Meet the Wondermakers - Interview with Dan Chadney
17 February 2021
Can you give us a bit of a bio – a quick summary of your career to date, and what your role is at Digital Wonderlab?
Originally from California, I studied graphic design and multimedia in Glasgow, Scotland. I have worked as a UI/Visual designer and front-end developer for over 20 years, creating user centred responsive websites, ecommerce websites, apps, software interfaces, digital and print design, branding, and interactive digital experiences. I’ve owned my own businesses in the past and had experience in marketing. I’ve also always had an interest in video and animation and spent about 8 years of my career doing video production and motion graphics and creating interactive experiences in HTML5.
My role at Digital Wonderlab is a mix between creative UI design and front-end development – where I take the flat designs and bring them to life with code. I also work on merging the front-end code with back-end code that our developers create, and help to build websites in Umbraco.
Why, when and how did you get interested in UI design?
Starting out as a graphic designer in 1999, I got into web design and front-end coding very early on in my career. I enjoy my work because I love to learn, and web design and development has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, which has meant I’ve been constantly learning and adapting to changing technology, and changing practices. UI design has allowed me to have a foot in both the creative and technical sides of this business and I love being involved in the entire process.
Tell us about your approach, the creative process you take, and how you progress a project
I like to have a high-level view of the overall objectives of a project and why we are building something. This often comes from stakeholders, but should also come from UX research and preliminary wireframing work. Once I have a good grasp of direction and design aesthetic / branding I dive into creating the initial design mock-up which is then presented to the client for feedback. We will often iterate at this stage and further refine the design approach before designing out the rest of the interface. Once designs have been signed off it’s time to start building the project in HTML/CSS. At this stage I will often collaborate with developers and coordinate our efforts to build out the back-end/front-end of a system, or integrate my HTML/CSS into a CMS such as Umbraco.
Can you tell us a little more about the clients you have worked with at Digital Wonderlab, and the outcomes you have helped them achieve?
There are projects which I love because the branding was spot on and the whole project from a visual standpoint just came together nicely, like the recent website we created for The House. There are also projects which have that extra something special and I love the impact that they are having on people, such as The Charlie Waller Trust.
Which project are you most proud of, and why?
From a technical aspect, I am proud of our work on Stratigens because we have managed to build something quite complex on the back-end, but presented it a way that users can use and gain incredible insights very easily. It’s a project that I can see is really benefiting the world, and helping organisations make smarter and more informed decisions.
What are the three things you would tell your younger self now, to inspire others considering a career in UI design?
- Learn to code! Even if you never use the skill later on, it is an invaluable insight to know how things are created in code, and knowing where your constraints are as a UI designer.
- Know when to push back and stand your ground as a designer. Don’t be too scared or too shy to say what you think at the right time.
- Have fun and be bold with your designs. Learn from your mistakes and welcome input from those around you.
How do you motivate and energise yourself and keep focused whilst working?
I’m quite a motivated person already, but when I need a bit of umph I usually get music going in my headphones and get my head down for a few hours to push through the tough bits.
What’s your favourite bit of tech that you cannot live without?
My iPhone 12 Pro Max is my most favourite bit of tech right now... the camera is amazing and I love how everything between my phone and my Mac are synced up. The best tech is the tech that you don’t have to think about – it just works and let’s you get on with things!