Designer with Adelaide’s Shifty Jelly
IT professional turned graphic designer, Chris Martin, joined Adelaide app developer company Shifty Jelly as their designer 18 months after he graduated with a Bachelor of Design, Visual Communication in 2013. In May this year he travelled to San Francisco with colleagues to receive a Google award for their podcast app, Pocket Casts.
Shifty Jelly received its award for the “seamless browsing” that Pocket Casts delivers. It has been downloaded more than 100,000 times in Google’s Play Store and has half a million users.
The four-person team from Adelaide was one of only six companies in the world to win.
Chris says that last year's release by Google of its new app design software, Material Design, was a turning point for Android apps.
"There was a lot of scattered design thinking – every app looked different to the next one. Google took it upon itself to create a system to tie the apps together aesthetically," says Chris.
The release of Material Design spurred a flood of redesigned apps onto the market, but Shifty Jelly spent six months perfecting improvements to their Pocket Casts app before releasing the new Android product.
“We actually launched Pocket Casts in 2011. It was mainly a reaction to the Apple Podcasting app. A lot of people felt like it (the Apple app) was being neglected and not offering enough features. With podcasts especially there is a really passionate community of people who listen," says Chris, whose company is now applying the design improvements they made on Android to upgrade their iOS version of the app.
To a graphic designer working with interactive software in a small city like Adelaide, the experience of travelling to San Francisco and meeting other people who are passionate about a niche area of design was fantastic.
“I met some really influential people, including the Head of Design at Google,” says Chris, who experienced some unique opportunities like attending a Google meet-up for some 400 specialists in interactive design.
“Chris began his career in IT where he worked for a long time before he became interested in design.
"I used to do a lot of IT design support work so I constantly kept getting people coming to me with things they didn’t understand about software, so I reckon I must have internalised that," he says.
Chris went back to university to study graphic design without really knowing how to merge his IT knowledge with his design skills. He knew that working in graphic design in advertising wasn’t for him, so after graduating he went freelancing for 18 months before landing this job with Shifty Jelly.
“I think a lot of other apps provide inspiration for me. I usually work on a particular problem for a while then I might go and research how other apps address the specific problem. I find it really interesting to look at another app through the lens of having already worked on the problem.”
Opportunities are opening up for graphic designers in app design.
"A lot of the big digital companies in the US are hiring graphic designers to work just on product design. Facebook has famously hired some of the top designers in the world."
His advice for new graduates breaking into design is to keep on top of the industry, get involved and to put their work on the internet through sites like Dribble.com
As someone who straddles the twin worlds of designer and developer, Chris believes it is important to be involved in the development process so you learn to speak the language of developers.
He finds listening to design podcasts is a way to feel more connected to the global design community. The San Francisco-produced podcast series Design Details features interviews with some of the best designers in the world - and naturally you can subscribe to Design Details through Pocket Casts.