Alexandru Paduraru and Cristina Conacel created a network called Creative Tim as an upcoming fresh independently crafted HTML / UI marketplace that sells stylized kits for the next generation of design forward founders, focusing on creating products that users wanted to see themselves in. Grids, cards, and UI elements for the next social network have been crafted in a way that shows authentication. The simple Bootstrap HTML, CSS and JS assets are said to get the job done, and done beautifully with the team working wee-hours into the night.
Before Creative Tim, Alex and Cristina had a small design agency positioning themselves to create simple one to three page websites for clients. “We were working on different web projects for our faculty courses, then our friends asked if we would like to create a simple website that they could use. Since we liked to create ‘out-there’ and user focused products, our friends loved what we built and then we’ve got other clients, seeking a website of the same breed. At the time we were only 2 people working from Starbucks”.
During their design discovery process for a particular project, they realized there was a large amount of redundancy in creating new assets for every client. “Every time we created a website for a client, we had to recreate all the elements from scratch. Because there was two of us, we needed to optimize this process in every way in order to give our clients a prototype at a deadline they required”, Alex said and continued by saying that in simplifying the elements through its CSS they created basic templates and plugins that they “template” to speed up our development process. “We thought that if we had this problem there must be other agencies or freelancers who also have this similar issue. So we decided to share these elements for free with others” – Cristina .
“In the beginning we got inspiration from Apple. Starting with their iOS7 we loved their apps design, their colors, their gradients, their buttons, their minimalistic interface, everything seemed as it should. We knew that the best way for us to learn how to create great web design was by setting a very high standard. Then we started to move to different design trends and ideas, most of them inspired by top designers from Dribbble”, Alex said. The team at Creative Tim has grown to seven, whom all of have a unique sense of style and have the technical resources to deliver large HTML files again focusing on the quality and richness in code, layout and color options. Alex, at the beginning self-performed most of the Design and the HTML/CSS conversion while, Cristina took care of platform growth. Now with five more designers, marketers and coders the design implementation and product promotion is shared, and the success is obvious. Their assets and kits are in homes of over 110,000 designers and developers.
We sit down with the team to cover the ins and outs in starting an agency for design assets and where they are headed to next.
So Alex, walk me through a busy day for you. Where do you start. I’m not a morning person, so I arrive at the office around 11am. Today, we have a small team, 7 people, and we are a group of jacks-of-all-trades and master of none. For a couple of hours I take care of the customer emails and support, helping the team with different items and management stuff. In the afternoon I implement different design ideas for current products or our ways to uplift our website. I am also looking to get new collaborations and affiliations with other companies. My creative spark comes to me in the middle of the night. Here, I go deep into design mode, to test creative or crazy ideas all between 1am and 3-4am.
Share with us your success and how you measured it. I think that I can measure my success and our startup’s success by how many people we help with our web interfaces. We want to see that there are great website everywhere, that’s why we offer a lot of great web interfaces for Free. At this moment our products were used by over 110.000 web developers, some of them use them for their projects, some of them used them for their clients projects. If we take into consideration that each website, built with our products, is used by thousands of viewers then the success scale is continuously growing.
Walk me through the start of a new product. Most of our products are a result of what our customers requested so we start by getting a lot of feedback for new products. Then based on the trends and ideas that are on the web, we create a product that will help our users and is following a current web design trend. If we see buttons and elements with big colored shadows, then our users deserve the best so we add those to our products. We create a big list that outlines features, pages and sections that will be created for the new product and then we spend a lot of time doing research on Dribbble. I also like to keep in my “secret ideas folder” everything that I see during the day: if I see a new interesting animation or a design idea on a website, I save it there and on the first occasion that we have, I add that idea to our products.
Out of all of the kits, which one is your favorite and why? At this moment I’m very proud of the UI Kit that we’ve built over Google’s famous Material Design. It’s called Material Kit and it is taking the Material Design to the next level by adding to it some style, class and elegance. We like the structure of Material Design and how Google created a standard for all devices using Android, but we didn’t like how it looked. It was like a product that was released in the development mode, they didn’t want to polish it. So we joined the game and added our design ideas. At this moment this is our most popular product, based on downloads and revenue.
How did you start to market your free and paid kits? We used multiple platforms for sharing our products. Since the kits were well designed and used a verity of color schemes, they sold themselves, and many times were featured on communities like Product Hunt, Reddit, Hacker News. We are also sharing our products on our Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, Pinterest, Behance and Dribbble pages. I think the best strategy is to be present on all the mediums, so you don’t have to depend on a single source of traffic.
You mentioned Apple was a large influencer for your team. Do you have a runner up? We are still looking at what Apple is launching and what design trends they are setting. We like Startups that are design-driven like InvisionApp, Stripe, Medium etc. We also follow what our Romanians friends like Cosmin Capitanu (https://dribbble.com/Radium), Ionut Zamfir (https://dribbble.com/ionuss), or Virgil Pana (https://dribbble.com/virgilpana) are posting on Dribbble because they are trendsetters with tens of thousands of followers.
Would you tell your younger self to freelance or start at an agency? I think the best way, for a young creative to learn quickly is to go into an agency so he can learn the basic staff, get some experience and also get paid routinely. Then after the job, he can work at home to develop his own design ideas. In this way he gets experience from both sides. If he is a great designer and wants to take this to the next level and work only as a freelancer, then he can slowly move from working with the agency to getting his / her own clients.
What is Creative Tim’s largest challenge? I would change the way web developers and freelancers interact with web templates, ui kits or dashboards. Today, when user download or buy a web kit they get it as an archive on their computer (like in the olden days, when one purchased CDs and DVDs). So, when there is a new release, our users have to download the kit again and replace the files with the new ones. Moreover, they have a lot of dependencies with the new files. Probably each web developer or designer is using just 10% from what they buy, and that 10% is always different depending on each end user’s needs. In the future we want to change this with a solution that is in the cloud. You will be able to configure what you will buy and you will have always everything updated.
“An essential aspect of creativity is not being afraid to fail” – Edwin Land. You should be open to new design trends, you have to learn the basics of design, typography or how to combine colors and you should be proud of what you create. Don’t be afraid to show people what you’ve created and you shouldn’t take the feedback about your creation too personal (I know, this is the hardest part when you present to the world your awesome baby). You should try to solve a problem with your design and not to create one just because you like how the “buttons can fly over the page”. I recommend the “Don’t Make Me Think – A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability by Steve Krug (https://www.amazon.com/Dont-Make-Me-Think-Usability/dp/0321344758)”