Jeroen Van Eerden

This creative industry is more about talent than diplomas

Design Interview with Jeroen Van Eerden, Freelance Logo and Identity Designer from the Netherlands. Published Artist and Curator.

Mihai: For those readers who don’t know you, could you do a small introduction about yourself by telling us about your birthplace and what were you like a kid? 

Jeroen: Let me start by saying thanks for inviting me for this interview. My name is Jeroen, I’m a freelance logo designer based in Groningen, the Netherlands. Currently at an age of 32 and I’ve been active as a freelance logo designer for about 5 years now. I was born in Amsterdam and at an age of 4 we moved to Groningen, which is a far upper province within the Netherlands. I remember my childhood being good, I was always on an adventure with my friends and my brother. From time to time I used to hurt myself during sports and dumb activities where I felt or even had something broken. I was a busy kid and couldn’t sit still a lot. But I also was a happy kid and saw myself as a clown to make jokes and to have fun all the time. As many kids at my age who had a Nintendo we played this almost every day. Attached a picture of me and my brother (I am on the left) playing Mario on the Nintendo.

 

Now that we’ve cleared out the introductive part, I would be interested in your teen years, how were you back then, were you an artistic person or did that came out later?

I did not consider myself  a creative kid when I was young, but developed and started learning about this when I got more mature really. I think I was about 17 years when I started working on my first ‘creative’ explorations. Then I focused more on illustration design and only later when I was 18 I started my first design related internship at a small and local Graphic Design agency. It was really out of the blue that I reached out to this firm since I had no real experience so far in the Graphic Design industry, only enjoyed working on personal illustrations where I could put my emotion and energy into back then. During this internship I started working for real clients and noticed that the creation of logo designs grabbed most of my real attention. Since I always had issues with focusing, I felt that by creating that ‘one little logo’ I didn’t have much other noise to worry about and be more in focus on what is right in front of me. I had no idea that later this would become my profession at all.   

How important do you think is a design degree nowadays
for a Graphic Designer?

It really depends how much you may have learned about this industry in your time while studying. I do see the benefit in following a Graphic Design education in order to learn more about the wider aspect of this industry. Some people jump right into this work as a full-time freelance designer, but without the full knowledge of what to expect and how to survive as a freelancer there are many risks it can bring with it. Although I do believe that talent also counts a lot in this point of decision. Sometimes it can be seen as lazy to skip studying and jump right into the freelance work. 

I did however get a degree in Graphic Design and it helped me in getting to know more than one part of this industry. I got the opportunity to do internships at big design firms and that helped me grow a lot too. During my education I started my own business on the side, which slowly grew as large as it is today. I think that the way this creative industry works is more about talent than diplomas really. I never had to show any of my clients my resume but only what I had in my portfolio. That might be a little different when I would consider to find a fulltime job though.  

When did the realization of becoming a Graphic Designer struck you?

When I followed my first design internship at a local graphic design agency at the age of 18. I got so much energy of working on these creative projects and I loved every bit of it. It also helped me to stay motivated since so many of my friends and followers online supported my work that well.   

What is your take on the freelancing platforms (99designs, upwork, freelancer.com) that many beginner designers spend a lot of time on?

Many years ago I also started working on these type of design competitions and competed for my personal growth. I think that these sites are helpful if you are just starting out as a freelance designer, though when you’re going more professional you also want to get paid more to match your quality of work. As some of these sites are still working well for freelance designers this sure can be different for everyone. I actually stopped working on these sites and instead I wanted to go on my own way to see what other platforms may help me in getting work. I don’t like the fact that there will always be an in-between company/service which can also win from my profits. I want to have direct contact with my clients on my own terms. So it really is what you prefer to work like. I know designers who use these platforms, but also are focusing on sites such as Dribbble and Behance because they know clients will also find them via these networks

 

What mistakes have you done as a designer and what did you learn from them?

Getting started on projects without a downpayment is one thing I will never do again. Since I usually do not know these clients personally (mostly international clients), it’s always tricky to just start a project without the guarantee of getting paid. So after a few mistakes I learned about this thing called ‘downpayment’. I noticed that people online spoke about their experiences and told that a 50% downpayment is some sort of a industry standard. It helps you get guaranteed (50%) payments to cover the start of a project. Once a client has approved a specific design I then ask for final 50%. Once this is also completed I will share any of the needed source files.

I also had some issues in finding the right prices for my work. So in the beginning I aimed a little too low to avoid clients running away or thinking I wasn’t serious. But little did I know that had messed up my time for a project so much, that I had to re-think my prices. I actually started keeping track of each of my projects so I knew how many hours an average project would take.

Although it’s not always easy to name big prices because I wasn’t sure of what I could offer in the first place too. I needed to learn fast and also got more secure about my communication with my clients to get paid the right amount of money for the work that I do.     

Also I did once share a design online which was under a NDA contract which I had forgotten about. It did not left me an expensive lawsuit but it did shook me and grabbed the attention of the fact that you can’t always share things online.

How do you present your work to your clients, especially when you have a lot of concepts going on.

I usually create PDF files and have my personal touch on every single presentation. I prefer not to work always with the same template because every project can be different in how I’d like to present it. I also discuss with my clients about how they would like me to present my works, multiple concepts at once, or each concept separately. This also depends on a client’s budget and requirements.

I usually start with sharing my take on how I see this task and what would be needed to get it completed or fixed. Then I focus on the conceptual thinking behind my decisions, followed by sharing details such as brainstorm sessions and moodboards. When I present a concept I will first unfold it and explain every single part of how this design is build. This will also be including the elements which I may have used. I will first share concepts in black and white and later will explain which colors I had selected, same as the suiting typography. I prefer to use quality mockups to give it more depth, so that my clients have a better understanding how these designs could be implemented.

 

Did you have periods when work has dried up back in the days? How did you handle that? What did you do when there was no incoming client work for a long period of time?

I had many times when work did not got into my mailbox. At first I took this time to focus more on my online appearances. So my personal website, online portfolio items and stuff like personal projects got more attention during these moments. I tried to keep myself busy by getting my work online so clients may get more attention to any of my new posts too. Usually that worked a little bit. But I also discovered that reaching out to all my previous clients to really catch-up and ask for any needed work (or know people who may need a logo design) was a nice way to get in touch with them, that partly gave me some small extra assignments too.

Nowadays it’s much easier to just put new work out there and people will reach out to me every day. Although I do experience people not replying after they hear my price quote. There are always those clients who are start-ups or entrepreneurs who don’t feel like spending that much money on logo design projects. Good thing is this filters out the clients with smaller budgets and it’s a chance for me to focus more on the ones in my kind of price-range (average +€2500).

I know for a fact that you are a inspiration for many designers. What about you? Name 3 (or more) main designers you look up to?

It still creeps me out that I reached this level in the work I always enjoyed doing, it is a great privilege to inspire designers along the way. Over the years I also was inspired by various people which I found out about during my time I started interacting on Dribbble. During this time I got more serious with my work, since I started doing this for a full-time job.

 There are many designers I admire and look up to, Aaron Draplin, Eddie Lobanovskiy, Mackey Saturday, Nick Slater, Yoga Perdana, Saul Bass and Paul Ibou

Can you name a Top 3 of your favorite design books?

01. Logo Modernism by Jens Müller

02. Pretty Much Everything by Aaron Draplin

03. Logo, Font & Lettering Bible by Leslie Cabarga 

How do you avoid not falling for your own hype? And not letting this social fame take control of you?

It does put a lot more pressure on the work that you post out there. Currently it got easier sharing my work and I do not mind if someone is getting less ‘fame’ as others do. I think people who have followed me for a longer time know I can share a wide range of works while experiencing growth in my own type of work. I never stop learning and I’m also keen to share my processes via social networks to interact with designers too, not only to gain more followers but to actually be in the middle of this creative journey. It does however help clients reach out to me, since they feel impressed by the large following or (hopefully) quality works I share online.

 

I understood that Dribbble works best for you in terms of client work. Can you expand on this subject a bit? How do you get successful on Dribbble, any hidden tips besides being consistent about sharing your work?

I’ve been an active member since 2012 and I am always posting new works almost weekly since then. It was a big opportunity since not all designers got access to this site due to the need of ‘invites’. Over the years I had created a proper amount of followers and that only kept growing over time. I think the main important thing is to know why you are posting on this platform. 

To me, it always was helpful since I kept on asking for feedback on each and every publication. I actually dislike designers who just put their works out there and expect only positive responses. You need to know that this is a learning platform too, so interaction is crucial. It also helps to know what timing for a post works best for you (think of the type of followers, where they are from, get to know the time they may be active or not). Also it works to explain your concepts and create interesting and informational shots so they may stand out a little more. 

I don’t know real secrets on how to use Dribbble better than I do already but it always depends on how the people like your work. 

Be kind to people and open yourself up for critiques. Don’t use this platform to fill up your portfolio, instead try giving context and strive to actually interact so you can benefit from posting these works too. Over time you will grow, and will soon receive possibly client work.

In your opinion what is the most important skill of a designer, besides the tools knowledge?

I think that would be communication. It’s so important to understand your clients and see what solution you can bring to the table. Everyone can learn about design software and finding the right sort of concept elements to include in your works. In all my projects communication seems to be the key element in turning a project into a success.

Favorite Movie?
Into The Wild

Favorite TV Show?
Shark Tank

Favorite Color?
Garbage Green

Best Music Band?
Paolo Nutini

Cooking or Delivery?
Cooking

Coffee or Tea?
Coffee. Definitely coffee.

Winter or Summer?
Winter. I hate working when it’s super warm outside (or in the office)

Best Travel Destination you’ve been to?
Sweden, enjoy nature at it’s finest.

Does money brings happiness?
For me it means a more secure life with the ones I have close to me.