French Product Designer Valentin Salmon works at a design agency by day and tackles freelance projects by night. Read about how he came into the field of design, how he structures his days to get things done, and how different environments fuel his productivity in different ways.
Tell us about yourself.
Design is very important in my life. I think it’s impossible to be a designer without being in love with the job. But I didn’t just wake up one morning and think: Wow, what if I became a designer? I started designing over ten years ago as a simple hobby which slowly became more and more important as I found myself spending days and nights exploring the Adobe universe. I would make free YouTube channel templates and banners for forums and small websites without really knowing what I was doing. It was cool and I loved it!
I struggled with school throughout my childhood and at 18 years old quickly found myself lost without any diploma in hand. Things looked really dark for me, but after several years of exploring design further and conceptualizing projects, I finally found something that enabled me to express myself—I didn’t know what it was, but apparently, it had a name: Design. It was at this point that I grabbed my future by the hand and since then I’ve been really fulfilled in my work, learning new things every day, and surrounded by passionate people.
Where do you work?
I work and live in Montpellier which is in the south of France. By day, I work at Évolt, a design agency. Most of the time, I work in our offices so I can share and exchange ideas with other people around me and for the sake of a creative environment. I also have the option of working from home several days a month which is nice for heads down working time.
In the evening, I work on freelance projects in my home office. This is a great time to work because Slack and other communication tools that may interrupt me during the day are much quieter. It helps me to be much more productive for a few hours at a time.
What hardware and software do you use to create your designs?
Like most designers, I work with a MacBook Pro—nothing too original. In the office and at home, I work with screens most of the time in dual screen. Everything I create is done with Sketch, Photoshop, or After Effects for interface animations. Although I use it less and less, Photoshop has become the perfect combination with Sketch.
Tell us about your routine (or lack of one.) How do you structure your days to get things done?
I’m a pretty early riser which allows me to take my time before starting my day. When I don’t finish work too late the night before, I wake up around 7:00 am. Since I generally start work around 9:00 am, waking up at seven gives me time to prepare for my day, have some coffee, and see the city come alive before arriving at the agency.
I finish my evenings with three to four hours of freelance work. I’m much more focused in the evenings so my workflow is pretty intense because I’m spending those hours extremely efficiently. I enjoy the work so it’s a nice part of the day. In terms of my biggest waste of time, I would say it’s my commute. Son, I’ll start biking again so I can use that time to get my body moving!
How do your space, tools, and habits benefit you? What about those things do you think needs improvement?
I have workspaces that suit me rather well because I can be at the agency or at home depending on where I feel I’ll be most productive that day. I often try to improve my way of working whether it be alone or with other people around me. It’s important to have a nice place to work and I’m really lucky to have a job that allows me to work where I want. If I had to improve on anything, I think it would be the disruption of social media, email, and Slack notifications. They tire me out and usually prevent me from being fully focused.
As a designer, my goal is to constantly evolve and push my limits in order to keep moving forward. Sometimes, you have to know how to go back and start over when an idea isn’t working out. In that sense, I think design is a very good example of everyday life. It involves a lot of failures which you have to learn to accept before finding the right solution or the best rendering. It’s a fast-paced job and you have to be constantly learning and improving. This year, for example, I’d like to learn 3D design because it’s a skill that is becoming more and more important for mastering design.
I believe that good design is above all, a group collaboration. Being able to work with other designers in the office helps produce great results because we’re much stronger together and we learn much faster. It’s important to be humble in our work and respect the work of others—remember we are all a work in progress!