The self-taught, globetrotting web designer and net Awards nominee discusses his fascinating career to date.
One of the 10 nominees for Young Designer of the Year in the 2014 net Awards, Victor Erixon is a self taught designer who has worked with clients around the globe, including Layervault, MailChimp and Conde Nast. Born in Sweden and currently based in New York, his skills cover a wide spectrum of visual and digital disciplines. We chatted to him to find out more.
Give us a summary of your career so far.
I began designing two years ago. The journey has been quick and fun. I’ve had the chance of working both as a freelancer and a full-time employee during my young career.
I’ve had the luck of working with some of my favourite companies such as Mail Chimp, Layervault, Condé Nast and many more until I landed at Articulate, where I work as a product designer.
What have you been working on over the last year?
After a short period of freelancing I’ve been working with Articulate since May 2013 on their next-generation E-Learning products.
On the side of that I’ve had numerous of personal projects such as Mochila Mail which is a simple lightweight email client, though it is currently being paused due to a heavy workload at Articulate which is my priority at the moment.
What have been the particular high points of your career?
My best decision was to join Articulate. Every day I’m challenged and grow more as a designer. I also will always remember flying from Sweden to Denmark every week to work in-office at Trustpilot and live my life in a hotel.
But the highest point would be my starting point, which was being hired by Lifesum as my first design job. I had no portfolio or knowledge at all but managed to impress them with my work on their design exercise and earned the position.
Who and what inspires your work?
When I started at MailChimp I was welcomed by Aarron Walter, director of UX. He is extremely talented and very humble about it. How he structures the Mail Chimp Design/UX process is phenomenal.
During my stay at Mail Chimp, I learned much from how he likes to work and collaborate. And since then I’ve applied it throughout the rest of my career.
"During my stay at Mail Chimp, I learnt much from Director of UX Aarron Walter," Erixon comments
My biggest design influence would be Kerem Suer, his work always appeals to me and I always get the feeling like “why didn’t I think of this?” when I’m watching his work.
But apart from that, what always will influence me is the Swedish culture of minimalism which is deeply rooted in me and hopefully throughout my work.
What are you excited about at the moment?
Using this year to improve the online learning experience is both challenging and rewarding. And I’m also very excited about this award!
The nomination came as a surprise for me and I’m very honored to be among all these talented young designers.
Tell us about an important lesson you’ve learned in your career.
Be humble, stay hungry and never get satisfied. Early in my career I never really enjoyed the work I put out when I looked back at it after a week, but I learned to channel that into something positive.
I hope I never get satisfied with what I create when I look back at it, because that means that I’m still evolving as a designer, and that I keep on being hungry for more. The day I’m completely satisfied with what I craft is the day I’ve stopped evolving.
Name an ‘unsung hero’, someone you admire who deserves more recognition for their work.
My father, who bought my first computer when I was about seven years old, and sparked my computer interest very young. He has always been there when I needed career advice or if my old Windows PC broke. He could fix anything.
My CEO, Adam Schwartz, who is a great listener with a great eye for design aesthetics. We often pair up and design together, even though he has a company of 115 employees to manage, he sets time aside to work with me on tough design problems.
Last week I got the news that I was going to be one of few people nominated as ‘Young Designer of the Year’. The voting began last week, and ever since I received the news I’ve been working on rebranding myself. You’ll see some major changes on my online presence this week as I roll out new changes. Stressed about the news and the lack of an online portfolio I started out with my website (still tweaking) and this blog by updating the readability and rolling out my new logo that was made in one day by the great Rokas.
The award itself is meaningful for me. It’s been two years since I first installed Photoshop on my old windows laptop, just to try to design my company website for fun. Even though I’m rarely happy about what design I create, it feels good to be one of the nominees. The competition is really tough this year and I’m very honored to be one of the final nominees.
As I was born into a socialist country where the primary focus was not to stand out and excel, or at least not brag about it. I was taught how to love & worship the Swedish word ‘lagom’.
'Lagom' can be translated into the english word 'moderate’ or ‘just enough’. Originated from the ten rules of 'the Law of Jante', which is basically an idea that there is a pattern of group behavior towards individuals within Scandinavian communities which negatively portrays and criticizes individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate. In short, you are not to think you are anything special or better than anyone else in any way; You’re one among the crowd and you do not stand out, everything in your life should be mediocre and moderate.
I was born into this mess, and it raised me into the person I am today––in both good and bad ways. I detest the means in which people still refer to this ‘law’ and live by it. This is one of many reasons why there is something even called Swedish minimalism and this is shown in true swedish fashion––graphic, and web design today.
In the early stages of my career, I always felt like something was missing in my designs––maybe a colorful call to action button or perhaps an extra needed feature. But during my later days, I’ve come to realize that maybe it is the way I was raised. I’ve always loved minimalism, always believed in that less is more and that you should always ‘kill your darlings’.
A good designer should be able to reduce clutter, focus on the user experience and still make it look good. Sometimes I think some people would rather sacrifice usability for the sake of having a visually appealing product.
A hungry designer who is willing to improve is a designer that loves what he or she has created, but the next week hates it. My number one rule is to never be satisfied, never settle for ‘lagom’. Be the best of your craft, or at least try to reach for the stars. I’m not even remotely close to be as good as my colleagues in the industry, but that doesn’t mean that I’ve lost the ability to believe in myself.
I’ve always loved minimalism, always believed in that less is more and that you should always ‘kill your darlings’.
I’m young, raised into loving mediocrity and ‘just enough’, and hating it. But it has helped me in many ways, it has introduced me to simplicity and minimalism, that less is more and as Antoine de Saint-Exupe said ‘Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.’
I’ve always been keen to hear about how other people learned to design. Some people went to school, some people learned by themselves. In the end what defines an extraordinary designer is the willpower of always wanting to become better. Never settling for being just okay.
My chronicle began as I’ve mentioned before in about one year ago. I was unemployed with a newfound hobby called design. I could never imagine making a living out of design, I thought I would never be good as Robyn Morris, Facebook. And one of the key-factors in my career is that no matter how good I become, I will never ever see myself as good as Robyn Morris, or any other of my design influences. My key to success has always been that I’m desiring to be the best, but I’m never satisfied with what I create. It could be an iPhone application for a client, it could be a personal project, I’m never satisfied with the results. And that is in some bizarre way, what keeps me going.
… what defines an extraordinary designer is the willpower to always wanting to become better. Never settling for “okay”.
I was a teenager without any experience that created my own cleaning company with 10 employees and 500$ in salary each month. We topped Google search. We had an incredibly ugly website, so I had to install Photoshop and get creative. I managed to create some kind of replica of some other theme that some other designer had made. But then I had to code it, so I ended up using the already made theme. But that is my first experience with Photoshop.
On the side of being the CEO of a small cleaning company in a suburb to Stockholm I played around in Photoshop, creating meaningless things, learning how every feature in Photoshop works. Later on when I left the cleaning company to go study national economics at Stockholms University, I realized I have to have a job on the side to even be able to live. I looked around the internet, browsing various McDonalds jobs and found a company in the heart of Stockholm, a start up, that needed a designer. I’ve always been the guy that applies for any job I want even though I don’t match what they’re looking for. Luckily these guys brought me in for an interview and it was an instant match, even though I had no clue how big the design industry really is. And I don’t really think they took in consideration that I didn’t know a dime about the industry. Good for me, bad for them.
Here I was, 19 years old, with my foot inside of an enormous industry I had no clue about. I had to create an iPhone application for this startup, and I had no clue how to create for a retina iPhone. In fact I had no clue how to design at all, I only knew about all the features in Photoshop. They had expectations and I wouldn’t let them down, so I studied various articles about how I design for iPhone. I even printscreened the Facebook application, put it into photoshop and studied how they did their app. After studying every pixel of the Facebook app, replicating it for educational purposes, I actually learned something.
Somehow I found Dribbble through the internet, I don’t remember how, and I don’t remember why. I scouted Swedish designers that lived close to me and I found Patrik, my mentor. I showed him my poor replicas and what I’ve done in Photoshop so far and he took me in, he wanted to mentor me without any gain. I practiced through replicating works from designers such as Daryl Ginn, Thom van der Weerd, Tim van Damme and Patrik. Learning all about how they style their elements and what is common. I didn’t show any of my replicas to anyone but Patrick who gave me critique, totally ripping me to shreds.
I practiced through replicating works from designers such as Daryl Ginn, Thom van der Weerd, Tim van Damme and Patrik.
In pursuit I didn’t want to bother Patrik as much as I did and I asked him for a Dribbble invite, so I could get feedback from others showing my own work. He declined, he didn’t think I was good enough and that I could do better. So I had to prove myself to him, by creating my own stuff with what I’ve learned through other designers. He gave me tasks such as creating my own User Interface kit. He ripped my designs to shreds until I learned and he was happy about the results. After a while of breaking me down and building me up, he was happy about me and I was invited to Dribbble.
This opened up a new world to me
Now I could get feedback from 100 different angles. I could interact with others and learn even more. After leaving the startup in Stockholm I pursued learning more, craving better results. I was addicted to design. I was addicted to become better at my craft. I took constructive critique in, and pushed out a new design. Some were successful, some were not.
After one year in the industry, I still feel the very same hunger for success, that I’m a nobody, that I’m a shitty designer. And I’m never going to make it. But in the end, that is what keeps me going, keeps me evolving, keeps me from settling down - never learning new stuff. I would say you’ve lost the ability to grow as a designer when you’re fully satisfied with what you’ve created.