5 Questions with brand & UX designer Martijn Brackman

When I was around 9 I started going to art school on Saturdays. Most of the time we were fooling around with charcoal, oil pastels, paint or clay. I remember it being a lot of fun. In college, the bored and rebellious teenager in me quit and from then on I didn’t do much but doodling around in my school books and ColorDRAW.

Briefly considering studying when I was 16 but my parents convinced me to stick with science and modern languages as this would probably be more useful later on. Well, I didn’t know what I wanted to do anyway back then so I guess it wasn’t much of a loss.

After graduating high school I went studying graphic design. But due to immaturity and the lack of hard work I messed up my first year and failed for… yep, graphic design. During summer I had to redo my tests, succeeded with flying colours and gained traction. In the end, I graduated college top of my class.

When did you first get involved with design?

One day my dad came home with our first computer. It had a matrix printer and ran MS-DOS. And believe it or not but I spent hours using Paint. Nothing could stop me from sitting behind that eye killing screen, using a crappy mouse and getting high on flashy colours and pixel fonts. I guess I still have this digital sugar rush but luckily do not use Paint anymore.

Is there any work you’re particularly proud of? And why?

I am not interested in looking back — what’s done is done. I compare it to renovating a house. You put hours of hard work and sweat into turning it into something beautiful. And then when you finally have your housewarming party you are scared to death anyone will notice that one crack you missed. The crooked moulding or the fact the door still jams a little bit. When it comes to my work I am very demanding and tend to see only the shortcomings. If it wasn’t so important I’d rather put my portfolio in a deep hole in the ground. I guess that’s the price you have to pay for trying to get better.

In your view, what were your biggest challenges?

Designing is hard work and I am not a very productive nor a spontaneous designer. It often takes me a long time till I nail a design and for me, the process is as important as the result. And it’s not getting easier either because for every new project you again raise the bar.
Nowadays there are so many great portfolio websites out there with stunning work, making it all look so easy while it really is not. Every time I see a breathtaking design I secretly hope that it took hours if not days or weeks to create.

Another challenge is the pace of technology. I mostly design for the web and everything is going so fast it’s hard to keep up and make good decisions. You can also see a shift in the industry where designers become front-end developers. But, as a designer, how good of a front-end developer you want to become? How much time will you invest to learn this new skill? These are hard decisions with a big impact on your future work.

What inspires you?

I don’t follow any specific designers but I do try to keep up with new emerging trends. I believe that great designers are fantastic art curators, being exceptionally good at finding the hidden gems and incorporate them into their own work. So, that is what I basically try to do.
I also recently started to write little stories on my personal blog because I think that learning to write is important to become a better designer. Content and context give a design more meaning and make it easier to find inspiration.

Published by

Timothy Helmer

Designer, curator of Let's Talk Design and founder of Creative Network.