLUS – complete with a unified membership system, a high paying affiliate program for other sites to benefit from memberships, and better plus facilities.  Once that’s done, well we own a whole bunch of domains that we are looking to move into: AUDIOTUTS, FLATUTS, VIDEOTUTS, CGTUTS, and I believe we’re on the verge of acquiring CODINGTUTS!

Do you have any favorite websites for interacting with others in the design community?

Well I’m on Twitter though mostly I just broadcast random thoughts in my head there.  I also read and skim a *lot* of design/graphics blogs.  And I guess you could say I interact on our own sites like PSDTUTS and FreelanceSwitch.

What does your typical day look like?

I don’t really have a typical day because I change jobs a lot.  I usually write out a list of what I’m planning to do in the day, and usually it is about 5 times what I could possibly achieve in the space of a day.  Then I either avoid reading my email the whole day long in an effort to get some “real work” done, or I have a day where I multi-task and email and skype and juggle a million other things and finish the day not really knowing what it is I did. :-)

What are you 5 favorite sites online?

There’s only one blog I read almost religiously and that’s TechCrunch which I do because I think start ups are super interesting. Besides that I also often check in to SmashingMagazine and Delicious/Popular which sends me off to more places.

What are the tools you couldn’t live without?

My notebooks!  I have a ton of notebooks and I pour all my plans and ideas into them.  They have pages and pages of scribbles, silly drawings, projections of income, plans for expansion, notes for articles and tutorials and a million other things.

Also Photoshop.  Most tools I could live without, but I don’t think I could manage without my trusty ol’ PS.

Please visit his website for more information.


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