Shipping Regularly – An Interview with Elliot Jackson of Realmac Software

Today’s guest is Elliot Jackson, a young designer who hails from Brighton in the UK. He’s been making some great things lately with the team over at Realmac Software including Ember and Clear. So, without further ado, let’s get to the interview!

How did you get into design?

I got into it by making a website for my parents’ new business. They said that they needed one and I volunteered. Looking back it was the best “jump in with both feet” decision I have ever made. It took a fairly long time to finish and looking back it was terrible, but at the end of it all, I thought: “yep, this is what I want to do”. I loved the satisfaction of seeing a project evolve from “I have no idea what I’m doing” to “wow, it actually works”. After that I was hooked.

How long have you been designing?

All of the above happened around 2008 and 2009. After that I quickly found myself transitioning from writing code to spending every minute I could in Photoshop. I don’t think there was any clear-cut point when I stopped coding and started designing, it just happened.

Where have you worked previously?

I took on a couple of small freelance projects whilst I was still in school and when I turned 18 I decided to drop out and go full-time. After that I got back into writing code and started developing templates and WordPress themes to sell on ThemeForest, as well as working on a few projects of my own. It was fun for a few months, but what I really wanted was a design-only position. When I saw that Realmac Software had an opening I couldn’t resist. Fast forward to May 2013 and I had moved to Brighton and started at Realmac as a User Interface designer.

Who do you look up to in this field?

Where to begin, so many names come to mind. A few of my all time favourite designers are people like Tim Van Damme, Louie Mantia, James McDonald, Jeff Broderick, Dann Petty, and Rogie King. The list goes on, but all of these guys consistently produce incredible work.

What affects the way you work? What motivates you?

I like that no two days are ever the same and that I’m never only working on one project at a time. My best ideas for a project often come when I’m working on something completely different.

I have found working with a team to be very motivating as well. Having people around you to throw around ideas with, however crazy they may be, is great!

We also get a lot of feedback from people who use our apps varying from tweets to people writing emails about why they love a specific product or feature. I like to think that the work I’m doing now might just make someone’s life a little easier.

What do you think is your best work as of now?

That’s a tough one. I learn something new with every project and there’s always room for improvement. We have a poster that says “The infinite potential of every little bit”. I think that sums it up nicely. Having said that I’m very excited about the work we’re doing on RapidWeaver at the moment. Other than that, I’m proud of what I contributed to Clear+.

How does your location impact your work?

I live in Hove so my commute to Realmac HQ in Brighton is a half-hour walk/skate along the seafront. I couldn’t really ask for a more relaxing start to the day.

What does an average day look like for you?

Busy. There’s always something to do. I get up around 5, check Twitter, Dribbble, and email then have breakfast and leave home around 7.00/7.30. I usually get to work around 8, and after that spend the rest of the day juggling Photoshop, Flint, Messages, Mail.app and Lighthouse. When I get home it’s time for dinner and a decent TV show or movie (my favourite series at the moment are Suits, Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad).

And your workspace?

I’m lucky enough to have a fantastic setup at work. The centre piece is a 27″ Cinema Display plugged into a rMBP (that thing is unstoppable, seriously). The “the one thing I couldn’t be without” thing on my desk is my Wacom Intuos Pro. I recently upgraded and absolutely love it! Other than that I have an iPhone 5, iPad 3, 1TB external HD for Time Machine backups, a dot grid journal, Apple trackpad and wireless keyboard, and my trusty Ember toy. I also sit on an incredibly comfortable Herman Miller Aeron chair.

What music gets you “in the zone?”

I have a pretty varied taste when it comes to music. Some of my favourite artists at the moment include Imagine Dragons, Taylor Swift, Mumford & Sons, the Rolling Stones, Carrie Underwood and Passenger amongst (a lot of) others. I’m not really a fan of Dubstep. Sorry guys.

I’ve also been listening to quite a few podcasts. The Iterate Podcast, Happy Monday, and your very own Industry Radio Show are amongst my favourites.

What project(s) are you excited about right now?

We’re working on a few very cool projects at Realmac HQ at the moment, some of which should be on your screens by the end of the year. On top of that we’ll be pushing updates and adding features to our existing apps.

We’ve also recently released Analog Camera, Ember and Clear+. It’s been a crazy 5 months.

What was one of the worst design-related decisions you’ve made in your career?

I don’t think I can pinpoint any particular one, I’ve made a lot of mistakes. I don’t think anyone in this industry can say that they’ve never made one. It’s all just a part of the process. Learn from your mistakes, understand where you went wrong and next time you’ll do it better.

Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

On the day I’m writing this, Google are celebrating their 15th birthday. I have no idea where I’ll be in 10 years, with the speed this industry moves at I don’t think any of us can be sure and I’m pretty excited about that.

In my mind I have a list of things I want to accomplish throughout my career/life but at the moment, I’m just taking each day as it comes.

What advice can you give to designers just starting out?

Vince Lombardi once said “The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary.” From my experience this applies to a lot of things but especially to our industry. It’s an absolutely fantastic thing to be a part of and I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else but if you want to be a part of it, be prepared to never stop learning.

In addition to that I would say make friends with people who drive you to learn more and to push yourself further. I would say this is the single thing that has helped me most in this industry, I owe an incredible amount to friends like Thom van der Weerd, Mike Buttery, Matthias Mentasti and Visual Idiot.

What spaces should people be watching to stay updated on what you’re doing?

I am on the Twitters and Dribbble. One day I will have time to put my work up on Behance as well. You can also check out the apps we’re working on at the moment at Realmac Software here.

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