Interviewer: With me today are two website designers, Rob Thorn, who works freelance and Sophie Unwin, a company employee, who are going to tell us something about their work. Sophie, how does what you do compare with the work of designers who deal with physical materials?
Sophie: Well, I think for all designers the key thing is enthusiasm for what you’re doing. People talk about the constraints of technology, but technology is after all simply the medium we work with. It just happens to be a medium that changes all the time. As someone once said, ‘The digital train waits for no one: once you get off, it’s very hard to catch up again.’  And as in any field of design, even web design, what you create needs to be something beautiful, but perhaps more importantly, it needs to be functional.
Interviewer: So Sophie what are the critical elements of a successful web design in your view?
Sophie: It’s best to remember that as far as clients are concerned, a website is good or bad depending on how much business it generates – they’re not overly concerned with how pretty it looks. So that’s a message for designers who pride themselves on pixel-perfect detail! A website that’s just like so many others won’t attract much attention – but anything really wacky and off-the wall can be nearly as bad. The core of the design though is layout – is it easy to find your way around and track down what you want to know?  The way the information is illustrated often contributes to this.
Interviewer: I can see you nodding in agreement Rob. Website design clearly covers many disciplines – how did you first get involved?
Rob: Computers have fascinated me since I was a kid – I started learning C++ – my first computer language – when I was 13 and my dream was to be a game developer. After a few years I could do simple games, but then the internet really took off and I got interested in websites. I learned some more languages, and could see it was going to be easier to sell a website than a game . So I got started on graphics – which I needed for my web projects – but I soon found I was better at designing than writing code.
Interviewer: Sophie – you started out as a freelancer, but have now joined a company. How has that worked out for you?
Sophie: Well, as a freelancer I had to spend a lot more of my time with clients, and even though a typical freelance business is small, it still requires a degree of paperwork. And there were always odd things cropping up with that – things I hadn’t foreseen. That can be unsettling. The main difference is I now spend 80% of my time designing and coding – which I love doing  and where I feel confident. I must say though that as a freelancer the feeling of entrepreneurship, the freedom and the sense of responsibility was something I relished.
Interviewer: Rob -you’re a freelancer who has that sort of freedom. Tell us something about your relationship with clients.
Rob: First off of course you’ve got to convince a client you’re an established professional, someone who turns up on time for meetings, but you also need to be the friendly guy he can trust. You need to trust him too – I’ve found those who start out with a whole lot of questions about money may well have problems paying. I prefer to tell them I’ll get something done in say two weeks and surprise them by doing it in ten days , rather than promising five days and missing the deadline. As for clients – and there are plenty – who have no design experience but do have crazily impractical ideas – I don’t fight them, just back my decisions with sound argument.
Interviewer: Finally, a question for both of you – where does your inspiration come from? You first Sophie…
Sophie: I’d say anywhere and everywhere! If you can train yourself to get in the right frame of mind, a cloud in the sky or rainwater in a puddle can spark an idea.  I do quite a lot of drawing and sometimes use my sketches in new projects. And I make sure I know what other designers are doing.
Rob: And there are certainly some brilliant ones around! Sophie talked earlier about rapid technological advances – it’s an absolute must to know what’s going on, but it’s a means to an end. But inspiration – I think it’s the way you look at what’s around you, not what you look at, that counts. 
I’m studying journalism at university, so when the chance of a summer job at Wow! magazine came up, I jumped at it. It was unpaid, but it was totally worth the effort. I learned more about the trade in six weeks on the magazine than I did in two years at college!  I did a lot of overtime – I was exhausted by the end of the day – but I was keen, so I didn’t mind. In fact, it’s vital to go the extra mile – it gets you noticed, and makes it more likely that you’ll be offered a job when you’ve finally graduated .
I think, to make it in the magazine business, you have to be a certain type of person. I mean, I’m quite sociable, which is fine – but I’m not what you’d call pushy. I’ll do what’s asked of me – whether it’s checking computer records or even working extra hours – because I don’t want to cause a fuss. But the people I met in the office were all very driven. They knew what they wanted and would go to any lengths to get their way . I think that’s essential in journalism, and this realisation has kind of put me off it, frankly. It’s not really me . Time to explore other options.
I was surprised to get a temporary job at Country House magazine. The staff weren’t at all as I’d expected – everyone was so friendly and welcoming. That was a relief because I’m quite shy, and get nervous when I meet new people. I did mostly administrative work. I’m good at that sort of thing – I can apply myself to any task – so I made a good impression. The editor told me she liked people with focus – they make the best journalists . And I met some interesting people who promised to help me find work when I finally graduate , if I decide to go into journalism – so that was nice.
A friend of my uncle got me a job on the magazine. It wasn’t badly paid, and the hours were decent. The thing was, though, everyone seemed so fussy and obsessed with little things – like they’d go mad if I got a date wrong, or misspelt someone’s name. I guess that kind of nit-picking is a must for journalists  though, especially with an online magazine. Anyway, my worry was, I knew I wasn’t really much of a team player – I preferred to do my own thing – but I was prepared to put that to one side and try and knuckle down and take orders, which produced good results .
I’m quite a precise sort of person, but I’m not afraid of saying what I think or pushing boundaries. Turns out they quite liked those qualities at the magazine. That’s one thing I would say – you have to be creative and come up with original ideas if you’re to climb the ladder in this profession . You can’t afford to take it easy! That said, the rewards are worth it. The feeling I got when my first story appeared in that week’s edition – what a buzz to see my name in print!  I can see how journalists get hooked on it. I’m glad I did it – now I can’t wait to get qualified.