Exciting Illustrators That Will Inspire You: September 2015

Illustrators are always exploring new ideas and techniques in their work which makes them very exciting to us. We chose these artists specifically for their excellent works and their distinct voices and styles.

For more of the artists’ work, please be sure to visit their portfolios.





Spiros Halaris












Elena Pancorbo




Ise Ananphada








So PineNut




Boris Pelcer





Tell us about your favorite illustrators in the comments below!


An Easy Way to Create a Freelance Contract for Your Projects

We all know that having a solid contract in place is a key element of your freelancing projects. A contract helps ensure you’ll get paid for your work and it will protect you from having to do out-of-scope work.

But… we all also know it’s a hassle to create contracts. If you’re a solo freelancer or a small agency, chances are, you already have way too much stuff on your plate. Also, you might not have the necessary legal background to be able to create an effective project contract.

This is where Bonsai, a resource that provides free contracts for freelance designers and developers, can help you. They had a Stanford-educated lawyer write a contract template that’s easy to understand, and have decided to share it for free.

Here are the steps for creating your own freelance contract using Bonsai:

  1. Click the Create a Contract button.Click the "Create Contract" button.
  2. You’ll then be asked what contract you’ll need. You have three choices: Development, Design, or Development & Design.Choose the type of contract you want to create.
  3. You’ll then be asked to fill in some details about you and the project — basic info, scope of work, payment terms, and the time frame of your project.Basic Info about the project.Fill out some basic info.Fill in the scope of the work you're going to be doing.Describe the scope of work.

    Payment termsSpecify how you’d like to get paid.

    TimeframeSpecify the timeframe/schedule of the project.

After all of that, you’ll end up with a customized freelance contract that looks something like this:

Custom freelance contract

This is a pretty good service that Bonsai is offering for free. It seemed too good to be true, so I emailed the co-founder of Bonsai, Matt Brown, to see what the deal was. “The contracts are totally free and will always be, since we don’t think we should charge for something that should be standard,” Brown said. “We’re working on other products that more directly help freelancers get paid and we’ll take a cut of revenue from that.”

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Jacob Gube is the founder of Six Revisions. He’s a front-end developer. Connect with him on Twitter.

50 Design Agency Websites for Inspiration

Are you building or sprucing up your design agency’s website? Check out these beautiful design agency websites for ideas and inspiration.

Design agency: BrightByte StudioBrightByte Studio

Design agency: ncludnclud

Design agency: Digital KitchenDigital Kitchen

Design agency: W&CoW&Co

Design agency: creanetcreanet

Design agency: WeightshiftWeightshift

Design agency: Nine SixtyNine Sixty

Design agency: AcumeniumAcumenium

Design agency: Stockholm Design LabStockholm Design Lab

Design agency: DogstudioDogstudio

Design agency: Hum CreativeHum Creative

Design agency: ustwoustwo

Design agency: AQuestAQuest

Design agency: Studio BraveStudio Brave

Design agency: HuncwotHuncwot

Design agency: b.a.-bab.a.-ba

Design agency: FolchFolch

Design agency: Ghostly FernsGhostly Ferns

Design agency: C100C100

Design agency: ManvsMachineManvsMachine

Design agency: MamboMamboMamboMambo

Design agency: 2A Studio2A Studio

Design agency: WebloungeWeblounge

Design agency: Night OwlsNight Owls

Design agency: VCGVCG

Design agency: AppartAppart

Design agency: RifleRifle

Design agency: Future BüroFuture Büro

Design agency: MastMast

Design agency: BANKBANK


Design agency: Large CreativeLarge Creative

Design agency: hivehive

Design agency: Immersive GardenImmersive Garden

Design agency: SouthSouthWestSouthSouthWest

Design agency: Hi-ReS!Hi-ReS!

Design agency: Public-LibraryPublic-Library

Design agency: ClustaClusta

Design agency: Lab21Lab21

Design agency: Project 53Project 53

Design agency: Level 2 DesignLevel 2 Design

Design agency: BurnkitBurnkit

Design agency: ISLISL

Design agency: KingKing

Design agency: ColtColt

Design agency: Brooklyn UnitedBrooklyn United

Design agency: BASICBASIC

Design agency: OxenOxen

Design agency: Sabbath VisualsSabbath Visuals

Design agency: Stupid StudiosStupid Studios

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Jacob Gube is the founder of Six Revisions. He’s a front-end developer. Connect with him on Twitter.

Why Great UX Starts Between Your Ears (Not on the Screen)

Google the term "UX best practices" right now and you’ll get an endless stream of search results, the majority of which will be focused on tactical activities: UI design trends, how-to design articles, software tools and tutorials, a rehash of basic principles for UX or design or development.

These are all valuable, mind you, but they’re only a small part of what it takes to deliver a successful product–one that provides value to users and, therefore, value back to the business. One that helps people do things quicker, easier, faster, more accurately or more efficiently, in addition to looking good and not causing eye strain.

Great UX isn’t a product of the tools you use, and it isn’t what you build or design on screen. It’s how you think about those things.

Great UX isn’t a product of the tactical work you do; it’s a product of how you decide what tactical work to do. It’s not the decisions you make; it’s how long and hard you think about and arrive at those decisions. It’s not about how content, data or controls look on the screen; it’s about whether those things belong there in the first place.

Great UX

How UX Design Typically Happens (And Why It’s Wrong)

I spend a great deal of time working with design and development teams in enterprise organizations and mid-size companies, and there are some commonalities in the way they begin the process of UX, design, and development.

And before you read this next bit, I want you to understand that I’m not picking on anyone; I absolutely understand why it happens.

Here’s what I see a great deal of:

  • Starting with themes. For example, if the team’s building with Bootstrap, the first thing that happens is they choose a pre-built Bootstrap theme and run with it. The chosen theme essentially becomes the foundation of the project’s UI and UX design, and it stays that way through launch. The pre-built theme probably looks nice, but it was created in a vacuum. The theme doesn’t take into consideration the project’s unique design and development challenges.
  • Starting with the work of other designers or developers. One of the most daunting things in life is a blank page, or a blank screen. Starting is the hardest part. So we hit up Pinterest, Behance, Dribbble, etc. to look at the freshest, newest, hippest UIs. But if you’re a designer or developer — experienced or fresh out of school — I want you to understand that you will not find the answer looking at the work of others. What you will find is someone else’s solution to someone else’s problem. The problem you have to solve belongs exclusively to you, to your client, and to your users. Mimicking someone else’s work won’t solve it.
  • Starting with current UI trends. Flat design, anyone? Flat design has obviously become a widespread trend. And while it’s appropriate in some instances, it’s being applied haphazardly to all manner of interactions. Designers are adopting the look without taking the time to think about whether it’s appropriate for the situation or whether people will understand what they see. And a great deal of flat design I see is applied without visual affordances, which makes it difficult for the user to understand that what they’re seeing is interactive. That it can be tapped or swiped or clicked to make something happen. Visual affordances clearly communicate purpose and function,and you cannot remove them and expect people to know what to do.

Why Does This Happen?

There are some very good reasons people take these approaches. In most cases, these courses of action with regards to UX design are symptoms of one or more of these scenarios:

  • The team is short-handed and out of time. They’re working within a ridiculously compressed timeframe that doesn’t allow for any exploration or investigation into what’s most appropriate or even what the real strategic objectives are. The only objective is just to get the project completed.
  • Other departments or management personnel are making the UX and design decisions. Someone is saying "make it look like Amazon," or whatever site, app or system they’re enamored with or believe to be best practice. Or they’re saying "we need to move to flat design like everyone else." The point is, they’re mandating solutions, usually before the team even understands what the problems are.
  • The team is being asked to do things they don’t have a lot of experience with. If I had a nickel for every time a team of developers were tasked with the additional mountainous job of designing the UI and making sure the UX was great, I’d be retired and living on a desert island with little umbrellas in my drinks. Here’s the thing: UX is not UI is not Development is not Programming is not… you get the idea. It’s more than a little unfair to ask someone to do something they have no experience in or training for. But that’s exactly what happens; it’s a lot like asking your plumber to fix your car.

The Answer? Think First. Design Next.

The title of my new book, Think First, reflects my firm belief that strategic thinking is the foundation of great UX. Think First was created on the idea that a little strategic thinking goes a very long way. And that if you think first, you’ll find that the foundations of good UX will be evident in all you do. It’s the most critical part of everything we do as UXers, designers, developers, business analysts, product owners, and so forth. Because if you skip that part, or if you guess at what matters most, you’re likely designing and building something that people either don’t want or can’t use.

So the answer to the problems we’re discussing here is this: Think first. Design next.

Everyone, every member of any team, can and should contribute to great UX.

How? By changing the way they think about what they do during the day. By making sure everyone understands the strategy behind what’s being built. By getting everyone on the team in the habit of questioning what they’re about to do, of asking themselves questions like:

  • Does the potential reward to users or to the business equal the time and effort we’re going to spend doing this?
  • Does this feature or function really matter to people? Is it in line with what we believe they’ll find useful, usable or valuable?
  • How do they expect this feature/function to work? Does this workflow run counter to what they’re used to?
  • Will our users understand what this label means?
  • Is what’s on this screen in line with what we know users need to see or do first? Is this data point we’re showing on an already crowded screen critical in enabling the user to understand or act, or is it just noise?

The answers build the foundation of the user experience. And when everyone filters their decisions and activities through that foundation, those daily decisions and activities change. For the better. And when you can’t do anything about unreasonable time and budget constraints, you’ll at least make better use of the time over the target you do have. You’ll be focusing on the important instead of the urgent.

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Joe Natoli is the author of Think First, a no-nonsense approach to creating successful products, memorable user experiences and happy customers. His online UX courses serve over 30,000 students, and he has consulted with and trained Fortune 500 and 100 organizations for nearly three decades. His articles, tips and advice can be found at givegoodux.com.

10 Awesome UX Podcasts

There is no denying the fact that user experience (UX) is a hot topic. Being a UX consultant/engineer, as well as a long-time listener of tech- and design-related podcasts, I wanted to take this opportunity to share some excellent podcasts with you. In this post, I will talk about my favorite UX podcasts, as well as my recently launched podcast called IncrementalUX.

1. Brain Sparks

Brain Sparks

This podcast is hosted by usability and UI design expert, Jared Spool. This podcast offers up a ton of value because you will hear many industry leaders — the same folks who frequent the conference circuits — share insights on usability, UX design, and UI design.

My favorite episode: Kim Goodwin – Using Scenarios to solve problems. In this episode, Kim and Jared talk about how user scenarios are great for expressing design problems and desired solutions by putting the user and his/her requirements in the proper context.

2. The Dirt Show

The Dirt Show

The Dirt Show is a podcast hosted by the team behind the UX design agency, Fresh Tilled Soil. One cool thing about this podcast is some topics follow a mini-series format, with multiple episodes and different guests talking about the same topic. For example, they have a mini-series on topics such as “designing your career” and “designing the future”.

My favorite episode: Designing for Space Exploration with Jesse Kriss of NASA’s JPL. To date, this is in my opinion the best episode of The Dirt Show. This particular episode talks about how NASA uses hologram and virtual reality technology to create 3D worlds that mimic data captured by Curiosity, one of the Mars exploration rovers. For science! You can really feel the enthusiasm in the hosts’ voices because the topic is so cool.

3. The UX Intern

The UX Intern

You should listen to The UX Intern podcast for a couple of reasons: There are only 12 episodes, so it will be easy for you to catch up and complete the whole series, and the episodes feature an all-star cast of best-selling authors and speakers in the UX industry. The likes of Steve Krug, of Don’t Make Me Think fame, and thought leaders whose work you will eventually come across if you are a UX professional, such as Aaron Walter from MailChimp, have made appearances on The UX Intern.

My favorite episode: I can’t pick one particular episode because I think each one is a gem in its own right. I recommend going ahead and giving them all a listen.

4. UX Podcast

UX Podcast

This podcast broadcasts every other week and has some really high-quality content. The hosts regularly appear at UX design conferences, interviewing speakers right from the stage for UX Podcast episodes. They also do what they call “link-shows” where they take a few key articles that are trending and discuss the implications of the ideas presented in the articles.

My favorite episode: Imposter syndrome with Amy Silvers & Lori Cavallucci. While this podcast is mostly about UX, my favorite episode is a deep conversation about imposter syndrome. I believe that this episode helps a lot of working professionals who don’t know that what they are feeling and going through is common.

5. UX & Growth

UX & Growth

The recently-launched UX & Growth podcast focuses on how startups can leverage UX to help grow their company. This podcast contains a ton of high-quality content and good discussions around topics surrounding UX design. It’s interesting to learn about UX from a perspective that’s not focused on design, but rather on business objectives.

My favorite episode: Human to Human UX. This episode covers how companies can use the human connection to enhance how people feel about brands. They mention some good examples of companies that do this well.

6. UX Pod

UX Pod

Although UX Pod hasn’t released a new podcast episode since late-2014, it’s still a treasure trove of information. If you are new to UX, this podcast is a great place to start.

My favorite episode: Designing good five-second tests. In this episode, the discussion revolves around five-second tests for rapid design feedback. They discuss how and when to use this type of test, and share examples of when it’s effective and when it’s counterproductive.

7. UX Radio

UX Radio

UX Radio is a podcast about information architecture (IA), UX, and design.

My favorite episode: Curating UX Expertise with Louis Rosenfeld.

8. UX Mastery Podcast

UX Mastery Podcast

UX Mastery is a website that hosts a lot of useful articles and content related to user experience design. The site also has an infrequently updated podcast.

9. UX Discovery Session

UX Discovery Session

The host of this podcast, Gerard Dolan, interviews prominent people in the UX field. What’s up with the name of the podcast? According to the site, “A discovery session is an opportunity to learn about a relevant topic, generate ideas that expand a new technique or practice, or brainstorm concepts and ideas for the next new thing.”

10. IncrementalUX podcast

IncrementalUX podcast

At this point, you may have realized how passionate I am about UX and podcasts. I’ve realized that you can, in fact, learn a lot about the subject just by listening to podcasts while on the go (for example, during your daily commute to work).

That had me wondering how awesome it would be if I started my own podcast and got a chance to interview industry leaders in the field of UX. By seeking out experts and teasing out UX design techniques from some of the best minds in the industry, I hope to help people incorporate user experience design into their workflows. So I started the IncrementalUX podcast. Feel free to give my podcast a try and give me your feedback.

For a taste of IncrementalUX content, check out this episode: User Research with Danielle Smith. Dr. Smith is an exceptionally talented person, and we talk about several techniques for user research and testing in the episode.

What’s Your Favorite UX Podcast?

This is obviously not an exhaustive list of UX podcasts. I’m curious to find out what your favorite UX podcasts are, and I look forward to checking them out.

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Vinay Raghu is a UX consultant based in New Haven, Connecticut. He’s the founder and host of the IncrementalUX podcast. Previously, he was a senior UX engineer at Enqos and Runway2Street. Connect with Vinay via his website viii.in, Twitter, and GitHub.

5 True Things Every Creative Already Knows (or Should Know) Vol. 1

1) Practice! Practice! Practice!

Making a commitment to get better at what you do is the exact same thing as actually getting better at what you do. Every great artist or creative started as a lesser version of themselves and has achieved greater and greater things only through the making or the doing of their work.

So get your notebook, make your sketches, write down your ideas, and just get stuff done. Pretty soon all that “practice” won’t be practice anymore.

2) A Little Passion and Enthusiasm Can Go a Long Way

You may not be the most skilled artist or the most “naturally talented” but having passion for what you do will take you much farther than just having some kind of “natural” aptitude.

Passion enables you to fight harder and last longer than your “more skilled” counterparts.

Enthusiasm will help you stay positive through some tough challenges. That fight, that struggle and being able to get through it, builds a better work ethic and stronger character which ultimately, makes you a better artist.

3) Creative Blocks Aren’t Real

When you feel like all your ideas just don’t work or you think you have no new ideas, it’s not because you’re actually creatively blocked. It’s because you’ve allowed yourself to think you CAN be blocked.

The human mind isn’t actually capable of not producing ideas. That’s all humans do, constantly and involuntarily. We organize and we look for patterns and solutions for everything around us whether we want to or not. That’s just how our brains work. This method for finding new ideas works on that basic principle.

4) You Have to Create the Conditions in Which New Ideas Can Happen

We, as artists and creatives, like the notion that our best ideas just “come to us.” There’s something mysterious and romantic about being “inspired.”

However, in reality, great ideas come from the synthesis of all our experiences and circumstances – unconsciously, more often than not – which can make it feel like our ideas just suddenly appear out of nowhere.

The truth is, new ideas come from new information and new experiences. That is why going out to see and experience the world is essential for finding new ideas for your work. Nothing new will ever happen just staring at your computer screen all day or by sticking to your comfortable routine. Ideas don’t actually come to you, you have to go to where ideas happen.

5) Focus is Your Best Friend

Don’t half-ass two things. Whole ass one thing. – Ron Swanson

There’s always the temptation to want to do a lot of things well, especially for most modern creatives and artists. We all want to be great designers, illustrators, Photoshop magicians, or photographers. More to the point, we want to be all these things, all at the same time. So we “work hard” and study and hone many different skills, working with as many different ideas as we possibly can. 

Sure, it can feel great knowing that you’re able to take a decent picture while also being able to design a decent web page and a decent logo to match. But that’s all they will ever be: Decent. Passable. Adequate. 

Wouldn’t you rather be a singularly fantastic Photographer rather than be a middling designer/illustrator/videographer/web developer/photographer?

What are other true things you’d like to share? Tell us in the comments below.