Michiel de Graaf: powered by coffee, beer and electronic music

The UI designer on the intoxicating attitude of his best mentor and his portfolio site's 37 iterations.

Michiel de Graaf is one of 10 nominees for Best Online Portfolio in the 2014 net Awards. He specialises in interface design and branding, and is currently based in Rotterdam. We talked with him about how he put his site together and what he's been working on recently.

Give us a summary of your career so far.

I started out at a small web agency in The Netherlands, and it was during this time that I learned a few of the most important lessons in this industry. How to fail, how to succeed, how to work with extraordinarily smart people and how to ship.

On a certain day I got an email from the software and interaction design company Sofa asking if I was interested in having a cup of coffee with them. Of course I was. A few months later I started work at Sofa and stayed until they got acquired by Facebook. Since then I've done some freelance work, joined Karma [a wi-fi sharing platform] in 2012, and participated in the Techstars NYS's 2012 Spring program.

Branding work for Made in Amsterdam

What have you been working on over the last year?

I've been working on Karma, some freelance gigs for companies such as Airbnb, and my first video game interface for a Playstation 4 exclusive launch title.

Tell us about the process of designing your portfolio site.

I opened a blank document in Photoshop, named it; 'mdg-portfolio-1.psd' and a few hours later I was working on version 'mdg-portfolio-18.psd'. These 18 versions had a few things in common. One of which was the grid, so I just started setting up the site in HTML and CSS. The rest is a blur of weird and obscure Photoshop iterations, loads of HTML and CSS rewrites, color changes, coffee, beer and electronic music. The last version is 'mfg-portfolio-37.psd' which is a few months old and looks nothing like what my site looks like now.

Featured post designs for the Karma blog

Who and what influences and inspires your work?

When designing something digital I like to take inspiration from physical objects ranging from outstanding industrial design by Dieter Rams to paintings by Pieter Cleasz and book covers from people like Edward Young and other legendary designers like Paul Rand.

Name an 'unsung hero', someone you admire who deserves more recognition for their work.

This is a personal shoutout for someone working in the trenches who cares about doing quality work and who taught me a ton of essential lessons a few years back. Rutger Laurman, aka; @lekkerduidelijk. I owe most of my career to what Rutger has taught me and his attitude towards creating new and awesome things is intoxicating. He also has good taste in music.

Vote in the net Awards!

Celebrating the best in web design and development, the 15th net Awards is open for public voting until 24 March. With a record breaking number of nominations this year, it's set to be the biggest and best yet. Have your say by casting your votes here.


Tanya Combrinck is digital editor on net magazine.