Interview with Grace Smith — blog and user interface designer

4 Comments 17 February 2010

Interview with Grace Smith — blog and user interface designer

Grace Smith is a designer, self-proclaimed Apple fan-girl and Twit­ter addict based in North­ern Ire­land. Her design stu­dio, Postscript5, spe­cial­izes in Blog and User Inter­face design.  Grace works with indi­vid­u­als and com­pa­nies based mainly in the UK and USA, on a diverse range of projects and enjoys col­lab­o­rat­ing with other design­ers and developers.

Grace is very active in the design com­mu­nity and can be found on Twit­ter, her design blog, and her Free­lance resource aggre­ga­tor—The Free­lance Feed.

interview-guy-smFirst, thanks Grace, being inter­viewed on the Free­lance Show! Can you tell our read­ers about your back­ground in design lead­ing up to start­ing your stu­dio, Post­script 5? 

graceThanks for ask­ing me, I’m thrilled to be on The Free­lance Show!

A pas­sion for design and art is a huge part of who I am. I was an avid artist through­out my child­hood and right through school. I actu­ally remem­ber cre­at­ing sites using Geoc­i­ties when I was a lot younger, so it’s been a long time since my first site, but I didn’t start design­ing ‘prop­erly’ until my first year at University.

After I grad­u­ated with a Mul­ti­me­dia Design Degree in 2005 I started work as a graphic designer for a local print com­pany. Con­cen­trat­ing so much on print work made me miss work­ing online though, so after a year I started to free­lance in my spare time and build up both my con­tacts and port­fo­lio to the point where I could free­lance full-time and cre­ate Postscript5, which has now been in exis­tence for over 3 years.

Being a designer is just very nat­ural and suits my sen­si­bil­i­ties and pas­sions. I can’t really think of being any­thing else!


interview-guy-smDescribe how blog­ging, social media and your per­sonal projects impacted your design busi­ness? Have you noticed a direct impact result­ing in new clients that you may not have oth­er­wise had? 

graceWrit­ing and blog­ging is impor­tant and has become an inte­gral part of my per­sonal brand­ing and also acts as a way for me to con­tin­u­ally learn and explore new ideas, tech­niques and technologies.

I have noticed an increase in enquiries to Postscript5 since I started blog­ging early last year. It has essen­tially acted as a fan­tas­tic brand­ing and pro­mo­tional tool. I reg­u­larly get asked to take part in arti­cles, inter­views and fea­tures for other sites and blogs, which fur­ther helps to build my brand and intro­duce me to new audi­ences. For instance being fea­tured in 40 Amaz­ing Female Role Mod­els for Web Design­ers and on var­i­ous Twit­ter lists has landed me clients as recently as last week.

I don’t think any free­lancer can over­look blog­ging and social media as ways to build both your brand name and cred­i­bil­ity. It serves as cheap, invalu­able mar­ket­ing for your busi­ness if you approach it with the right focus.

My per­sonal projects such as Theme Thurs­day and most recently The Free­lance Feed are essen­tial for me to exper­i­ment and work at my own pace as well as putting some of cre­ative energy into projects that I work on independently.


interview-guy-smWhat are some of your favorite apps (web or desk­top) that you incor­po­rate into your free­lance business? 

graceThese are the apps that I use on a reg­u­lar basis within my business:


I recently switched from Safari to Chrome and so far it’s been excel­lent, although i do have to use Chromium to enable the plu­g­ins. It’s been an awful lot more sta­ble than both Safari and Fire­fox, the fact it’s light­ning quick also helps!


I’ve used both CSSEdit and Espresso but always come back to Coda. It inte­grates every­thing that I need; namely a code edi­tor, CSS edi­tor, pre­view pane, SSH Ter­mi­nal, web­site man­age­ment and an FTP client.

Google Apps

I run all my mail through Google Apps as a desk­top app using Fluid, with all my accounts stream­ing into a sin­gle inbox and then fil­tered into their own labels to keep thing organ­ised. Pre­vi­ously I used the native Mail app, how­ever I switched to Google to bet­ter stream­line my email process. Google Apps is essen­tial to my busi­ness, espe­cially Google Doc’s which is fan­tas­tic to use with clients and col­lab­o­ra­tors, to work on Specs, Sched­ul­ing and project specifics.


I was a Fresh­books user for sev­eral years but recently switched to Cur­d­bee as I needed a sim­pler, more cost effec­tive solu­tion. Cur­d­bee is an excel­lent ser­vice, offer­ing the nec­es­sary func­tion­al­ity and fea­tures which suit my needs perfectly.


After long­ing for a super sim­ple, ‘get your stuff done’ to-do list app, I knew my search was over once I found TaskPa­per. No bloated com­plex soft­ware, just a fast, sim­ple app that makes sure I keep up to date with my tasks.


I started using Note­able just a few weeks back and so far have been hugely impressed. It allows me to eas­ily and effi­ciently get visual feed­back from clients via a slick, intu­itive inter­face. It’s by far the best method of get­ting feed­back and sig­noff I’ve ever used.


I’ve been using it since the days of Pho­to­shop 6 and can’t see myself usng any other app. It’s where every design I work on is cre­ated and polished.


interview-guy-smWhat are some of the upcom­ing trends you are see­ing in web and User Inter­face design? What trends do you see on the decline—or per­haps that have become too overused and abused? 

graceWith the devel­op­ment of CSS3 and HTML5 I think we are going to see design­ers and devel­op­ers util­is­ing these new fea­tures to add more unique and inno­v­a­tive ‘touches’ to their designs. A small num­ber have already imple­mented some of the new tech­niques, and this will increase greatly over the year, in my prediction.

Like myself, more and more design­ers and devel­op­ers are step­ping into Mobile design, I would expect a marked increase in 2010 in mobile spe­cific design.

I think over­all we’re going to see a con­tin­u­a­tion of some of the major trends of 2009, namely;

1. Huge Typog­ra­phy
2. Over­sized foot­ers
3. Modal boxes
4. Grids & Mag­a­zine Lay­outs, and
5. Hand drawn illustration

I would per­son­ally like to see an end to the overuse of cliched stock pho­tog­ra­phy! I love it when a site uses rather quirky imagery rather than the obvi­ous, even if it’s stock, it doesn’t have to be boring.


interview-guy-smWhat has been the biggest chal­lenge you’ve faced so far in your free­lance design career? How did you over­come it? 

graceThe biggest chal­lenge would have to be the fact I was quite shy. I’ve found though that free­lanc­ing has been a great way to build my con­fi­dence, force me to step out­side of my com­fort zone and push myself to become com­posed and con­fi­dent when com­mu­ni­cat­ing with oth­ers to the point where I’m now com­pletely at ease when speak­ing pub­licly, meet­ing new clients and in large groups, for example.

Now I actu­ally teach IT & Design classes in a local devel­op­ment cen­tre so it’s cer­tainly paid off!

interview-guy-smLastly, what advice would you have for begin­ning freelancers—or those who are look­ing to grow their free­lance business? 

graceTo any new free­lancer it’s impor­tant to be pre­pared! Not just with the obvi­ous such as your port­fo­lio. Have a rock solid con­tract in place, cre­ate pro­posal and esti­mate tem­plates, setup your email (includ­ing sig­na­ture) and have reli­able hard­ware and software.

Being thor­oughly pre­pared, set­ting your rates and rou­tine, know­ing exactly how you will oper­ate and what you will offer, will not only save you time but it will mean more bill­able time in the begin­ning. Instead of spend­ing 2 hours in Pho­to­shop and 22 hours try­ing to sort out your admin and finances!

For those look­ing to grow their busi­ness, it’s always dif­fi­cult though there are some excel­lent resources avail­able such as: 101 Ideas to Get More Free­lance Work and Gen­er­ate New Client Leads. 

Per­son­ally I’ve found refer­rals have helped grow my busi­ness to a point where I now usu­ally col­lab­o­rate with other trusted free­lancers on projects, which has allowed me to grow the busi­ness and take on larger projects with­out the expenses of phys­i­cally employ­ing some­one. Plus I get to work with some awe­some people!


Thanks Grace, I really appre­ci­ate you tak­ing the time to share your story with the Free­lance Show!

Again, be sure to con­nect with Grace on Twit­ter, her design blog, and her Free­lance resource aggre­ga­tor—The Free­lance Feed.

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Neil Brown

Neil Brown - who has written 16 posts on Freelance Show.

Neil Brown is the founder of the Freelance Show and runs Brown Advertising, LLC, a successful graphic design studio.

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4 Comments so far

  1. Liam Maskell says:

    Awe­some Inter­view! Thanks :)

  2. Thanks for this very infor­ma­tive inter­view with such a suc­cess­ful free­lancer. Thank you.

  3. Sam Evanson says:

    Cool arti­cle and lots of tips. I am new to the free­lance world and am so far strug­gling a bit with get­ting a ‘foot through the door’ but these arti­cles help, cheers.

  4. Its always nice to hear from other designers.

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