Bryn Taylor on pushing boundaries and design exploration.
Bryn Taylor is a senior visual designer and side project creator. He likes to bend the rules and explore all different aspects of design.
Your work ranges from type to icons and web design. Where does your passion lie?
My passion for design is widespread. I love the complex problems and challenging constraints that web and interface work brings and in my eyes — it can be some of the most gratifying work.
But then there’s something so satisfying about sitting down and sinking your teeth into creating a new icon set. Essentially, my passion is grounded in user interface work — I’m always looking at how other skills can feed into this — whether it’s motion, 3D or typography design. It all contributes to my overall skillset as a UI designer.
I do think it’s super important to experiment — worse-case scenario you realise that a particular aspect of design isn’t suited to you and on the flipside there is such a massive amount to be learnt from experimentation.
Make sure you’re aware of where you sit in the grand scheme of things too. Where do your strengths and weaknesses lie and how you want to position yourself and be perceived externally?
What was the inspiration behind your side project, Citysets?
I love travelling to new places and cities (I mean, who doesn’t?) and one of the things I find so exciting about travelling is the unique and contrasting cultures that you discover.
Each city has their own sights, cuisines, way of living their life and so much more. Citysets plays on this by visually representing the culture that makes each city so appealing — a visual guide for your favourite cities around the world.
I knew I wanted to further explore icon design and city-based icon sets seemed a good avenue to do that. There were lots of challenges along the way — mainly technical issues (stemming from my incredibly limited knowledge of development); How could I add new cities to the platform? How could I update the contents of a download link? How could I track user interaction? And what would be an appropriate measure of success? These types of questions drove me to explore, learn and seek out suitable solutions.
Citysets was also about being able to give something back to the design community that has given me such a massive amount over the years. Seeing people appreciate and use my icon sets in their design work is so fulfilling.
You’re currently a Senior Visual Designer, yet you do so many side projects! What’s your best advice for someone who’s working a fulltime job and struggling to make the time for side projects?
Finding that perfect sweet spot between your work and your life outside of work is challenging. Nobody wants to feel burnt out and stressed — but at the same time side-projects have so much to offer as a release from your day job and for personal and career development.
I think at the end of the day you will find ways to make time for something that you are truly passionate about.
Side projects aren’t for everybody though — lots of people will have more commitments outside of work than I do — and therefore much less time to play with.
You’ve gotten some great press on your recent side projects. How have your side projects contributed towards your career or role as a designer?
I see small side-projects — like Citysets — as part of a larger journey. It is by no means going to change the world — but it’s a step in the right direction to what I want to be creating. With each project the aim is to push myself further to enable more successful products in the future.
I have learnt a hell of a lot from creating Citysets — skills that are linked to brand development, marketing through social media, analytics of both download count and user interaction and of course — icon design.
As well as personal development — Citysets has connected me with some awesome designers and developers across the globe. There’s such an awesome feel-good-factor when somebody on the other side of the world drops you an email simply to say that they dig your project.
I love how bold and clean your portfolio is. What do you think makes a strong portfolio?
Thanks! I think a portfolio should tell two stories: The first being who you are as a person. What do you believe in? What makes you unique? Why should I want to work with you? Essentially, what do you know about your craft?
Let your personality shine through your online experience with everything you do — the writing, the mock-ups, the colours, the typography, the layouts. Think about the way you showcase your work — what does it specifically say about you? Make your portfolio personal.
Secondly you have to tell the story of the way in which you work. Talk through your process in detail. Let the reader know how you would approach certain challenges or problems. What was went well through the process? Where did issues arise and what could be improved for the next time? It all boils down to what you have taken away from the design work.
I think it’s fine to be a bit more experimental with your portfolio than you may be allowed to get away with on client work. I tend to use my online portfolio as a bit of a playground, whether it’s playing with a new colour palette, typeface or some small snippets of CSS.
Keep your portfolio simple — chances are the more complex your portfolio is — the less likely it is that you will ever update it. Keep it lean and clean.
What do you find is the most common mistake made by User Experience designers?
Losing sight of who you are actually designing for — and on that note — if you don’t know who you’re designing for then there’s problems.
What advice would you have for an up and coming designer, to help prepare them for the industry?
Don’t be a dick.
In the earlier days of your career it’s crucial to show a certain few personality traits. Be curious, open, passionate, willing and eager to learn in everything that you do.
Something I’ve learnt over the years is that your personality and the way you act and interact with others will take you much further than your actual skills or talent will.
Experience working in different environments and types of company — whether that’s a startup, agency, freelancing or in-house. With each of these will come a new set of challenges, a new team and a new way of thinking. Every company will do things slightly different.
Try and surround yourself with the right people. People that you can learn from and will ultimately be able to help guide your career in the right direction. I’ve been lucky enough to have a few very talented designers mentor me through the years.
Lastly — be a sponge — take in EVERYTHING you can, listen more than you talk and stay hungry to learn and grow as a designer.
If you want to keep up to date with what Bryn is up to, check him out on Twitter.
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The Creative Series is a publication run by Femke that highlights the under-deserved creatives of our industry. If you’re interested in being featured or want to submit someone, please reach out to Femke on Twitter.
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About the author
Hi I’m Femke — a designer, writer and podcaster who overlaps between a day job, freelancing and side projects. I love to help other creatives be the best version of themselves. I’d love to get to know you more, say hi on Twitter 👋