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An Interview with Graphic Designer Veerle Pieters of Duoh!


Updated July 19, 2009

Veerle Pieters is a graphic designer who currently lives in Deinze, Belgium. Her blog, which is very popular among the design community, covers everything from web technologies to design tutorials. Veerle, along with Geert Leyseele, also founded Duoh!, a design studio that creates beautiful work and has fun doing so. I had a chance to ask Veerle some questions about her design style, inspiration, technology and business.

View a gallery of Veerle's design

Your blog is very popular and respected among designers… how did you build up such a large following for it? Was it a lot of word-of-mouth or did you actively promote it in the beginning?

I didnʼt promote my blog at all. I didnʼt even send one e-mail to people I know that are very popular to ask to link to my blog. Thatʼs just not me. I didnʼt enter my site into a gallery either. I planned on doing so though, but before I realized it people just beat me to it. I was so surprised by that. The only time I entered my site was the CSSVault back in February 2004, but that was my previous blog, the previous design, which was actually (in my opinion) a pretty basic site. Galleries were also very new back then. There werenʼt many, like 2 or 3 respectable ones and thatʼs it. I think the ʻnewʼ design and the fact that my site was picked up by every gallery gave me the push to grow in a fast and steady pace. From then on Iʼve tried to keep on posting good content, content I think people are interested in. Knowing what people like and what they want to learn about is important. Also the tone of your writing can play a role. It seems that people like the way I see and approach things and how I put that into words. Always maintaining the level of quality content is what makes a blog succeed. This way chances are that bigger sites will link back to your site, and that people will follow your RSS feed.

You have an amazing, illustrative, colorful approach to design. Where do you get inspiration for such unique work?

Everywhere really. Just by looking around. I think people differ in the way they look at something. The first thing I ʻseeʼ is the color and then Iʼll see the shape. Even if I judge artwork, Iʼll see its colors first and then the composition. Iʼm not saying thatʼs how you need to judge an artwork though. Itʼs not that colors come first. But I think because of the way I look at everything Iʼve developed a natural sense for colors. Inspiration is a mysterious thing. I usually get inspired the most if Iʼm in a happy mood, not pressured, a bit disconnected with the real world even, music on my ears etc. So for me inspiration has a lot to do with how I feel. If Iʼm happy Iʼm very perceptive for ideas.

How do you keep up with the latest web technologies and standards? Do you sometimes prefer designing for print because you donʼt have to consider how you will code it or do you look forward to that challenge?

I like the challenge of coding and yes I always look forward to it. There are times that I prefer designing for print because of certain limitations in web, but with print I always feel a bit more scared. Scared to make mistakes. Could be technical or a simple typo. A mistake in print can have big consequences because itʼs final and you canʼt undo. With web design you can undo your mistake. In print you have so many factors you need to think about. People might underestimate print design and see it as more simple, but they probably forget that fact that there is a technical and technological part that is sometimes rather complex which makes coding for the web compared to it almost like a walk in the park. Just think about color management, trapping or overprint for example. I just love both and the fact that Iʼm being able to switch between the two on occasions.

What a designerʼs portfolio says is often as important as the work itself. The writing on the Duoh! site is great… it really speaks to who you are. What was your process in writing it and creating that voice for your business?

We wanted to avoid the typical corporate voice you sometimes read on business sites, because itʼs really not who we are. We wanted a voice that matched our personality. Weʼre both creative people and we like humor. We wanted this reflected as well as a tone that invites people to read. Apart from the terms of course that you canʼt go about, we wanted to avoid using complex words or words people hardly heard before just to impress. Simple, understandable and clear language in easy to read sentences is what we wanted. With the help of super copywriter Carolyn Wood we were able to achieve this exact voice.

I see youʼre a contributor on welovetypography.com, which is a great site. How did this come to be?

I was invited by the creator, Johnno.

What do you do when you get “designerʼs block?”

I simply switch to something else if thatʼs possible. I try to do some coding work. If thatʼs not possible, I try to take a 10 minutes break. I look in design books for a bit and if that doesnʼt help I take a power nap or just lay down on the sofa for a bit with my eyes closed trying not to think about the project. Inspiration sometimes comes to me in the stage were I almost fall asleep. I always try to give myself enough time to work on a design so if such moment comes I know I donʼt have to worry.

If you could redesign anything… a favorite movie poster, an album cover, a product, etc… what would it be and why?

I honestly havenʼt thought about this before really, but if I have to mention one thing, then I guess it would be the album covers of my favorite music label, Naked Music. Some of them use a nice illustrative style, a style I can find myself in. Their music gives me inspiration.

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