An Exclusive Interview with P.T. Phan About Web Design Trends

ptsandi_BlogImg Interviewee P.T. Phan, Web Designer and Developer Interview By: Sandi Beach, Creative Division Manager

I’m so excited to sit down with P.T. Phan, one of Courtland’s top web designers! P.T. has worked in the creative arena for over 10 years and has worked with brands such as Harvard Business Review, Sesame Street, Intuit QuickBooks, eBay, Sports Illustrated, National Geographic, USA Today, Joyride Pedal Tours, Water Masters and many more! Her eye for design and attention to detail is what makes her work stand above the rest.

Sandi: P.T., today we are going to talk design trends. What design trend has been most influential in your work?

P.T.: I have always been a fan of minimalism in my designs, from digital to print (blame it on those VW commercials). But it really is because of the rise of mobile technology, minimalism is the way to go. This particular trend, to me, is more product-centric and honest. I’m not saying strip everything and just leave text and a picture on a white background, I’m talking focus more on the product or the story you’re trying to get across. Incorporate subtle designs that enhance your story/product rather than distract from it.

Here is a great article that better explains why some designers, like myself, love minimalism.

Sandi: I love minimalism too! It’s effective and I love the KISS method. Where do you go to find inspiration for your designs?

P.T.: Oh, I totally forgot about the KISS acronym. I’m glad you brought that up, for those who are not familiar, KISS stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. It’s a great principal to keep in mind when designing.

Back to your question, I’m a frequent visitor of ucreative.com – their logo needs some help though. They feature content from all areas of design. It’s just a good place to visit to see new ideas, what’s trending, oh, and they give out freebies such as brushes, patterns, fun avatars.

Awwards.com is a good place, too. Especially for web design and user interface. It features award winning designs that you can learn from. But my two absolute favorite places to visit are AdAge.com and FastCoDesign.com. I am deeply rooted in the creative marketing field, it’s where I learned and grew and worked as a designer for years. I feel this specific area encompasses all parts of design. Example: you’re telling a story about a product and you have weaved a feeling/style around said product. Now to transition that story-like feeling and style from TV, to web, to mobile, to print and not lose the effect. That is a challenge.

Sandi: That’s awesome, I keep up with Awwards.com too, but I didn’t know about ucreative.com. I’ll have to check it out! How does the rapid growth of technology effect how you design and what do you do to stay in the forefront?

P.T.: It is nearly impossible to keep up with all the design trends out there, every week there is a new app, a new style, a new way to write an animation…etc. But as a designer, I do try my best to keep up. One of the things I make sure to do is read blogs, and lots of them.

I mentioned above about where I like to go for inspiration, this is also another place I like to go to for cool/new CSS/jQuery tricks: codepen.io . This blog is great, the authors pen the codes and you can make live tweaks to make it work for you.

Sandi: I feel like technology is a love-hate relationship. As a user, I love the new features, but as a designer, it’s hard to keep up with it all. What do you think is going to be the next trend in the next 5 years?

P.T.:
1) I think the “hamburger” menu will be used more widely than just on mobile. More and more people are becoming expert web users, they will instinctively know where to look for the menu. This will give designers more options to play with when it comes to designing a smooth user interface for websites.
2) Animations are making a huge comeback, I don’t mean GIF’s. I mean rich media such as HTML5/CSS3 animations: the loading icon, the way a page scrolls, hover movements…these can all be done with codes.
3) And of course, responsive. I know we’re now in the age of mobile-first, but desktop is still the standard; however, in the next five years, mobile will be the new standard.

Sandi: That’s some great insight! As a leader in the design world, what advice would you give beginning designers just starting their career?

P.T.:
1) Keep an open mind. As a designer, your job is not to tell your client what to do. Your job is to guide your client to where they want to be.
2) Be curious, in this field you are always learning, so a curious mind will help keep your designs fresh and up-to-date.
3) Do keep a portfolio, how will anyone know you’re a designer if you don’t have proof that you actually designed…stuff. Pick a few pieces that show the flexibility of your skills, or a few pieces that show your strongest suit.

Sandi: I completely agree, I think having a mentor, someone like you is very beneficial too.

P.T.: That’s an excellent point, a mentor. I am fortunate enough to have a few mentors during my career.

Anywho, to add to your last question, as a designer transitioned into a managerial role, what is the one thing that would make you want to work with a designer?

Sandi: Personally, I love the idea phase and working with a team to come up with a design concept. I want to work with designers that give great ideas, are open to making things better, that can look at the big picture and are flexible with their work. I think I just summed you up in one sentence!

Thank you for taking the time to talk with me, I’ve learned so much and can’t wait to see what you come up with next!

P.T.: You’re welcome, it’s been great talking with you too!