Hello, soldier of simplicity!
I’m Oliver Nielsen – a web designer living in Copenhagen, Denmark – and no, that’s not Norway. Norwegians are the ones with the vast oil resources (and the extortionate beer prices). We’re the ones with The Little Mermaid, Tivoli and famous designers like Arne Jacobsen and Verner Panton.
Scandinavian design is in my DNA, but most of the time I try to rid myself of those influences. I especially find Japanese design aesthetics profoundly interesting and inspiring. Denmark and Japan are both in the same temperate climate zones. Design-wise, Japanese and Scandinavian design share so many qualities. Yet, they’re substantially different. I love delving deeper into that by reading and experimenting with my design work.
Simplicity is a highly desired ideal in both Japanese and Scandinavian design.
A few facts and trivia about me
Being born in 1979 I was a child of the 1980s – and still is! I LOVE the 80s! Neon-colors, Miami Vice, Airwolf, the action and karate movies, the music, the women, the style… Everything! pretty much. When Doc Brown finally finds his way back to the present, I’ll say: “back to the 80s Doc!”
Perhaps it was my 80s upbringing that led me to a lifelong interest in martial arts. I’ve dabbled in various styles, but Escrima (Latosa) also known as Kali and Arnis, has been (and still is) my favorite system. Yet, I currently practice Krav Maga under Eyal Yanilov, whom I respect a lot.
For most of my life, I’ve been interested in sound. Music is an essential part of my life. I’ve been producing (electronic) music, built my first pair of loudspeakers as a 12-year-old, had a mobile disco as a teenager, played trance and house as a DJ, have hosted various local radio shows, etc.
I also occasionally work as a photographer and videographer. In fact, I started my business in 2002 as a photographer, doing band photography, portraits, and some fashion photography. It was a crazy and somewhat bohemian life!
I’m generally quite “anti-materialistic” (there’s an old hippie in me) about stuff like cars (who needs them? I ride a bike!), television, having the latest gadget and what not. That being said:
I’d own a million different headphones, and a million microphones, if it wasn’t for my pronounced anti-materialism / anti-consumerism viewpoint. I’m obsessed with audio. I love my dear Røde Podcaster mic + Denon DH-2000 headphones.
A new obsession is highlighting markers. They’re neon colors FFS! (see above) They’re used liberally in most of my books (about design, typography, communication and such… I rarely read fiction).
I’m an Audible addict. No signs of recovery;) The allure of having someone read a great book to me, whilst I’m walking my dog Muffin: oh the joy! It also saves me time (I have trouble sitting still to read a book) and keeps me fresh on productivity, psychology, philosophy, neuroscience, marketing, and all the other subjects that interest me wildly.
Why I fired myself
I strongly believe it should be possible for anyone (you included) to design and maintain his or her (your) own website, without relying on a “professional web designer” to do it.
I have lived as a professional web designer since 2008: yes… I’ve essentially fired my own ass here! And so be it, I’m very fine with that change. For a few years, I was frustrated on a daily. Clients needed the same little things done on a regular basis. And while none of them were especially technically minded; I could feel on a deep gut-level, that IF it had been possible for them to make these website changes themselves: they would really really REALLY want to do so! And not just to save money on recurring “webmaster expenses” (my services have never been cheap) but much more importantly: because it would empower them!
As a metaphor, I certainly wouldn’t want to rely on a translator to follow me around 24-7 if I moved to, say, a Spanish-speaking country on a permanent basis. I’d learn the language. To be self-proficient. To be in control. To navigate fluidly in everyday life and work.
I can wholeheartedly understand why most of my clients deep down wanted to fire my ass – and do things themselves.
Now, I couldn’t wait for them to do it, so I fired myself, and handed over most of my clients to my competitors. It felt SO good!
Why? Because it allows me to dedicate myself to work on better, more forward-thinking solutions to the above old-school world of “modern” web design. Yes, tech is evolving – but when it comes to web design, the geeks reign, and most of them seemingly want you to either:
- be dependent upon them;
- or learn to code, yourself.
But what about you? Are YOU also fired?
Now, I know some of you reading this are also professional web designers yourselves, maybe working for small business clients as I did… As Digital Underground rapped in that 1989 rap song: “Doowutchyalike”… But take heed my son: you’ll soon be outta work too! Sounds harsh? Well, to clarify my statement:
If you’re a great web designer doing great web design work for clients who are willing to pay big bucks for your services: you’ll (of course) still be around. But take a look at factor #1 below – maybe you should rather develop a better theme framework – one that will really change the status quo? Just an idea.
If you’re an average web designer doing average web design work for regular, small-business clients: Game Over.
What small-business clients really need, is not another “professional web designer / webmaster” to call whenever they want their front page layout changed. They need a better solution. One that allows them control and ease-of-use.
Current WordPress theme frameworks… while some are better than others… and some are light years ahead of even the most established classics: yes… the present kinda sucks. There’s just SO much room for improvement. “Usability for the masses” thank you very much thank you yes please.
When’s the future?
The future is now! But we’re not quite there yet!
For my above “prophecies” to come true, I believe the following two factors will serve as catalysts in the coming paradigm shift:
1. Better tools aka technology
Technological convergence and consolidation results in everything getting easier to do, day by day, every day. Better tech = less work, ideally. I plan to write much more about that soon, on my blog and in my newsletter.
2. Better learning resources
And that’s what I’m working on.
— Oliver Nielsen, WebMatros.com