Interview: Rick Murphy

Rick, I’ve been following you on Dribbble for a while now, let me just say—thanks for taking the time out of your schedule to let me interview you. Your work is awesome! So, real quick, give the folks a quick glimpse of who you are.

A web designer, print designer, photographer or all of the above?
I started out in product design. Stuff like scissors, wallets, sunglasses etc. I got frustrated with how often design was dictated by factory defaults and budget limitations. I gravitated towards web design because it seemed I had more control… and I did in the beginning. As I started to work with larger projects I realized the web had all the same design challenges that product design had. In the end, clients just want to do more with less and usually make money. It’s my job to find the perfect balance between human touch and commercial value.

Well put. That said, do you consider yourself more of a designer or developer?

Designer. I only develop to make the design possible.Love it! I feel the same way, and I find that to be the case most of the time.

So, what inspired you to become a designer?

I used to play in a band.I’m assuming that your short answer means there is more to that story that we aren’t going to hear. Fair enough.

Was there any person in particular who you have looked up to as a designer over the years?

Back in the day it was Scott Schiller. He was a great designer and DHTML wizard. More recently it’s Frank Chimero, Mark Weaver and Scott Hansen for their artistic sensibilities.

Excellent, So are you self taught or did you study design?

I studied design. I am self taught when it comes to development.

Same here. Any arguments for or against a formal design education?

Formal education is a great start but I would never pass up a good designer because he doesn’t have a degree. We should all be getting better every day right?

What was your first design job?

I designed cigar scissors early in my career. Not too long ago I saw a pair of my scissors for sale at the market here in Seattle. I lived in Kansas when I designed them and thought it was cool to see them here. The market cigar shop guy wouldn’t give me a free pair though.

You’ve come a long way from scissors. As a freelancer or owner of your own business, do you have any one piece of advice for others looking to do the same?

Remember to make money. Haha. In all seriousness, that is the tricky part. Manage your time. Avoid overbooking and adjust your hourly rate for demand. This will keep you and your clients happy. Do not do spec work unless it’s early in your career and you need the portfolio pieces.

What is something you know now, that you wish you knew before getting into design?

I’ve gone into a few fairly ambitious projects thinking they were going to be the next big thing. They weren’t and it felt like defeat. I didn’t realize at the time that the skills attained from those failed projects would greatly benefit to the success of later projects. I would encourage a younger designer to try something completely outrageous (not on the client’s time and money of course). If its a success, we all win. If it’s not you will have experiences that your competition wont.

What is the most important thing you’ve learned by working in your field and how have you applied that to your work?

Don’t let the software form the product. Really push the original vision to implementation. You will learn more about your tools this way.

Are you a pressure person or would you rather design with plenty of time?

Plenty of time obviously. If you have the time to explore a few iterations, you will learn a lot about what you are trying to accomplish. Pressure is always there. Be good at that too.

Everyone has something they excel at, what would you say is your strength when it comes to design?

I can draw. If you can draw it’s a head start.

What designs are you sick and tired of seeing?

Apple style buttons with gradient shading, pin-line border, pin-line highlight and pin-line shadow. They look great but they are everywhere. I’m guilty of it.

I’d say we are all guilty of it, so where do you go for design inspiration?

The internet design community is great for inspiration and actual human feedback. Dribbble, Forrst and Pattern Tap. I have been visiting lovedsgn more lately too.

What’s your web development software of choice? (i.e., CODA, Dreamweaver…)

I use photoshop and illustrator for design. Textmate and Cornerstone for development.

What do you feel are the most important skills for a designer to have or develop?

With all the tools we have today to make things look *awesome* we have the tendency to overdo it. Restraint is a great skill to practice. Also… having an idea can be hard. I love hearing other’s creative processes. It helps me work on my own.Agreed. Getting together with other designers to talk things out is key to working as a freelance designer.

What has been the greatest challenge in your quest to become a better developer/designer?

Walking that fine line between doing what the client wants and what the client needs.

With so many choices out there, do you have a preferred CMS?

WordPress I guess. I like the one I’m building with my programming and business partner Eric Loes too. Maybe someday we’ll set it free. For now it’s just for clients.

What area of design interests you most?

Every year it’s something else. I’m feeling a huge typography trend coming on. Especially with the rise of webfonts.

What is the perfect design job?

If you can find a client who’s passionate about what they’re trying to accomplish you will create something neat.

Any hobbies or sports you participate in on a regular basis?

I snowboard just about every weekend in the winter.

What are you currently reading?

Hardboiled Web Design by Andy Clarke. I should have mentioned him in my hero list. It’s THE book about how we’ll build websites for the next 10 years.

It’s been an honor to interview you for the site, are there any final thoughts or information you’d like to share?

It’s all in the details. Zoom in and count the pixels.

Rick Murphy is a web designer living in Seattle, WA. He’s the brains behind Hardly Code which can be found online at There you can read his blog for more information about his work. If that’s not enough, you can follow Rick on Twitter and view his collection on Dribbble. Last but not least, be inspired as you check out his

6 thoughts on “Interview: Rick Murphy

  1. Brad Jackson

    That was a great interview. I would say one of the best and most insightful I have read in a long time. Rick has some great advice. I definitely agree with Apple style gradient designs. Incredibly way over used for about 3 or 4 years now. Rick, what happened to your Dribble account?

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