Judging an international design competition is no easy task. It takes a special kind of person that is willing to give their time and experience for the betterment of the industry.
It's time to shine a spotlight on these special individuals and dig a little deeper to see what makes them tick. Therefore, on behalf of the CSSDA founders and crew, please enjoy the following interview with one of our esteemed judging panel members.
I'm Tom Newton, an enthusiastic - some say "obsessive" (my fiancée) - Digital Designer. I currently call Manchester home after spending the better part of a decade learning my craft at some fantastic agencies all over London. I work along side some very clever people at "big boutique" digital agency Code Computerlove as a Senior Interactive Designer in the Experience Design Team. Aside from working on awesome digital solutions, my role is to help bridge the gap between design and development by getting people away from static design into explorative HTML/CSS/JS prototyping.
1. When and what was your first ever computer? Can you remember the spec?
I remember the day my dad came home with "the future" in the form of an Acorn A7000 with less power than my current watch and transforming the spare room into the computer room. My first personal computer was an Apple PowerBook after falling in love with Macintosh's at college.
2. When and what was the first website you were involved in designing/developing? Which elements of the project did you do? Can you remember the 'cutting edge' tech used at the time? How did the site turn out and what did this experience teach you?
Apart from the countless Flash sites and games my university housemates and I made, the first professional site I worked on was for a furniture company. I remember it used jQuery (that was a big deal at the time) and had a custom build CMS, fancy. The site was well received by the client and survived a long time in internet years being only updated last year!
3. Which project has been most rewarding for you over the course of your career and why?
I've worked on my fair share of big projects (eBay, Citi Bank, Chelsea FC to name a few) but the most rewarding from a professional point of view has been the recent re-design of Asda.com. Apart from being my first Code Computerlove project, it's been Code's most successful website to date in terms of performance (not a bad accolade to have for a company nearing it's 17th birthday!)
Recently I've been working on re-designing the website of a large charity which has been the most personally rewarding site for me. Unfortunately I can't say who yet so watch this space!
4. What career advice would you give to yourself if you could send a 'temporal text' 5 - 10 years into the past?
"See that big HTML/CSS book you've been using to prop your monitor up? Pick it up and actually read it, it will change how you design forever!"
5. Better still, if you had your own hot tub time machine, what time period would you travel to and why?
I'd love to go forward (can I go in a Delorean instead?) to see what the future holds for design, what is the new tech? Does anyone remember the internet? Did wearables take off?
1. What are your favourite aspects about working in design?
It doesn't feel like a job. I love what I do and going to work is fun, I get to create new things and solve meaningful problems.
2. What are your favourite design tools, sites, fonts and resources right now?
My favourite tool at the moment is probably Sketch, after years of wrestling Photoshop it feels like a breath of fresh air. Although I've got my eye on Adobe's Project Comet, looks very promising! I've also got a soft spot for Atom by GitHub.
3. What are your favorite devices right now from mobile to desktop?
Desktop wise, it will always be my Retina Macbook Pro. Fantastic bit of kit that I couldn't live without. However, on mobile (ready for this?) I'm an Android fan boy. My favourite device has to be the upcoming Nexus 6p, I can't wait to get my hands on mine at the end of the month (upgrade from the Nexus 5). And to go even smaller, I adore my Moto 360. Never thought I'd need a smart watch but now it feels very weird to wear a normal watch (when I inevitably forget to charge it).
4. Which 3 cities would be your favorite to open an office in and why?
Having recently moved to Manchester with a future vision of staying put I'd have to say here would be number 1, the city is fantastic and the design scene is booming at the moment. San Fransisco would be second choice, I'm big on future tech and new design thinking and undoubtably California is leading the way there. Plus I look quite good with a tan. With the growth of remote working I'd love the idea of one day opening an office in the middle of the countryside with great views and plenty of land for quad bike breaks.
5. What is your favorite activity outside of work?
I'm a keen cyclist so try to get out as much as I can but I enjoy taking advantage of living in the city and going out to gigs with friends or sampling the latest food craze.
1. How do you stay motivated?
I rarely become unmotivated, I'm however guilty of getting burnt-out sometimes by doing exciting freelance projects on weekends and evenings. So I try to take time away from the screen every now and then by going out into the countryside and hiking to refresh my mind.
2. Do you have a good life/work balance? Could it be improved? If so how?
I think so but I'm sure friends and family will disagree. As mentioned, I tend to take on extra projects to keep doing what I love doing and getting better at it. I need something along the lines of Bernard's Watch to pause time to do both!
3. Do you have any career advice for young designers and developers?
Never treat this career as a job. Get excited over the small things and read and write as much as you can.
4. How do you keep up with the latest trends & tech?
I'm not a big fan of design trends as I much prefer to design the right solution for the problem in hand. However you can usually catch me browsing various technology sub-reddits and blogs to keep up!
5. If money was abolished and nobody needed to work anymore, what would you do with your life?
Without a question of doubt I'd still design. However I'd probably concentrate on charity sites and figure out ways to improve peoples lives through tech. Preferably on a beach in the Bahamas though.
Versus: In your opinion...
1. Are great designers born Vs. made by experience?
Made, design is a learnt skill and improved by reading, doing and working with people more talented than you are.
2. Is the best long term goal to be a founder Vs. freelance Vs. fulltime job?
I'd love to found my own studio one day, however I'd also be really happy working up to Design Director or something along those lines at a large agency to continue working with big clients and other talented designers.
3. iPhone 6s vs Samsung S6 vs other?
Googles Nexus line by a long shot.
4. Printed book vs eBook?
Although I love all things digital, books are something I've held onto. There's no better feeling than reading an actual book.
5. Star Trek vs Star Wars?
Star Wars. The topic of many debates with my Trekky cousin!
Thanks for your time. Any last words?
Thanks for having me as part of the CSSDA Judges Panel, it's great to see the fantastic sites that are featured each month. Cheers!
Check out Tom's work.