Mike Kus on going your own way

One of the 10 nominees for Designer of the Year in the 2014 net Awards, Mike Kus specialises in web design, branding, illustration and photography. He's had a fantastic year working for clients including Mixture.io, Red Bull, Land Rover, O2 and Sapient Nitro. We chatted to him to get the details.

Give us a summary of your career so far.

After completing a BA Honours in Art and Related Art, I started as a print designer for The Body Shop. I worked with the visual merchandising team producing the store layout designs. I later progressed to designing window posters and point-of-sale graphics for The Body Shop stores. It was my time at The Body Shop where I cemented my graphic design skills.

Being a graphic designer was great but it was becoming more and more apparent to me that being able to build websites was now part of a modern graphic designer's skill set. In 2007 I started to learn HTML and CSS and during that year I designed and built my first site for a client.

I then designed a site for a talented musician friend of mine which ended up on a lot of CSS galleries. This exposure helped me to land a job as Senior Designer at Carsonified (a web events company in Bath, UK). I really honed my skills as a web designer at Carsonified, both creatively and technically. After three amazing years there, I started my own small design company which I still run today.

What have you been working on over the last year?

I've been working with a ton of clients from all over the world. I'm part of the extended team at Mixture.io (a front-end development tool), I redesigned the Future Insights conference website and Mixd.co.uk (a Harrogate-based web design agency), I designed the brand identity and website for Craftsmen.io, and I'm currently designing the brand identity, website and web app for San Francisco based DocSend.com.

I've also been doing some photography work which is a nice sideline to designing. I've been on shoots in Colorado and India for Land Rover, I did a tour of Northern Ireland for the tourist board and I've done various project for the likes of RedBull, O2 and Sapient Nitro.

What have been the particular high points of your career?

I feel like I'm at my highest point now. I'm working with a lot of different and interesting clients doing some really creative work. Design is what I love doing. It's also cool that I'm getting to explore my interest in photography through the client photo projects I've been working on.

Mike's redesign of the MIXD website

Mike's redesign of the MIXD website

Who and what influences and inspires your work?

I'm inspired by the people around me that I work with on a daily basis. They're very talented and we all help each other get better at what we do. I'm also inspired by everything around me in terms of visual inspiration for projects. Packaging, posters, films, TV credits etc.

What are you excited about at the moment?

I'm excited about the coming year and the projects I'm going to be working on. You never know what's around the corner and that's always exciting.

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

I think 'doing things your own way' is important. There is a lot of peer pressure in the industry to do things a certain way and people are only too willing to pick holes in what you do on Twitter, etc. This piles on the pressure to do things in a way that pleases other people. My advice is to just ignore this pressure and do it your way, unless of course it's obvious that someone is just giving you good advice.

Mike's portfolio site

Mike's portfolio site

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

I think Neil Kinnish and Pete Nelson, developers of Mixture.io, deserve more recognition. They have two of their apps up for awards this year but no one really knows who's behind those products and just how talented they are. Not only are they very technically capable, they're really creative and this gives them an edge as developers.

I also, feel that Ryan Carson and the guys at Treehouse deserve a shout out! I know a bunch of people who are learning new skills through the courses on Treehouse. I think it's great that there's a platform out there that's providing high quality, affordable web dev education.

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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