Web designInterview

Dropbox's Dan Eden on the importance of side projects

Dan Eden on the importance of side projects

The San Francisco-based designer for Dropbox tells us how his numerous side projects got him to where he is today.

One of the 10 nominees for Young Designer of the Year in the 2014 net Awards, Dan Eden is a San Francisco designer who works for Dropbox. He hails originally from Manchester in England. Other projects include Onword (the writing environment) and Animate.CSS, a popular CSS library. We chatted to him to find out more.

Give us a summary of your career so far.

Let’s see. I started my design career the same way many of us do: making amateurish posters for my band in high school. After a while, I found myself designing things for other people for money.

OnWord is a simple Ruby application for writing documents anywhere

I soon realized I didn’t like working with people who had no design sense, so I started building my own web products and services. Eventually, I had a portfolio full of these side projects, which got the attention of the Dropbox Design Team. I jumped at the opportunity to intern with them, and I’m now joining them full time!

What have you been working on over the last year?

The last 12 months have been pretty crazy. I graduated from Nottingham Trent University in the summer, worked on a few side projects (Onword, Just My Type, and Animate.css), and started work at Dropbox, helping them with some internal tools and web-based projects.

Most recently, I started Untones, a place for me to release my dabbling in Apple’s Logic Pro in the form of free ringtones. I’ve also been writing quite a lot on my blog.

What have been the particular high points of your career?

I think I’m right in the middle of a high point, really. My career so far has comprised an increasing number of high points, for which I’m really grateful.

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The big three for me have been seeing Animate.css in use on a Disney mini-site (which totally blew my mind), being nominated for the net awards two years running, and getting the chance to intern at Dropbox.

Who and what influences and inspires your work?

There isn’t really any single “source of truth” or inspiration litmus test I hold my work against. My taste and style is always changing, thanks to the influence of my peers and coworkers.

Dan created his Just My Type library of font pairings out of a desire to keep track of his favourite web font pairings

I think the most consistent source of inspiration for me has actually been the industrial design of Dieter Rams, Jony Ive, and Charles and Ray Eames, to name just a few. The simplicity of their work is something I deeply admire.

What are you excited about at the moment?

We’re working on some great stuff here at Dropbox, so that’s a constant source of excitement for me. Most of the time, I’m just excited to be where I am, doing what I’m doing. It’s a great feeling to wake up on a Monday morning and be really pumped to get back into the office.

Tell us about an important lesson you've learned in your career.

It’s hard to pick just one thing. I think maybe the most important thing to remember is to be honest.

Untones is Dan's collection of occasional, delightful ringtones for mobile devices and beyond

Strive for honest, understandable design. Stand by your work and engage in criticism with honesty. The great thing about this lesson is it scales to all aspects of life.

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

Alice Lee deserves more recognition for her work. Not only is she sickeningly talented, but she has this amazing level of output. It’s nuts! There are very few people I know who are as keen to get to work as Alice.

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.

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