Interview: Everaldo Coelho
Everaldo Coellho is one of the most talented icon designers out there, since the very first time I saw the Crystal icons I became a huge fan and even more when I found out that he was Brazilian. Everaldo has been working with icon and UI design for almost a decade now and after founding and running his own design studio he decided that it was necessary to go a little further and joined the Apple Design Team.
Fabio got the chance to meet him in San Francisco last October and they talked about all sorts of things, design and non-design related, now I want to share with you this really insightful interview with Everaldo.
Fabio and Everaldo, in San Francisco
Can you start by telling us a little bit about your training/education, where you studied, what courses you took, or if you're self-taught?
I am passionate about humanities. From early on I liked psychology, especially psychoanalysis. I also started to study theology, but didn't complete the course. I have a bachelor's degree in communication and design that was given to me based on my work experience, I never took any kind of design class as a student. I took several short courses and workshops, but not an actual college program in the area. I don't believe in being self-taught, but I think that might be what most people would refer to me as. I read a lot, and every day. For me, a formal university education is extremely important, but I think what's more important than receiving training is containing that information. Unfortunately the two do not always go together.
The Crystal project is what gave you worldwide recognition, right? Did you begin this project?
Yes, Crystal was my first serious project in interface design. The project itself started very simply, actually not even as a project. All I wanted was just to customize my own desktop. In 2000 I familiarized myself with Linux and soon after in 2001 I got a job in the marketing department of Conectiva (now Mandriva). This was the time when the world was getting to know Windows XP and Mac OS X refurbished with their icons with more colors and transparencies. Linux was still using icons reminiscent of Windows 95. It was then that I started drawing the icons. The guys at Conectiva liked them and motivated me to continue the project which I named Crystal. They later became the default KDE icons, which at that time was the most popular graphical interface for Linux.
I believe that we would make better products if we spent more time reading Freud, Lacan, Piaget, Yung, Cury, and other great psychologists. Unfortunately even the few designers who devote some attention to this still prefer reading more shallow literature. At the end of the day we design products for people.
And what about Icon Design, did that project emerge from Crystal? Tell us a little about that story.
In 1999 I got my first official job as a children's book illustrator under the publishing company Dom Bosco in Curitiba. There I was introduced to a PC for the first time and one of my first questions was, "how do I change this yellow icon?" I was referring to the Windows 95 folder icon. Later "yellow icon" became the name of my studio. Anyway, I already "played" with icons before but it was really with Crystal that it became serious work.
You say that you rely heavily on philosopher Protagoras' quote: "The human being as the measure of all things". What is the idea that you from this phrase to your life and work?
I consider myself a humanist and this quote from Protagoras accurately reflects this philosophy. Designers and developers rely too much on aesthetics, codes, jargons and fashion movements. They waste too much time reading books about design, web, languages, graphics software, and all that is really important. What worries me, however, is that they don't give the same attention to understanding humans. I believe that we would make better products if we spent more time reading Freud, Lacan, Piaget, Yung, Cury, and other great psychologists. Unfortunately even the few designers who devote some attention to this still prefer reading more shallow literature. At the end of the day we design products for people. Understanding their feelings, emotions, conflicts, ambiguities is, and should be, the basis of our work. Otherwise we are just making decorative design and not creating experiences.
What is your working method for an icons project? Do you start with a few freehand sketches? Which programs do you use the most?
The most important part of an icon is the metaphor, and finding an appropriate metaphor is naturally the first step. In part of this, psychoanalysis, semiotics and sociology are extremely useful knowledge. UI/UX is all about projecting emotions. The next step is to create a simple sketch. We used to do it with pencil on paper or in Adobe Illustrator, but now Yellow bought iPads for all the designers and we use Adobe Ideas for that. After we reach a conceptual idea, a preview is sent to the client and once approved we go to the final render. Usually we do the icons in vector on Illustrator and touch up on Photoshop. Recently I've been testing out designing the actual vectors directly on Photoshop, but I'm not sure this is a good method. I have also tested the Sketch on Pixelmator but it is still early to say what I think :)
And your daily routine, do you tend to get up early, sleep late, do any sports? How do you organize other actives together with work during the week?
I lived in London for a few months, I returned to Brazil for a few, and now I'm moving to California (I'm doing this interview on the plane). I'm also leaving Yellowicon to join the team of designers from Apple. Because of all these changes, my daily routine is, let's say, "messy". I was doing weight training until three months ago and now I intend to start back up again in San Francisco. I need to lose weight :D
The most important part of an icon is the metaphor, and finding an appropriate metaphor is naturally the first step. In part of this, psychoanalysis, semiotics and sociology are extremely useful knowledge. UI/UX is all about projecting emotions.
We know of other great artists who work with icons, like John Hicks. Do you like his work? And what are other designers that you admire?
John Hicks does a fantastic job, I'm a fan of his. There are also many others, but I prefer to avoid naming names as you run the risk of being unfair. Yellowicon has some of the best designers I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, and now at Apple I've met some truly fantastic guys as well. I'm also impressed with a few Russian designers I've seen on Dribble. Actually, what is happening in Russia? These guys are amazing! :)
What were some of your most rewarding work? Either by company size or final result.
At Yellowicon I worked with many companies of various flavors, shapes, and sizes around the world. They were wonderful experiences but I don't necessarily have a favorite job. I really liked the Yogurt app that was a personal project of mine with Eduardo Fonseca from A&D. Unfortunately the limitations of the Orkut API and a few of Apple don't allow us to make the app that I wanted to. I have a special affection for Orkut, it was through it that I met my fiancee. I also really love the iPhone. So this project was really fun to do.
And plans for the future, any new project to be launched?
I have three apps for iOS projected for development, but now with all this moving I don't know when it will be released. The guys at Yellowicon are working on the new studio site. The current is about four years old and no longer reflects the time nor the current portfolio of the studio.
And finally, are you happy with your work and what you do? And how important is this in your life?
I love my job a lot! I feel like a truly blessed guy to do what I like and still get paid for it. I try to give things the value that they deserve. I'm not young anymore and after awhile you learn that the things that truly have value in life are not in fact things at all.