The Danish designer and entrepreneur explains why being childlike leads to successful web projects
Michael Flarup explains why being childlike leads to successful web projects
You’ve launched a lot of your own products. Which are you most excited about right now?
I’m super thrilled with my new resource platform applypixels.com, which is a place where we create industry-standard design tools for icon and UI work. This is empowering both veteran designers and newcomers, as we give them downloadable UI and icon templates, allowing them to jump over technical obstacles and get results faster. Being the canvas for other people’s creativity excites me.
I’m also very happy with the work I’m doing with my little game studio, Northplay. We’re following our hearts and making games and entertainment products. The standout right now is Conduct-Franchise at conductthis.com.
What makes you so entrepreneurial?
A guiding light of my career has been a childlike pursuit of creative work that I genuinely think is fun. You’d be surprised by how many people don’t do this. Some aspect of this always makes it into my talks and I usually present two circles to the audience. One I call ‘The Circle of Fun,’ where I demonstrate how positive reinforcement of side projects and work that you find interesting helps you generate more work of that nature. On the next slide, I unfortunately present ‘The Circle of Boring,’ which shows how the type of work we’re doing, even if we find it uninteresting, has a similar reinforcement.
Most people think that the good projects are just around the corner, but that’s not how it works. I think it’s important to occasionally stop and look in the mirror to see if you’re in the right circle.
How do you get inspired when your creative batteries are running low?
I thrive on being involved in multiple projects. Staying busy and juggling multiple challenges fuels my creativity. The way we solve a problem in one project might inform a solution in another. You become better at formulating the task at hand, at framing the creative challenge, and at actual problem solving and execution.
Working on many projects also helps me avoid burnout. This might sound counterintuitive, as one always needs to be mindful of commitments and stress. However, by switching from one creative battle to the next, I find I’m more invigorated than when I spend a long time on the same challenge.
What made you decide to give workshops on designing app icons?
Icons are the most important visual aspect of a brand the user interacts with. It’s what everyone thinks of when they think of your product. No other aspect of design plays such a major role in people’s perception of – and relationship with – a product.
But maybe more important, icon design is essentially design distilled. Most of the qualities of a good icon are universally applicable to every discipline out there. So by mastering something as specific as icons, you’re training in almost all aspects of good design, namely working to create great results under constraints and making something that is recognisable, scalable and appealing.
So my workshops geek out over icons and we get to play around with tools and terminology to improve our skills in iconography. But what the participants are really learning is much bigger.
What’s the design scene like in Copenhagen now?
A lot of new people are coming into the industry and the startup and design scene is booming. Eight years ago, we struggled to get 20 people together for a creative meetup. Today, events with hundreds of seats sell out in an afternoon. I run the largest design Slack channel in Denmark ( http://www.designdk.org), and it’s been amazing to see the community grow.