The Dan­ish de­signer and en­tre­pre­neur ex­plains why be­ing child­like leads to suc­cess­ful web projects

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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.

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