Meet Tim Van Damme, Principal Designer at Abstract. In a new video interview, Tim shares how the 80% solution helps him prioritize features in his work and his best advice for designers.
What does design mean to you?
Design to me is the thread that takes an idea from what it is, just an idea all the way to the point where it ships, where it goes out into the world. Throughout that process, it can take many different shapes and forms and is constantly evolving which is what I think makes being a designer so much fun.
What’s the impact of Dribbble on your career?
The community on Dribbble and then the community on Twitter. They went hand in hand really, really nicely because it was basically people sharing what they were working on and giving other people the opportunity to kinda look at it and learn and dissect. I think designers these days are taken a lot more seriously thanks to Dribbble.
How has the design industry grown?
It all relied on people sharing their things. People designing a really nice blog and then making sure that the source code of it was nice and clean. When Dribbble came into play like it was just a very warm community where you would get feedback on the work you were doing, you would discover new designers as well—which then like it would inspire you to do better work or those people would turn out to be your friends after a while.
What is your typical day like?
So I live in Belgium. I worked for a company on the West Coast in the US, which is a nine-hour time difference. Design can be done remotely but you need overlap. My day is split in half where I work from 8:00 p.m. until midnight. Here it is 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and that’s the overlap. That’s when meetings happen and I basically take the rest of the afternoon off which is great because I could spend it with my kids and then after they’ve gone to bed, that’s when I start work again.
What keeps you inspired?
I get inspired by the people around me. Not just the designers but also the engineers I work with, the people who work and support, the people who are work in sales.
When are you most productive?
I’m most productive when I’m surrounded by good people, both in my private life and my professional life. It definitely helps to work on a product that you’re passionate about. At Abstract, it’s an honest product that makes the design process for teams more transparent. It’s a lovely feeling to know that that’s how you get your paycheck, in the end.
How do you prioritize features in your work?
I always like figuring out the 80% solution—which means something that would cover most of what the what the user wants but, is also still fast to implement. If you build a very custom bit of UI that might take weeks to implement or with some tweaks you can simplify it down to something that can be implemented in an afternoon. That to me is a no brainer. You don’t want to waste anyone’s time.
What’s your advice for designers?
I think in the end, it’s important for a designer to always be flexible. So no matter what your specific role is it’s always good to pick up on what other people on your team focus on or how the engineers work. You don’t have to know how to write the code but it’s really good knowing what the constraints are that they deal with on a daily basis. It creates a common language they will say things and don’t have to translate for you. If they pick up on how design works you can do the same and communication just goes way faster and way smoother which again results in a better product at the end of the day.