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.net Awards 2013: top 10 young designers

This year's .net Awards is all about honouring people who are relatively new to the industry, so this category is particularly well-aligned with our core purpose. We're looking for young designers who have demonstrated particular passion for, and mastery of, their craft before reaching the age of 25. The standard this year was especially high and it was tough to cut down the list of worthy nominees to this shortlist of 10.

You may be wondering how we arrived at the shortlist that follows. Here's how. In January there was a public nominations period of a few weeks, during which anyone could nominate any person of their choice, including themselves. A single nomination was all you needed to get considered for a place in the final 10.

We expected the nominations phase to uncover some talented individuals who had, thus far, escaped our notice, and we weren't disappointed. Most of the names we received were new to us, and it was exciting to discover such an industrious bunch of youngsters — many of whom are no doubt destined to be the movers and shakers of tomorrow.

To pick our final 10, the full spectrum of each candidate's web-related activities was taken into account, from their personal site and portfolio to their side projects and client list. Achievements were weighed, compared, contrasted and entered into a giant equation of pain that nearly broke the .net hive mind. Finally, the list you see below was birthed. Read on to learn about their inspiring stories.

Submit your vote for Young Designer of the Year.

Dan Edwards

Online:, @de
Age: 24
Based in: Chichester, West Sussex
Started designing websites aged: 16
Clients: I've work with a range of clients from agencies to startups including, Snow2Moro, Southampton University, Hardcloud, Surfer Gift and several self initiated projects such as Altitude, Card Cream and Mockpro
Education: I attended Chichester College where I completed a BTEC in Graphic Design
My web design idols: Wow, there are so many people I could list here. I'm really loving James McDonald's work at the moment, such a clean style and always original. I find Elliot Jay Stock's cross between web and print really exciting too. 8 Faces is just beautiful. Mike Kus's work is always so inspiring. I wish I could draw like he can! There are also designers like Daryl Ginn and Visual Idiot who are cool friends who inspire and make me laugh every day. There's so much talent out there

.net: How did you get into web design?
DE: I actually got into web design because when I was younger and worked in a surf shop, and my boss asked me If I could make a website. To impress him I said "Yeah of course". I couldn't, but my uncle sat me down and taught me basic HTML and CSS. It was a total mess but it showed me a completely new side to design. Before that I was only doing print work.

.net: What have you been working on this year? And what's been your proudest moment?
DE: I've been working on various client projects, some of which will be launching this summer. I've also been working on my own personal projects, some just for fun and some because I wanted a tool which wasn't available. My proudest moment has got to be organising and creating Altitude. I've always wanted to run my own event so I got together with my friend Tom to organise it with me. It was a real success and I'm still on a come down from it. I feel so privileged to have been able to meet some of the people who've inspired me and I'm already planning the next one!

.net: Why should people vote for you?
DE: This is really hard. I feel like I've come a long way in a year and I've got so much more to learn. This award would mean an awful lot to me. And I'd happily tweet each of you a cat gif. Haha.

Manik Rathee

Online:,, @manikrathee
Age: 24
Based in: San Francisco, as of a few weeks ago, by way of New Jersey
Started designing websites aged: 10. I was in 6th grade and my brother came home with an assignment from his computer science class to make a website for his favourite movie. He made one for Fight Club with the standard framed sidebar and animated gif background with a bunch of quotes and scrolling marquees (anyone?). As soon as I saw that come to life, going from a set of questions on paper to a living-breathing-beeping website, I was hooked
Clients: President Barack Obama - this still gives me chills
RevSystems, an interactive agency I worked for in New Jersey right out of school. Fluence - the startup that landed me in San Francisco
Education: Officially, Rutgers University for Psychology and Kean University with a BFA in Advertising Design. Unofficially: the internet. I learn a tremendous amount from reading the blogs of people in the industry, along with case studies and communities like Dribbble and Twitter
My web design idols: I really only have one: Wilson Miner

MR: He's done amazing things in his career. He was part of the re-design, he helped create Django, and was an integral part of the early Rdio design team. A history like that garners a gratuitous amount of respect.

On top of that, I actually watch his talk 'When we build' every time I'm feeling frustrated on a project or design. You can't help but feel inspired after watching the end of that video.

.net: How did you get into web design?
MR: That day in 6th grade when my brother made his Fight Club website pretty much signified the start of my career – I just didn't know it at the time. After watching him build that site, I took over the computer and started trying to 'view source' of big name sites and learn how to design and build for the web. A few long months later, I got my first freelance client, and the rest is history.

.net: What have you been working on this year?
MR: I spent all of 2012 in Chicago working to re-elect president Barack Obama. It was one of the most difficult and eye-opening experiences of my life and I will be eternally grateful to have had the opportunity to work with such brilliant people. I worked on, the Barack Obama Call Tool, Dashboard and, for the longest time, I worked with a tiny team of five to completely re-think the online donation process:

.net: And what's been your proudest moment?
MR: Well, winning the election was pretty great.

And then this happened.

.net: Why should people vote for you?
MR: Many of my friends claim that I work too much. I constantly have an urge to explore new web technologies, and that requires some serious time and commitment. That is why I happily title myself a designer and developer. It's my personal way of justifying all of the extra effort I put in after hours.

Along with the other great designers that I am humbled to share this category with, having an award is a great validation that all of the hard work was recognised. Especially when the award is a widely known one and is judged entirely by your peers.

Winning this would be a great achievement for me. Hopefully my past work can live up to the challenge.

Isaac Paavola

Online:, @isaacpvl
Age: 20
Based in: Chicago, IL
Started designing websites aged: 12
Education: Self-taught (high school dropout)
My web design idols: I learned a lot from some of the more experienced coworkers I've had, but that's a lot of people and most lack online presences. Rich Gustke was a mentor who'd harshly critique my work while I was freelancing. I've been fans of Aaron Moody and Janna Hagan since I discovered them from 2011's young designer award. Jackie Tran and Jeremiah Shaw have been long-time favorite sources of inspiration. I could go on forever with this one
Clients: AKTA Web Studio, Cynergy, Doejo,, BrightTag, OverDog, FoodCircles, Reppio, Clssy, Raw Athletics

.net: How did you get into web design?
IP: Born in 1992, I grew up alongside the internet. My fascination with technology and my artistic passion combined when I was 12 years old and loaded Photoshop onto the family computer to digitally illustrate my childhood hero (Spider-Man.) After finding myself wishing the forums I visited weren't so ugly, I experimented with designing my own. After that I was hooked, design skills became my highest priority. I spent years studying, doing free work, and having it critiqued by professionals. When I turned 17, I left high school and began freelancing full time. After just one year, I had established a nice client base and was making a living as a designer.

.net: What have you been working on this year? And what's been your proudest moment?
IP: Oh dear, 2013 has easily been the most exciting stretch of my career to date! After redesigning my portfolio in January, I left the agency I was working for to accept an amazing position at AKTA Web Studio as a UI designer. Becoming a member of the best digital product design team in Chicago has been my proudest moment this year. Seeing the results of the years working myself to the bone for my passion was an incredibly emotional experience.

I've been working on some pretty cool projects too. I designed a brand new website for Reppio, a local Chicago startup. I'm working on some top-secret interfaces for SpotOn, a rapidly-growing digital rewards program. And my work image for this article is a work in progress shot on an iPhone app I'm currently designing for OverDog, a service that connects fans with professional athletes to play games. The puppy is a placeholder for a real athlete of course, but it's much cuter!

.net: Why should people vote for you?
IP: Given the extremely high quality of the shortlist, this is a hard question to answer. Sure, I think I deserve the award, but I think most of the others deserve it too! That being said, one of my strongest traits given my age is experience, my over three years as a professional designer (including establishing myself as a successful freelancer), and working fulltime at three awesome design companies. I'm also completely self-educated. I attribute my success to my independent-minded attitude and unbreakable dedication to producing quality work. I hope to inspire other young designers to rely less on formal education, take more risks and create opportunities to hone their craft.

Elliot Jackson

Online:, @_eej
Age: 18
Based in: France
Started designing websites aged: I think I was around 16 when I started designing websites
Clients: I avoided doing client work while I was at school because I didn't feel comfortable juggling clients and school work. I did, however, work on a few side projects like and put some freebies on Dribbble. Since I have left I've been working on themes for ThemeForest
Education: I'm entirely self-taught. Websites like Dribbble and Twitter have been invaluable in that process enabling me to get feedback and connect with some amazing designers
My web design idols: There are a lot of web designers I find inspiring. Some names that come to mind are Drew Wilson, Dave Ruiz, Ines Gamler, Trent Walton, James McDonald and Dann Petty

.net: How did you get into web design?
EJ: My mother needed a website for her new business. I said I'd do it, having never built a website before. Looking back, both the design and code were terrible but I loved doing it. I've never really stopped since.

.net: What have you been working on this year? And what's been your proudest moment?
EJ: I've been working on a few new themes as well as some iOS stuff. I think that leaving school to pursue something I'm passionate about was one of my proudest moments.

.net: Why should people vote for you?
EJ: I love what I do and try to do whatever I can to help out the community.

Rita DeRaedt

Online:, @RiRi_RitaMarie
Age: 19
Based in: Toledo, OH
Started designing websites aged: 14
Clients: I have had projects with Dtech, Wise Lawn Care, Westgate Chapel, Duricek Automotive and Marine Services, Corilla, Trophez, The Toledo Blade, Naach Radio, Trivia World, and several others under NDA
Education: Junior at Bowling Green State University
My web design idols: Chris Spooner. His was the first blog I read that really embraced the fun, yet technical side of web design. As a designer, I find the challenge between these two elements really interesting. His perspective has pushed me to be a better designer

Brian Harbauer has been one of the biggest influences in my design career. Having known him from a young age, he has taught and challenged me a lot about design. His work is always fresh and clean. The best things I have learned from him is to respect Helvetica and white space

.net: How did you get into web design?
RD: At the age of 10, I started playing around with Microsoft Paint. When I received my first copy of Photoshop at the age of 14, my world became significantly more exciting. I started out simply designing comps, but hated the feeling of being limited. So, I scoured the internet in search of tutorials and tips on how to program web pages. Soon, I was contracting projects for firms all around the world. The thrill of being young and competing with professional designers on a global stage was addictive. Every project contract I receive is an incentive to push myself to become a stronger designer.

.net: What have you been working on this year? And what's been your proudest moment?
RD: This year, I started school at Bowling Green State University. While my student design projects have kept me very busy, I have continued to push myself as a web designer. My proudest moment has been developing user interfaces for touch screen kiosks. These kiosk projects have demanded my entire skill set. Each page needs to be engaging enough to capture attention, while remaining intuitive and easy to use. As a result of these projects, I have become far more skilled as a UI designer and web programmer.

Nothing matches the rush right before wrapping up a project. The moment when the things that have gone wrong and have been solved and everything comes perfectly together. My favourite part of the job is the reaction I get from a client when they receive better than what they were expecting.

.net: Why should people vote for you?
RD: Every step of my career has been self motivated. I am in this field because I love it. Working on new and exciting projects is what drives me. Winning this award would give me the exposure to expand my career in unparalleled ways.

Tyler Galpin

Online:, @TylerGalpin
Age: 23
Based in: Toronto, Canada
Started designing websites aged: 17
Clients: Spotify, Woothemes, MetaLab, FTW
Education: Business School Dropout
My web design idols: My buddy Kyle Meyer makes complicated things look so dang simple, and I envy him for that. Ben Pieratt is also someone who is doing great work on the web these days

.net: How did you get into web design?
TG: Design came by accident, actually. I started learning HTML and CSS because I wanted to build my own personal site. As I went deeper into development I became more aware of how ugly the site was, so I set about trying to learn a bit about design. Before I knew it, I was falling in love.

.net: What have you been working on this year? And what's been your proudest moment?
TG: I've been spending my time building RadPad, the easiest way to find or list a place to live. The rental marketplace is currently really inefficient and leads to a terrible experience; we're going to change that.

My proudest moment this year thus far has definitely been being included in this shortlist of really talented individuals. And my mom finally understanding what "user interface design" is.

.net: Why should people vote for you?
TG: I encourage everyone to make up their own mind, but if you are thinking of voting for me, I'd like to think it would help bring more awareness to the Canadian design scene.

Diego Quintana

Online:, @diegoquintana
Age: 24
Based in: Santiago, Chile
Started designing websites aged: 19
Clients: Coca Cola, LG, The KDU, Ana Tijoux, JOIA magazine
Education: I studied graphic design and learned programming with a lot of Google and coffee
My web design idols: I really enjoy Chris Coyier's work and what the whole team behind Smashing Magazine does. My biggest hero though is probably Matt Mullenweg, creator of the almighty über-awesome WordPress

.net: How did you get into web design?
DQ: Pretty much out of boredom. My school work in graphic design was feeling a bit dull and repetitive, and I've always loved technology. One day I just started checking the source codes of some websites I liked and started off my putting some sort of <img /> inside an <a>. Pretty forward-thinking stuff, I know.

.net: What have you been working on this year? And what's been your proudest moment?
DQ: I'm currently working on a few corporate websites for interesting brands. I'm also web developer for a couple art and design magazines that keep things fun and exciting.

My proudest moment? Ever? Being able to live off design at a young age (young for my country at least :) )

.net: Why should people vote for you?
DQ: Well, probably because my mom thinks my work rocks. Although I do have a website to stand behind all that. If that's not enough, then because I really love what I do and hope to use this award to help move web design in Chile forward. Thanks!

Sawyer Hollenshead

Online:, @sawyerh
Age: 22
Based in: Brooklyn
Started designing websites aged: 16
Clients: Gucci, LA I'm Yours, Atrak, Working Not Working, CreativeMornings. I also work on my personal projects, Organized Wonder and Dropmark
Education: Primarily self-taught
My web design idols: Frank Chimero, Tina Roth Eisenberg, David DeSandro, Ian Coyle

.net: How did you get into web design?
SH: I grew up on a farm in the middle of nowhere, so it didn't take much convincing when I found out you could make a living from designing cool things. I started off designing (really bad) templates for people in forums and convincing them to buy them from me. Eventually I started freelancing and immersing myself into the community more and more. I started following real designers on Twitter and slowly started growing by staying in the background, observing actual designers, and integrating the things I was learning in side projects and small 'client' projects.

.net: What have you been working on this year? And what's been your proudest moment?
SH: I'm currently at Oak Studios, which means I have a lot of fun projects on my plate. One big project is designing and building the new CreativeMornings website, which is shaping up to be really cool and I'm hoping all of the Kickstarter backers think so too. My proudest moment so far came when Tina Roth Eisenberg gave Oak and myself a shout-out in her keynote at SXSW and when the audience applauded a sneak peak of the CreativeMornings website — that was pretty damn cool. Some other things I'm working on, alongside the Oak crew, are Dropmark and Symbolset.

.net: Why should people vote for you?
SH: You think I deserve it, and because I know where the best GIFS are at.

Jules Bassoleil

Online:, @JulesBassoleil
Age: 22
Based in: Paris, France
Started designing websites aged: 16
Clients: Warner Bros (via French agency, Mfg Labs),, J’ai Lu (French editor), Rhétorès, Synerg’hetic and many others

Education: Science graduate since 2008 and currently at HETIC (information, technology and communication school in Paris, France)
My web design idols: Tobias van Schneider, Anton Repponen, Dann Petty, Claudio Guglieri, Martin Charpentier, Loic Dupasquier

.net: How did you get into web design?
JB: Since I began my passion for the web, I always liked to think about interfaces and how users browse websites, but I wasn’t totally devoted to it. One day, during my second year at HETIC, my design teacher found my job interesting and advised me to continue it. That's what I did!

.net: What have you been working on this year? And what's been your proudest moment?
JB: I worked on many projects this year: school projects, personal projects, freelance projects. The most striking for me was MyWarner, the new web platform of Warnerbros France to reward their fans. I had never imagined working on a website with as much visibility. My proudest moment this year has been to be rewarded with my friend Pierre Rossignol by a FWA 'site of the day' for my 2012 portfolio. I thought this award was inaccessible for me!

.net: Why should people vote for you?
JB: I've worked actively during the past four years to make my work simple, fun and easy to navigate for users. Getting this award would be for me the culmination of these four years of work and I would be very, very grateful!

Kyle Turman

Online:, @kyleturman
Age: 23

Based in: Oklahoma City, OK, USA

Started designing websites aged: 14 (if a Pokemon fan page on GeoCities counts)

Clients: Coffee shops, restaurants, cool people doing cool things
Education: The College Dropout

My web design idols: Ian Coyle, Trent Walton, Ryan Essmaker, Bruce Springsteen

.net: How did you get into web design?
KT: After taking apart our home computer multiple times and not being able to put it back together, my mother took me the library and had me pick out a computer book. I picked out some fancy HTML/JavaScript book and was hooked. I went to college to study computer science, thought that it was way too boring, so changed to graphic design. I got a summer internship at said college and ended up making websites for the college intranet. I loved the challenge of coding and creativity of designing, and web design blends the two to make something that I really enjoy doing, so I started pursuing that (I also heard web designers make more money).

.net: What have you been working on this year? And what's been your proudest moment?
KT: I've had the privilege to work with the finest men on the planet at Foundry Collective, working on great projects, and always learning and evolving. I'm proud of everything we've put out, but of them all, the Emporium Pies project was really a blast to work on, and I'm especially proud of how it turned out. I've also had the great opportunity to co-open a coworking space in Oklahoma City called Commonwealth with some really great people, and it's been amazing to see the response to that so far. Not to mention the fact that I got married last Saturday to a truly spectacular woman. It's been an remarkable year, and I've been very blessed.

.net: Why should people vote for you?
KT: I have no earthly clue. I'm just a simple dude from the midwest making stuff on the internet and doing what I love.

Click here to cast your votes!

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