Freelance Creative Coder
Erik
Olsson

Erik is an iOS developer and the creator of Effekt, a graphics editor and visual toy.

Stockholm, Sweden • October 26, 2022

What led you into design?

I don’t have a traditional design background. My approach to creating digital products has always been to start by writing code, experimenting with parameters until it feels and looks right. I think of it as exploratory programming, iterating without necessarily knowing what the end goal looks like.

Ever since I was little, I’ve been more interested in how I could make my own games, rather than playing them. When all my friends were playing games, I was more interested in how I could modify them and change the way they worked.

I remember writing a simple space invaders clone in high school, which was a bit of an aha-moment for me when I realized that I could actually control the pixels on the screen.

What does a typical day look like?

Having kids has made me so much more productive because of the time constraints. I usually leave the kids at preschool around 8, go back home and start working.

I try to get as much work as possible done before lunch and go for a workout. Dividing the day into separate chunks works great for me.

Depending on the project, I often spend an hour or two working at night once everyone else is asleep.

What's your workstation setup?

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I have a desk with a monitor set up at home, but I still find myself with my laptop on the couch more often than not. I usually switch to my desk the few times I need to open a graphics editor, but I’ve never really cared about having a specific setup. Apart from a decent laptop, additional gear has very little value to me.

Where do you go to get inspired?

Sometimes ideas come out of seemingly nowhere. Sometimes I run into someone who makes a comment that I can’t stop thinking about. Most of the time I’m just trying stuff out and accidentally stumble upon something interesting. I’m getting better and better at forcing the creative process, and I love to make quick decisions under time pressure. You can’t sit around and wait for ideas to come.

I love looking at older work, especially geometric patterns and similar:

Piet Mondrian

Beck & Jung

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

The VanMoof e-bikes are amazing.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

I’m very proud of my app Effekt, a mix between a digital toy and graphics editor. From a work perspective, I think of it as the perfect clash between relatively complex engineering and interesting abstract design.

The process took less than 4 weeks from start to finish, and by constraining myself on time I was able to constantly move forward and not get stuck on small design decisions.

The app contains 10 or so different effects, all running at 120fps.

I constrained myself to spend one day on each effect, which was super challenging but also rewarding. If an idea didn’t work out in one effect, I’d put it aside and try it out in another setting the next day.

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What design challenges do you face at your company?

Lately I’ve been working a lot on my own, and I’d say that one of the hardest parts about doing both design and development is the lack of high quality feedback on your work. The feedback you get from friends and family can be super valuable for some parts of a product, but for other parts, you’re on your own.

I'm usually much more interested in what people don't like than what they like.

What music do you listen to whilst designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Think about the big picture. It sounds cliché, but having a clear view of what you want the user to do is much more valuable than how you want the product to look. In my book, function over form always wins.

A great way to practice is to make pixel-perfect imitations of a design you like. I promise that you will learn a lot in the process.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

Take my app Effekt for a spin. It’s available on macOS and iOS, and I’m pretty sure you’ve never tried a similar app before.

Some friends of mine recently launched the collaborative analytics tool Mason, I think it’s going to be incredibly valuable for product-oriented teams!

You can also find me on Twitter!

interview