Head of Interaction and Service Design at @DigitalDWP
I interview Sarah Parmenter
Hi Sarah, a big thanks for taking part in the interview!
1. Full Name and Age please. 🙂
Sarah-Jane Parmenter – not long turned 25
2. Favourite Biscuit and Drink.
It’s got to be Oreo and De-caff coffee, I’m allergic to caffeine which somewhat limits my coffee consumption but I’m partial to Starbucks Christmas coffee!
3. Last Book you read and last movie you saw.
Last book I read was The Four Hour Work Week by Timothy Ferris, the classic that I think most web people have read, and last movie I saw was Quantum of Solace.
4. Where and When did it all start?
When I was 3 my Dad sat me on our Atari and taught me how to play a game called “Kings Quest 3” – but on a web design front, it all started when I was 14, so that would have been 1997. I remember having the Internet which charged you per minute and thinking chat rooms were amazing. My friends and I used to use Geocities as personal homepages for photos of our friends and family. My best friend had a page of her family photos, another friend thought it would be quite funny to get me to see if I could hack into her account (yahoo security wasn’t that hot back then, all I had to know was her dogs name to change the password) and change all her pictures to Transvestites (running joke as her family were all above 6ft) instead. The Geocities UI was clunky and instead I learnt the HTML to quickly enable me to change the pictures every night after she changed them back. She never knew it was me and I only owned up to it about a year ago.
When I had grown up and become a bit more mature (!!) our family friend from Australia came over who is a web designer carving his name out in the Australian web design world. He handed me a copy of Dreamweaver and I decided to tinker with it every night after school to see what I could do. I then had a brief stint in casting, whereby I did more work on the company website than casting people in commercials, I decided from that point on to go solo and try and get into the web design world, having no overheads and nothing to pay out for made this an easy step for me.
I then built up the business from my Mum and Dad’s spare room, after 18 months the business had outgrown the room and I looked into renting an office suite in Leigh-on-Sea, this I did and employed a friend of mine to help me run the business. In 2007 I bought my house with Stuart and it coincided with the girl who worked for me wanting to move to London with her boyfriend. The building in which our office resided had been refurbished, and not for the better – we found we were taking clients out rather than seeing them at the office, so it seemed a good transition to move out of the office and set back up again with a dedicated office at home, and this is where I am today. You’d be suprised how many of the well known web designers work from home!
5. Is there anyone in the industry who you look up to?
Andy Clarke and Twitterers, Andy is a web standards guru and genuinely nice guy, we keep in contact and he always makes me laugh, I’ve learnt so much from him and his books. People on twitter are just amazing too – always willing to help and offer guidance. Twitter has been an amazing tool for me, I’ve learnt so much from different people.
6. What was a key factor in your professional growth and development?
The Australians. As Roger is an insomniac he’s practically online 24/7 so whenever I got stuck I was able to get an answer quickly and finish what I was trying to do. This is still the same now, he’s an amazing person to have on board.
7. Where does your heart lie, with design or development? And why.
Development, I think. I get more satisfaction out of development as design is classed as art and it’s so subjective, I do absolutely love designing however I don’t like the process of getting sign off, where you grapple with the typical “make my logo bigger” comments. I have had the opportunity to work with other designers recently, this has been great as you both have common goals and objectives. I’d ideally love to fill up my diary with other designers work!
8. Out of these 3, WordPress, Light CMS and Expression Engine, which do you like the most and why?
Expression Engine without a doubt. Andy Clarke introduced me to it and it’s capabilities overwhelm me, it’s just an amazing tool that can be used in so many situations, I’m still learning about it but I’ve managed to gain quite a bit of knowledge in a small amount of time just experimenting with it.
9. Where did the name YouKnowWho come from?
I was browsing around the Internet and came across a link at the bottom of a website that said “Designed by You Know Who” – I was curious and clicked it, it went to a totally differently named company site and it became clear they did that for inquisitive people to click on. I then decided I loved the name and the potential it could have for future marketing and snapped it up there and then.
10. What is the biggest project you have worked on?
A personal one actually. One Valentines day we decided to flood our local privately owned shopping area with heart shaped balloons and hand written cards simply saying “Love You Know Who” with our contact details on the back – we had over 3000 balloons and to pump up and over 400 cards to write. We had a team and went out at 5am putting them in front of the shops. By the time everyone started going to work the area was flooded, it looked amazing.
11. Throughout your entire career to date, is there any particular problem you’ve ran in to more than once? Clients, Jobs, Work, Family?
Clients – ones that barter with your prices are bad news, never do a job on the cheap as a one off, they will always expect further work at that price. Never send anything over without them paying their invoice in full first and always get a design brief. If I had lived by these rules the first 2 years in business I would have done a lot better!
12. What do you consider to be the biggest contributing factor to your success?
I don’t believe I am successful yet – I think I do my job very well and that it’s unusual for a girl to do this job. I make mistakes, we all do, but I like to think my mistakes are kept to a minimum and always try to learn from them quickly. The definition of success for me is the ability to hand pick clients you want to work with and disregard those you don’t, I’m not in that position yet!
13. Where do you get your inspiration from and where are you most inspirational?
I find inspiration mainly online. There are great galleries for almost anything on the internet, I especially love faveup.com. When not online though, it’s generally about lunchtime when I’m walking the dog, I’ll come up with a crazy idea for a website or realise the best way to mark-up a site.
14. As we all know you’re a mac girl, what are your 3 favourite apps?
Adium, LittleSnapper and Things.
15. What other projects are you currently working on?
I’m currently in e-commerce mode, I think due to the economic downturn people are placing budgets online rather than retail stores. I’m currently working on a skateboarding store, a fancy dress store and a DIY store.
16. How do you balance your time between work and normal life?
I’m rubbish at it. I used to be excellent when I had an office as it was a 15 minute drive away and quite scary when no one was in there, but now I’m in my home office, I’m rubbish. I’m always checking my email or working out what app might help me run my business better, but because I enjoy what I do, it never feels like work.
17. Where do you see the future being?
I would love my future to be in designing and building top notch sites for other designers. I’ve had a taste of this recently and it’s great as they know why you might want to leave whitespace or not make a logo 500% of normal size. I went to a psychic recently and she said I’m going to be doing a lot of talking via work based travel, which could mean conferences – this is something I’d really love to get into as it lends itself perfectly to me also being in performing arts.
18. You’re a well known designer, do you class yourself as famous?
Not at all!! I’d be surprised if many people had heard of me, I haven’t written any books or spoken at any conferences yet so I don’t think my name is out there as much as others, I’m gradually building a profile but I think because I’m relatively young and female it’s a tougher job – not using the female card but as the majority of web designers are male I think it’s easier for them to align themselves with other male web designers.
19. Are you heading to any conferences over the next year?
Yes, I’m hoping to go back to FOWD next year and I really want to get to various workshops of Andy Clarke’s.
20. If you had one goal to reach (anything) within 3 years, what would it be?
To have my own studio down here with 2 others working with me. I’ve only ever wanted a small studio, not an office, a studio – that’s my dream.
21. If you had one piece of advice for anyone wanting to venture in to the your industry, what would it be?
Specialise. Don’t try and be clever being mediocre at loads of things just be fantastic in one.
p.s. Random questions from myself, theatre and web design? How did they become mixed?
Good question. I’ll go with the short answer 🙂 – They don’t really mix I guess, theatre is something I go into in my own time, it’s a great escape from sitting at a desk all day. Web design is my job, that I’m lucky enough to love too. Sometimes there is an overlap, like when I did the VoxPops at FOWA this year, it was like water off a ducks back as I’ve done TV in the past (that’s a whole other story) and I know enough about web design to competently interview people, that was a win win overlap for me 🙂
Thanks ever so much for taking time out of your schedule Sarah and answering questions for Floobe.