Going against Family Tradition, Hoang Nguyen follows the Design Path
Hoang lives in Vietnam and has been both a freelancer and full time employer for companys such as EngineThemes and Interactive Labs, HCMC. He recently just got an apartment with a killer view.
"They (my client) instantly changed their mind when they saw similar products. For that reason, I almost have to continuously change the design every time I have a meeting with them, but I did so with end user intentions and the budget. Its an art when going into these meetings."
There is a delicate season change in Vietnam. One where the trees turn a slight purple and the wind poses a swift brisk during November. Here, there are different challenges than browser testing, responsive layouts and HTML prototypes. Here, there is a standard of work that one is particularly held too either by The State or your Family.
“My family traditionally worked in the state-owned company. For that reason, when I grew up my mother directed me to the family’s tradition. So when I decided that I would follow the designed path, I had encountered a lot of critics from my family especially me mom.” Hoang speaks with a soft tone has he describes his early beginnings. His father was an artist, however pursing this path posed issues and supporting the family his greatest obstacle. Nguyen’s mother sought for him to pursue a more technical role as an engineer or technician. Entering the creative digital landscape was something that was out of the ordinary, however proved to be the right choice. Nguyen’s bold style and contrasting color choices has advanced him to one of the more unique UI UX designers today. “Until now, I am lucky to prove that my career choice is the right one, and my family has turned to support me a lot. I am thankful for that.” – Hoang.
Starting out, he fostered creative approaches to learning in school and enjoyed the art time. By time he entered the University he met 3 teachers that encouraged him to pursue a creative approach to technology and inspired him with love of the field. Interning at local technology companies, he started out in support, working in PHP and HTML. Getting invited on Dribbble allowed Nguyen to gain influence from trends around the world. “There are 3 popular designers on Dribbble like: Jakub Antalik, Barthelemy Chalvet and Tobias van Schneider which I am looking up to and get motivation from their work”. Nguyen understands that transparency from other cultures is important to advancing his own style.
Working for EngineThemes brought him to a level of a design prodigy, and seven of the thirteen WordPress themes were under his design thumb. Today they been downloaded over hundred thousand times and are in three large marketplaces including Themeforest and Creative Martket. Nguyen say’s he focused on customer service the most and spending time listening to the owner’s direction, “I tend to pay more time on reading and understanding the demand of customers. I called it researching for inspirations. My view on this is that “you have to make it right before moving to beauty”. It means that when you make the right products to your customer’s demand, the revision process is much easier”. Focusing on multiple end users, those that download the themes, pose a difficult challenge. He focused most of his attention to the wants of the team and CEO,making sure that he had all of the instruction before starting.
Today, working at Interactive Labs offers a more agency-like atmosphere and with that comes more customer service, something that Nguyen has become an expert at. Balancing listening with design is something of an art and Nguyen takes complex customer challenges and diffuses them by installing strategy into the work and lengthly descriptions that explains why he designed the things he did. He wasn’t afraid of charging more as these request got more challenging: “There was a time when customer’s continuously changing their request due to the influence of their competitors. They instantly changed their mind when saw a similar products. For that reason, I almost had to continuously change the design every time I had a meeting with them, but I did so with end user intentions. The upside of charging hourly when doing the job as a freelancer is that if customer’s requests changed, it means your volume of works will expand. When I have to bill more, the customer generally either reconsiders or we compromise on features”.
His design process changes for every project and is tailored based on the needs of the client. Nguyen walks us through two different process that he frequently comes back too, altering based on different goals and data he acquires:
“Based on each work and design, I applied different kind of processes. For example, designing a logo and an applications have 2 distinguished processes: First my Common-Process, one that I generally use of all clients and includes activities such as, listening to your customer’s demands and their business’s goals, giving out the list of questionnaires to collect the data for designing, and researching and brainstorming their competitors. Second, start the Design-Process which includes activities such as providing customers with options of early prototypes, collecting feedbacks and amending the product, and repeat”.
A lot of his portfolio resembles platform-like applications and web dashboard projects, but it becomes obvious that Nguyen presents these dashboards and user interfaces with certain type of expertise that is unique and he isn't afraid to use bold colors or a layout this is organic. The landing pages are bold, and have mixed use of white space and animation. As an audience, we are pleasantly drawn through his application’s bold features and we are excited to click the rounded buttons, anticipating what will come next. “I think that the success of a designer is when you see that your products are appreciated (recognized) by users. The client’s business is blooming with success by using my products. Moreover, the best feeling is knowing that your designs have inspired the others young-designers around the world”; Nguyen smiles.
What is a day like in Vietnam? When do you start work?
It is humid here and I wake up around 10:00 am to read and reply the emails from customers. After that I work until noon then go out for jogging or occasionally football with friends. When I came back, the work is continue until 3 or 4 am. Mostly work on UX/UI for application, landing page or animation prototype of user flow.
What is the work your most proud of?
The work I most proud of until now maybe is the redesigning the EngineTheme’s homepage. This website was originally designed by a really talented designer and honestly it was so good already. It makes the redesigning work become pretty challenging during that time. But the ideas come pretty natural and lucky for me I can complete that project to satisfy the demand of customer.
What is your go to for sharing and how did you start to gain exposer on the web?
I’m sharing my work on Dribbble, Behance and Instagram. At the beginning, the recognitions weren’t enough to attract the attentions to my designs. However, time has proven that if you put all your efforts to every product. They will get the recognitions from users sooner or later. I always try to deliver my products with all my efforts to customers. For that reason, lucky for me, customers came naturally.
If you could do it again, would you be a freelancer or work at an agency?
Choosing the freelancing path is always a bigger challenge. I think that at the beginning of anyone’s design career, the younger creatives should choose to work under larger agencies to gain experiences and have more knowledge on the detailed process of designing. After building up a good on-line portfolio, then you can choose your path based on the recent experiences; maybe as a freelancer or your own studio. I like to work at a studio that specialize in applications, and I like diversity in my projects, and for that reason I go for freelancing. Regardless, one must build up their on-line portfolio with all your efforts; focusing on your strong points.