Interview with designer Fabio Basile

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Our friend, Fabio Basile, came all the way from Chester, UK to visit us in Tokyo today! Well, to be perfectly honest, he didn’t come to Japan just for us — but we were lucky that he took some time out to chat with us about his design process and Dribbble work.

Fabio is an Italian-born freelance designer who has spent the last 8 years working throughout Europe and the world. His designs have been featured on the likes of Mashable, TechCrunch, and the New York Times. Although he has a full plate of design work for various clients, Fabio is also one half of Brotherhood, a design studio that explores the hardware side of things in addition to their fantastic pixel and vector work.

First Trip to Japan (and First Tattoo?!)

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Why are you in Japan right now?

Actually, just holiday basically. I love Japan and have always loved Japan. I wanted to visit Tokyo for a long time and I know Goodpatch’s Nobtaka through Twitter and Dribbble so it was a chance to visit him. It’s been amazing so far and I’ve found everyone so friendly.

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Where do you find inspiration for your work? Any inspiration from Japan?

Most of my work comes from client requests, so I have to explore what the client wants. I get my inspiration from magazines, books, Dribbble, etc… There’s a lot of areas you can actually get inspiration from.

Regarding Japan, I’ve admired the style of Japanese art for a long time. The thing that actually inspired me when I was in Japan was pervasiveness of friendly little things. Characters on “Works in Progress” signs. I got a lot of inspiration from these kind of happy avatars that you don’t see so much over in Europe.

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Why do you think happy little avatars and these sorts of details are popular over here?

I think they are more creative in their way of thinking, trying to make other people happy. Of course, that’s just my own thinking. I don’t really know the motive.

It’s also completely different style-wise. There’s a lot of information. That actually really struck with me. When you visit a Japanese website or see a Japanese advertisement, there’s really a lot going on. Loads of images that kind of confuse you. Information overload.

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And then you have a zen garden.

Yes! Minimalism in some places.

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We can’t help but notice the fresh ink on your arm. It looks Japan inspired. Did you get that here?

Yeah, I found a place through Google named Studio Muscat. It’s actually just 3 minutes from your office here. It’s a flat on the top floor so it was really difficult to find at first.

We spent a bit of time with the artist working on something I would like. It’s my first tattoo so I wanted it to be special. I like Japanese style mixed with Western style.

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Can you explain the different sections of the design?

Mt. Fuji as the symbol of Japan. The other one is the torii gate for spirituality. Then a character that means strength. And the last one is a mask to represent courage.

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Has your trip here sparked any new works?

Yeah, I want to explore the kind of style I saw in the happy avatars. I haven’t had the chance yet to create anything at the moment because of some backlog for work.

The Design Process

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What is your normal design process? What kind of prototyping do you do?

I tend to do stuff on paper because that’s the easiest way you can actually scribble. When clients request wireframes from me, I sketch them by hand.

Because I work as a freelancer, many of my clients are based all around the world. Sometimes it’s not ideal. Right now, for example, a lot of clients have sketches done for them and I’ll work from those to a somewhat finished UI. It’s a process of upgrading based on the feedback I’m given.

After the sketches or the wireframes, I go straight into Photoshop and start creating the interface. Recently, clients often like to see mockups animations, so I have to send Adobe After Effects or Framer.js that actually simulates the interactions. People like to see the interaction because it helps you understand and it’s also useful when talking with developers.

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When you work with an international client, how do you collaborate?

Most of the time it’s just sharing the scanned images, for example, the wireframes. I send the file across. We just share across Dropbox, or Invision sometimes — depending on the project.

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Do you introduce new products and tools to your clients?

Definitely I do. Because some of my clients are not as knowledgeable as I am. So whichever tool I use I can invite them to join and we take it from there.

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How do you see your role as a designer?

It’s a little bit different from when I used to work for a few different companies before I launched myself as a freelancer. With freelance designing, you have to handle a lot of different things yourself: chase after clients, ask for feedback, handle all the administrative tasks.

The thing is, you can chose a title like Creative Director, for example, but does it really matter? It’s based on what you create whether than on some fancy title you give yourself.

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What do you do for the client? Do you only make things pretty or is it more than that?

It’s definitely more than that. Most clients, whether they work for bigger corporates or smaller startups, need guidance on UI and that’s why they hire you and pay you. So you have to explain and discuss with them.

You also have to be really open to changes. I work with a lot of designers as well, and some of them don’t take changes well. You create something beautiful. And as a consequence, some people get really attached to their designs.

From the business perspective, I always offer to support the customer even after the app gets launched. I really want to build a long lasting relationship. In fact, most of clients are clients that I’ve known for 5-6 years and they always come back to me because they like what I do.

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What’s the difference between when you work for clients and work for yourself?

I think working is for yourself is more liberating because you don’t have set rules. But you want to make something amazing so the downside is you keep working on something until it’s too perfect. You don’t just put it out there. I love personal projects but if I can find the time to actually work on them is another story.

With the client, you have timelines and budgets so you are a bit limited.

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Do you have a personal project right now?

My friend and I launched a design studio called Brotherhood. In addition to our design work, we are trying out some small hardware projects during our spare time. And we are trying to create hack Fridays where we won’t touch any of our clients’ projects, but instead focus on experimenting with different software and hardware challenges.

One of those small hardware projects we’re working on right now is a standing desk. There’s a lot of standing desks in the States but over in England they’re hard to find and quite expensive.

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Flat Design and the Future

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Where do you see design going right now?

I think the latest trends are probably set by the big corporations: Apple, Google. A lot of people tend to follow what clients request. I think the trend was already turning flat before people started complaining about it on Twitter.

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Do you think these styles pushed by Apple or Google limits or helps design work?

I think it actually helps because I was making flat-like design before people started discussing skeuomorphic verses flat. The style allows the user to have better experience when it’s done properly. And the animations, as well, are really key.

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What do you think about Dribbble?

I like Dribbble a lot because it’s where all my work comes from. I’ve never had to advertise. I know people who have launched companies because of Dribbble with over $800,000 in profit. That’s a lot of money coming from a website where you just post your work and get feedback.

Dribbble became a site for showing off your work rather than showing a work in progress, the original purpose. It’s not necessarily the best place to get feedback. You get to show the world your designs and people start following you and liking your stuff — and sometimes they like it no matter how great or not-so-great it actually is.

I get contacted by a lot of companies where the people getting in touch are not aware of good design, but they just like what they see on the website. They like your work and they want to work with you. They want their app to be famous and they want you to make it that way.

There’s a lot of big companies on Dribbble, for example, Samsung, Quantas. It’s not just the small companies and startups.

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Do you see a lot of Japanese designers on Dribbble?

I do, but I would love to see more. I would love to see more interfaces in general. But it would be nice to see Japanese designers more active on Dribbble.

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When will we see you next in Japan?

Hopefully soon. Probably around Easter or so. I really want to come back.

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Thank you again to Fabio for taking the time to talk to us!

We’re already excited to see Fabio back in Japan next year! In the meantime, we look forward to seeing the works of Brotherhood. Fabio also started using our Prott prototyping tool so it will be great to get his input on how it factors into his design process.

See some of Fabio’s great design work solo & as Brotherhood:

Fabio on Dribbble: https://dribbble.com/toxinide

Fabio on Twitter: https://twitter.com/fffabss

Brotherhood: http://brotherhood.io

Brotherhood on Dribbble: https://dribbble.com/brotherhood

Brotherhood on Twitter: https://twitter.com/BrotherhoodIO


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