The Sandpit, is a London-based business builder, with offices in London, New York, San Jose and Costa Rica. They specialise in providing hands-on sales and marketing resources, strategic direction and leadership to tech-based startups.
Today we sat down with Kiwani Dolean, a Graphic/Web Designer of The Sandpit to learn more about her job.
Hi Kiwani! Thanks for joining us. Could you please tell us about your role as a web designer?
KD: Hello and thank you for having me, it’s a pleasure! I’ve been working as a Graphic and Web designer since 2007: after 8 years freelancing in Italy, now I work for The Sandpit, a business builder based in London focused on B2B digital marketing.
What does your average day look like?
KD: I actually work with all the companies we have on board, following them from the beginning (building the website, designing the logo and brand materials, etc) to the end (primarily updating websites and working on branding). My average day is divided between creating/maintaining/updating the websites of the companies and designing various material for web and print.
Do you ever collaborate with and within various teams when building a website?
KD: During bigger projects I collaborate with backend developers, and I usually work with the Marketing team in order to give websites a clear direction, not only from a technical point of view.
Do you believe it’s better to work within a company or to go freelance in this industry?
KD: Nowadays many people leave companies to go freelance while I am going exactly in the opposite direction and this is surprising for many people.
I think that no option is better than the other, both the situations have their positive and negative sides and it depends from a lot of factors and from your personal priorities. For example, it’s important to be able to be creative as well as work on multiple projects. I had that as I freelancer, but The Sandpit is very dynamic and allows me to explore more and to be creative.
As a freelancer, you have a lot of freedom, but you’re constantly working and very rarely able to get feedback on your work. In a company you may have less freedom and may sometimes have to do dull tasks, but you gain a better work-life balance, you’re in an exciting environment and your life is enriched by great colleagues and healthy feedback.
What’s your opinion on working with images on websites, and how important do you believe them to be?
KD: Being not only a Web Designer but also a Graphic Designer, I love working with images on websites. They have to be the right images and they need to be relevant and contextual. I think it depends on your target audience; some websites need strong images while others require a minimalist approach. In any case, it’s important to make sure that images are always optimised for the web.
What made you decide to become a web designer in the first place?
KD: While I was in high school I opened a beauty blog that later became one of the leading beauty blogs in Italy. As much as I enjoyed writing, I was very focused on the visual aspect of the blog and wanted the ability to style and manipulate it. I started learning HTML & CSS and realised that I loved it, so I pursued an education in Web Design.
Did you always want to become a web designer? If not, what did you want to do?
KD: I’ve always been an “artsy” person; when I was little I used to write, paint and draw and wanted to become a writer or a painter/illustrator. I got my first computer at 16, and I did not know what a Web Designer was before that. But then I discovered the magic world of Graphic and Web Design and I was hooked!
As a web designer, what tools do you use to find images? Do you use photo stock or try to use unique images? If so, where do you find them?
KD: It depends on the project and on the budget. I love using unique images, and in the past I have found them by collaborating with photographers or taking the pictures myself (I am keen on photography as well). When out of options, I resort to photo stock; I like to use less known photo stock sites, where you can find great looking pictures. Another thing I do is create vector graphics myself, when the project allows it, without using real photos.
Any words of wisdom to anyone who wants to start freelancing in web design?
KD: – Be clear about your motivation and your desires (so you won’t give up when times are though) and work on your personal branding from the beginning.
– Be prepared to say no to the projects you feel are not right for you. Yes, you may lose some money, but you will be happier and won’t find yourself miserable and uninspired. Trust your gut!
– In the beginning, try not to work too much. There will be a lot of work to do because it is extremely easy to forget about your personal life. Establish a good routine and stick to it when you can – don’t burn yourself out!
What advice would you give new web designers, who want to get engaged and noticed by large brands or media?
KD: As I said before, it is very important to work on your personal branding. Have a clear personal brand, possibly a logo and obviously a personal website with your portfolio. Always carry your business cards and network as much as you can, because it’ll help in the future. Working on your personal projects will get you noticed if they are creative and cool, and collaborating with non-profit businesses is another strategy to be engaged.
A huge thank you to Kiwani for her time!
Follow her on Twitter at: @Kiwani_Dolean
Also check out The Sandpit on Twitter at: @SandpitHQ