Friday Folks – as the name suggests, this is a series of short Q&As we’ll be posting on Fridays. They’ll feature some very talented people that we admire – whether it be their creativity, knowledge or entrepreneurship – and sometimes all three!
First up is Dee Adams who we first came across on Flickr through our mutual love of vintage and the colour orange!
Who are you & what do you do?
My name is Dee Adams aka Dee Dee aka deedee9:14.
By day I’m an internet superhero pushing pixels and managing a design team as Senior Lead Product Designer for the Yahoo! Applications team. (I work on stuff like Y! Mail, Flickr, and Y! Messenger) By night, I’m a painter, illustrator, photographer, freelance graphic designer, interiors consultant, mid-century enthusiast and the blog author of deedee9:14.
My own company is also called deedee9:14 which serves as the umbrella for all my creative work whether it’s software design, illustration, or interiors consultation. I get to do it all and I love it.
How did you get into the business?
In terms of my life as a product designer, I started shortly after giving up a career in medicine having graduated from Cornell University.
Art has always been a part of my life as my parents were both artistic people. My mother is a writer and my father a musician so I had a very wonderful childhood full of amazing experiences. Out of uni I freelanced as a colourist and illustrator for several independent comics in New York. It wasn’t great on the pay so I moved into the advertising and print industry.
Tired of the Big Apple, I decided overnight to relocate to California in 1997 to work for several ad agencies. I made another transition working for Disney which eventually led to Yahoo!
I was born to be a designer I think. It’s definitely in the blood to find creative ways to solve problems in all that life presents us.
Who or what inspires you?
I compartmentalize my life. Most people don’t associate Dee the interaction designer with Dee the illustrator or Dee the blog writer.
Artistically, I am inspired by Sol Lewitt, Josef Albers, Bridget Riley, Michelangelo, and Mark Rothko.
In the internet world, the world of application design, interaction and graphic design, I’m inspired by Frank Chimera (whom I’ve had an unhealthy crush on for years), Kalani Kordus, Apple’s industrial designers, and Edward Tufte.
There are too many amazing illustrators to note but early childhood favourites were Shel Silverstein, Ron Barrett and Brett Helquist.
Music is such a huge part of my life that I’d be remiss not to mention the people who inspire most of my work when I’m painting including Miles Davis, Amel Larrieux, Jill Scott, Nina Simone and of course my dad for giving me everything from opera to jazz.
I have a very small circle of people in my life who inspire me creatively just because they understand my quirks and are themselves brilliant people I want to grow up to be like. They include Karl Adam, Mathew Tizard, Addy Beavers and Frederique Dame.
What has been your greatest success?
That I haven’t burnt out and ideas still come to me!
If you’re looking for something more concrete though, I’ve had a few great moments where I could finally say to myself, “Yes, you really are a good designer“.
I was part of a grass roots marketing campaign to elect then Senator Obama and one of my poster designs made it up in Times Square.
When Apple released the iPhone 4, they contacted me about licensing some of my abstract colour photography for use as wallpapers on all their new devices. I was honored to say the least. My relationship with them ongoing has been a good one.
I also had some of my work in the Tate Gallery in London a couple years ago alongside the likes of the art greats I mentioned before.
I will also always count the first painting I ever sold for more than $10,000.00 as a big success.
Have you got any advice for someone wanting to break into the business?
Definitely. The world is full of people who think just because they can use a piece of software that it makes them a designer. It doesn’t. The best creative people in the world are those who know the rules behind the medium they’re working in and then how to break those rules to create something new and delightful.
Learn by copying the greats but develop your own style that is uniquely you. Take the time necessary to develop your own style and don’t assume it’ll come quickly or easily. Get to know other people who are where you want to be and don’t be afraid of the criticisms that come with the territory.
Develop a thick skin because the hardest thing for most creatives is to accept commentary or criticism about work that came from your heart. Everyone has an opinion and they’re not afraid to give it.
And lastly, you can always contact me personally about any of this stuff. I had a wonderful group of people who mentored me and helped me become the person I am today and I’m always hoping to give some of that back to the community at large.
We hope you’ve enjoyed chapter one of Friday Folks – we’ve added lots of links to Dee’s answers – her blog, website, Flickr etc. What a brilliant insight into her life & work – truly inspirational – many thanks Dee.
We’ll be back with our second guest interviewee soon!!