Daniel Howells: Web Design & Development
As Founder of London-based web design and development agency, kulör, digital guy at YCN, and founder/curator at siteInspire, Daniel Howells has been building quite a name for himself over the past few years. Notes on Design spoke to Daniel this week to find out how a Psychology degree, jobs in account managing and investment banking led him to a finding his feet in web design and the creative industry!
Notes on Design: How did your career start?
Daniel: I actually did my degree in Psychology, at Manchester University. When I graduated, I had no idea what I wanted to do so I blindly entered the world of advertising, after joining the agency J Walter Thompson (now JWT) as an intern. I progressed as an account manager on various accounts, until I realised advertising wasn’t quite for me. I then pursued a career in management consulting, and then investment banking, before realising that none of these things genuinely interested me.
Notes on Design: So, how and why did you choose a career in web design?
Daniel: All the while during these stints in various industries, I had a keen interest in web design and development, which started at University where I created a website with two friends whose purpose was to host photo galleries from various student nightclubs and bars, before digital camera were ubiquitous. At that time, I also had met Nick Defty – the founder of YCN – who was looking for some help with the organisation’s website. I worked on the first version of the YCN website about 9 years ago, and working in evenings and weekends I continued to help design and develop the website. It was when I realised that I enjoyed my “hobby” far more than my actual job that I actually made the break, and joined YCN full-time to look after its digital projects. Making the break away from my previous career(s) and moving to YCN was wonderful; discovering a world which revolved around creativity rather than Excel spreadsheets.
Notes on Design: How has running your own company effected your creative practice?
Daniel: I wouldn’t say it has affected my practice a great deal, other than new business development can often take over your life since suddenly you’re in a situation where work doesn’t automatically appear for you. I’ll admit that it was terrifying at first and the stress levels were pretty high! But now I feel a lot more comfortable and enjoy meeting new clients and collaborators to work on a much more diverse range of projects.
Notes on Design: What has been the pivotal piece of work you are most proud of?
Daniel: Probably siteInspire, since it has become a tool used by thousands of people every day. I get some very kind emails from its users, and since I don’t make a penny from it that makes it all worthwhile, and has opened up doors to allow me to meet some interesting people from the design and web community. Secondly, the YCN site, since it has gone through a huge number of iterations, leading up to the latest version which went live very recently, which I think captures the unique nature of the organisation in a way that is more clear than before.
Notes on Design: Site Inspire has become quite a revolution for showcasing good web design online. What were the incentives for launching the site and how has it been received?
Daniel: It was launched just over a year ago, simply as a way for me to catalogue and bookmark what were my favourite websites. The weakness of browser bookmarks and Delicious is that it wasn’t a visual way to browse work. Further, I didn’t like many of the hundreds of other websites that serve precisely the same purpose. So I created the website from scratch, told a few people about it and it snowballed from there, now serving between 3000 and 4000 visitors a day. As per my answer above, people seem to really enjoy the uniqueness and breadth of the sites it showcases. I started a blog on it to showcase some longer form articles about the people and studios that I find interesting, but that’s soon to change.
Notes on Design: What are you working on at the moment?
Daniel: At the moment I have a lot of different projects on the go – working on a website for an Actor with Nation Studio; a website for an illustration team with Ah Studio; a website for a new drinks brand; an online jewellery shop; and also the new version of Three Trees Don’t Make A Forest: so the projects are hugely varied.
Notes on Design: Do you have any self-led projects you’d like to tell us about?
Daniel: Forming a new business means I have the time to dedicate to starting quite a few self-initiated projects. I’m currently creating a new website specifically to house the siteInspire blog; a curated creative events directory/magazine called Creative Everyone; and an interesting tourism project whose details we’re currently fleshing out; and a design blog which simply houses all the non-web design I like discovering. Of course I’d love to turn these into profit-making enterprises in their own right, but they are mainly all bourne out of my own needs and enjoyment.
Designer and writer Kate Andrews was the original editor of Notes on Design blog, founded in 2007.