Iain Duff

Iain is a Creative Experience Designer basing himself in and around London. He has worked with a wide range of brands and clients, from large corporates through to agencies, smaller emerging startups and recently an A-list celebrity.

We caught up with him to chat about his work and what he has learned so far. 

What was it initially that got you into freelancing and what made you take the leap?

It was a mix of factors really - I loved my first design jobs and I worked on some fantastic projects - but I reached a point where I wanted to expand my skill set further, as well as work on a more diverse set of projects to help hone these skills. 

The freelance route seemed like the best way to do this.

You have a pretty Fin-Tech heavy portfolio, is this something you pursued or something you found yourself in?

I never actively pursued the “Fin” side of these projects - from my perspective, I was excited by the unique challenges posed: to improve and (in some cases) reimagine the experience of products used by large numbers of people, daily.

When I first started working with some of these financial services companies - because of their sheer size, I guess I expected more resistance to new ways of thinking or doing things, however in reality I found the complete opposite to be true.

Obviously, the tech is reshaping entire industries and eliminating established norms. The finance industry in my opinion was just one of the first forced to begin adapting, I think they realise that when Google, Apple and other smaller disruptors are sitting on your patch then you can’t really afford not to.

More recent projects though have been focused around the Fashion industry as well as the Travel & Leisure industry, with a revised portfolio coming soon.

What's your current plan for freelancing? You seem to be getting involved more in the startup side of things compared to a couple of years back?

Yes! Startups offer a unique and exciting moment to be part of and I love working with lean, focused teams that comprise of talented people whom, in many cases have a diverse range of disciplines that I can also learn from.


For a while you were commuting down from Manchester, how did you find the balance between the in-house days and the remote work?

I lived in Central Manchester for around a year and the work balance was hectic for quite awhile.

I did commute down to London from Manchester yes, but around that time I was also frequently travelling further afield to places like the USA, Latin America and the UAE for client workshops, working sessions and so fourth - in that sense, travelling from London to Manchester felt more like a short, brisk walk in comparison.

What is your current setup in terms of hardware and software?

My current setup is a Mid 2015 MacBook Pro, fairly high spec with 16GB Ram and a 500GB SSD drive. I'm awaiting my pre-ordered 2016 MacBook Pro delivery date! I'm an Apple sucker!

In terms of software used for design - it varies dependant on the task, but I use the various staples of the Adobe Creative Cloud Suite family, Principle and Framer JS for Interaction prototyping as well as Marvel & InVision for mid-fidelity user journey prototyping when it comes to app creation.

Then mainly for User Interface design - I use Sketch combined with the Craft plugin. My front end code tools include Sublime and Brackets.


How do you usually find your work - is there much self promotion involved?

Definitely I think self promotion is always involved to a degree, more recently though I have been making new client connections through people that I know and referrals from previous clients.

It's a mixture of that and work sourced through existing clients. Of course, now I've added Availo to my bag of tricks...

What do you feel are the big challenges for freelancers at the moment?

I can’t speak for all freelancers - but from what I see, there is increasing demand for a “Hybrid” type of designer. Someone who understands many different aspects of how a digital product,  website or app is bolted together - be it the brand, tone, aesthetics, experience etc - and then how this folds into the overall longer term vision as a unified product.

Each of these niche disciplines contain their own set of relevant tools, workflows and best practices, all of which are constantly evolving and changing, so to me a frequent assessment of where best to spend one's energy is a bit of a balancing act.

The burning question, any tips for new freelancers or people wanting to go freelance?

Before I jumped into the freelance world - I remember a lot of people saying things like “Ah yeah I know someone who tried that BUT unfortunately….” and other cautionary tales.

On reflection, I guess a lot of that stuff is legitimate but I think it’s important to not read too much into it. I think people that go the freelance route in many cases choose it and they choose it because they either enjoy doing something a lot, want the perks of self managed work schedules, work/life balance or a mixture of those and others. 

I say if you want to do it and you have that motivation behind you, there has never been a better time to make the jump. I, for one, do not regret it thus far.


What do you think of Availo?

It joins the dots between freelancer and companies elegantly. Actually, it's almost one of those solutions that I kind of "expected" to be there already, especially in such a noisy and saturated market.

The icing on the cake for me is that it's built and developed by people who TRULY understand the market, who understand where those quirks lie and where simplifications can be made to streamline the experience. I've always thought that a product and service should pick *something* rather than everything and do it really, really well and Availo has fantastic potential in that regard. Thumbs up!