An interview with Oykun Yilmaz

By Ed Vinicombe on Nov 7th, 2014

Hi Oykun, for those who are unaware could you introduce yourself?

Thanks for having me! I design interfaces for web, mobile and desktop applications from Manchester with my Turkish name. Currently I'm working on a few freelance client projects and my first iPad app with Sam Soffes.

Could you describe your path to becoming a designer?

I always knew I was going to be in the "creative" area, I have been drawing & painting since I can remember. However due to some education related obstacles in Turkey at the time, I tried different professions during my education including electric engineering (like my dad) and business management. Eventually, I ended up with leaving 2 universities at early stages because I couldn't find my true passion.
I have always had interest in computers and art. So I decided to give it a try. I remember closing myself into my room for few weeks to learn basics of how to design/code dynamic websites (thanks to Google Search). I had huge fun whilst I was exploring more and more! I knew this is what I wanted to do. After I was confident enough, I got a job at a local web design agency in Izmir Turkey, I learned a lot there. I was lucky to work with very clever people in the business. At first I mostly did PHP for local organisations and firms, but then I wanted to put more of my creativity into my work, so I started to design and code websites. The more projects I got involved in, the hungrier I became. I did animations with Flash, designed print catalogs, business cards, posters, application interfaces for heavy factory machines. Anything that came into my path, I took it, learnt it & enjoyed it! After a year, I left the company and joined the freelance world. I built my own custom CMS system with PHP which I used for client projects in the following years.
I really enjoyed each step of the project, from planning to designing, then coding and delivering to the client. However a few years ago I learnt a lot about mobile devices. Designing started to take longer, just like coding did, because of the compatibility matters for different platforms and devices. I found myself working almost double the time to provide good work. I was investing too much time to catch up with the fast moving new technologies along with studying new solutions on design and coding perspectives. That was the moment I decided to focus on 1 path which would be design or development. It was an easy choice for me, and I decided to focus on designing. This also gave me more time to educate myself more in the design field and travel more. I still do coding for personal projects though, it is fun!

Whilst you were learning the tricks of the trade who most inspired & motivated you to follow your passion?

It is hard to name few, I was inspired from very local unknown people to very well known big names. I can't even remember now. However if you ask for today, I would say the amazing people who gets an idea and makes it real without depending on anyone or making excuses to keep delaying, such as Drew Wilson, Dan Eden, so on… I admire those people!
Every few months it seems as though designers need to cater for a new mobile platform. How much consideration goes into your design knowing that they will need to be adapted for multiple devices?
Smart phones are a very important part of our lives and we cannot simply ignore it as part of our workflow. A product being accessible from any device is crucial. Today people are not leaving the comfort of their sofa to use a desktop computer only to check something online, take a note, buy a ticket, or whatever. They grab their smart phone instead! Smart phones have evolved and we as designers (also developers) must adapt to this. We don't have to make mobile specific layouts and designs each time, that depends on project time-frame, budget, purpose and a target user group. However we should pay attention to making the product more accessible, such as not using Flash, using text and colour based visuals instead of heavy images which take time to load, adjusting text sizes for smaller screens and the list goes on… Small details make a huge difference for the mobile experience.

For me a persistent challenge when designing UI is the concern that it is simple enough for any user to engage with. How do you ensure that what you have put together will be accessible to everyone? Do you conduct testing throughout your design phase?

Well, it starts with testing my designs on family & friends. For example, if it is an iPad app design, I open it on my iPad and give it to my wife, then I watch where her eyes go, where she tries to tab and so on… She is not a geeky person, so this small test gives me some clear idea about what parts are not usable. Then, I do same with family, friends whoever I find around. I also share with my friends in the business over the Skype. That initial testing with different levels of user groups gives me some good tips. Often my clients also happen to have their user group. It can be thousands of people at any location in the world. We make sure things are clear enough to the target user group of the project before launching it. Then with the real life feedbacks, we keep improving…

London is such a great city! Do you find the time to get out and about and make the most of local exhibitions and design showcases?

I'm actually living in Manchester and am currently in the process of moving to London. However I often do visit the big smoke. It's amazing and inspiring how many new people I meet around London everyday. It's a very active city with many clever & talented people.
We have lots of exhibitions and meet ups happening in Manchester too. I find it very important to leave the computer and Skype friends time to time and make real human connections. Meeting new people, going new places, listening to different ideas… It relaxes and inspires me a lot!

Could you ever be at a point where you are satisfied creatively?

Never! I often think I have a curse of never being satisfied with my work. Opening a design the day after and finding details to be improved is a never ending process for me. I can constantly work on an app and always have something to improve upon since everyday we experience new things in life which brings new ideas & visions to the table. Complete satisfaction is an impossible stage for me, and I'm happy with it as it pushes me to do better and better! However I must stop at a point since we all have to work within deadlines and budgets. So when the UX/UI reaches to the client:user testing and my satisfaction stops there. I can always make improvements after the release.

Outside of the usual design showcase sites (dribbble, behance etc) what do you find really gets your creative juices flowing?

I don't believe in looking at websites all the time to get inspiration. All I do is keep my mind and eyes open to the world around me. The more I interact with the world, the more ideas I get. If I feel stuck of inspiration, I play a completely new album from Rdio, or cook a simple meal with new tastes, a new mix of herbal tea, or grab my laptop, leave home to a coffee shop where I'm inspired from all kind of different people.
If it is a more serious lack of creativity, I know it is time for a vacation to a country or city I've never been to before. I also find "peace" as inspiring. Having a walk in a park or beach, taking a hot shower, reading a book, drawing something on paper, going swimming, listening to live acoustic music…
I prefer not to look too much on websites like Dribbble & Behance for inspiration since looking at them too much can lead to similar end products. However I do follow some great designers as they bring new/inspiring solutions & ideas to the table…

Where do you picture yourself in 5-10 years? Will you still be designing?

I consider myself as very lucky person as I'm living a life doing what I love and I have no intent of changing it. Being more specific, I picture myself with my wife and future-kids at a beautiful lake side house, working on my own projects…

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