Ryan Cash

Life passes most people by while they're making grand plans for it

An interview with Christopher Downer

I recently had the pleasure to interview Christopher Downer, a user interface designer at Realmac Software.

Tell us a bit about yourself. What are your hobbies? Where have you traveled to?

I’m a 20 year old UI designer currently living in Brighton in the UK and working at Realmac Software making awesome things. I have a broad range of hobbies from playing sports like soccer and golf, to skiing, watching films and travelling. I’ve travelled mainly throughout Western Europe and been to the USA a couple of times, but I hope to travel all over the world throughout my life.
What was your first job?

Funnily enough my current job is my first one. Before that I was a student at university studying Digital Art & Technology.
How’d you get into user interface design?

I just happened to ‘stumble’ upon it really. I was browsing DeviantArt one day when I came across the world of “Deskmodding” on Windows XP and I wanted to do the same. I started out by making and sharing icons for a while before I decided to take it seriously and it branched out to interface design and I haven’t looked back since.
Any formal training, or mostly self taught? 

I’m entirely self taught. I had taught myself to use Photoshop a couple of years before I started icon design and really just practiced then ever since with the help of various articles and tutorials along the way. I started to do a lot of research at one point into the technical side of things and am still learning with each thing I make.
Do you have a favourite project that you’ve worked on? 

My favourite project I’ve worked on is also my most recent, and that’s Realmac’s new application, Analog.

I’ve learnt a lot in designing it and it’s great to see it’s evolution. I am still quite fond of my work that I did for the Movies Now iPhone application which now sadly defunct. Looking back at it now, there are some things that I would like to change, but it was an app that I used quite frequently which was great.
Is there anything you hate working on? 

I can get quite frustrated at times when I need to design around a particular problem and can’t seem to find a solution around. It’s sometimes similar when designing icons and you just cannot think of a perfect or feasible metaphor for something like an action that is unnatural or uncommon. I do hate working in Adobe Illustrator though. I avoid it where possible but sometimes it’s not always an option.
What blogs/books/magazines do you read? 

I wouldn’t say that I subscribe to any particular blog but I do use Twitter very regularly and it’s great as lots of links to various blog posts are shared by some of the people I follow. 

Sebastiaan de With’s blog was one of the first design blogs that I read and I learnt quite a lot from that. As for books and magazines, I don’t usually tend to read a lot of them, sadly. I’ve been doing a lot more reading since I got my iPad and apps like Flipboard are great for that.
What’s your hardware/software setup look like? Any favourite applications? 

At work I have a 27” iMac which I use with a Magic Trackpad, and at home I have a 13” MacBook Pro that is badly in need of an upgrade. Hopefully Apple will announce new models during WWDC, or I’ll get an SSD for it.

As for applications, aside from Apple’s own which I use daily, they include Adobe Photoshop (It has it’s problems, but I could not work without it), LittleSnapper, Twitter, CoverSutra and Chrome.
If you had to pick one person as being the most influential person in your life, who would that be, and why? 

Good question. It’s one that I’ve not really thought about. I’d probably say my parents. They’ve always supported and encouraged me with whatever I’ve wanted to do in life, which I know some other people may not have had. I’ve been inspired by various famous figures throughout history such as Martin Luther King Jr, Steve Jobs and Henry Ford to name a few.
What have you failed at in life, and how have you learned from the experience? 

Early on when I was designing I was never happy with anything I designed and I felt like I kept failing and wanted to give up. But I kept trying and it’s most definitely paid off. It does sound so cliché, but practice really does makes perfect. You’ve just got to keep at it and remain dedicated if it’s something you really want to do. I think that goes for most things in life.
What do you like to do in your spare time? 

In my spare time I usually like to relax by watching TV shows, listening to music or watching a movie. I also usually do some designing in my free time, things that I wouldn’t usually get to make at work and it’s a great way to keep on learning and improving. 
Lastly, if you had to pick another career, totally out of the design realm, what would it be? 

I was never sure what I wanted to be when I was growing up, and I’m still finding it hard now to decide what I would like to do if I wasn’t a designer. Probably something to do with geography. More specifically island geography. It’s something I find really fascinating and I love learning about it.

Thanks again Chris for the interview!

Filed under Mac Realmac Software User Interface Designer iOS Interview