My road to (web) design
On a summer afternoon about 13 years ago, a 10 year old kid was standing outside the door of his house looking at his parents and brothers pack up the car for their summer vacation. His mother noticed him standing there doing nothing and told him to go to the living room and turn off the TV that no one was watching. The kid did as he was told and while he was picking up the remote control to turn off the television his attention turned to the screen. What he saw was a fast-paced montage of scenes from a cartoon he had never seen before, he saw characters fight each other, yell at each other, cry about each other and all he could do was watch with his mouth open when suddenly it cut to black, a fancy logo appeared and a voice-over said: Dragon Ball Z, coming this summer on Cartoon Network.
Of course, this kid was me, and I can still picture and feel that moment as if it was yesterday. Never in my life was I this excited about something, I mean watch this similar promo and try to put yourself in my shoes as a kid.
I remember not even wanting to go on vacation anymore and wishing that the show would start immediately. I also remember worrying about missing it when it was going to start. ‘This summer’ they said..well it was already summer, would they start before I got back from our summer vacation? No, they wouldn’t dare.
When we finally got back a few weeks later, I did not forget about this show. And while watching Cartoon Network a new promo came on and they announced it would start next week, it was on the Monday school would start again and it would start just half an hour after school was out. It was just perfect, I couldn’t wait! Dragon Ball Z had such a huge impact on me. Not only was it (and still is, to me) the most amazing show ever to exist, it had great character development, beautifully choreographed action, hilarious jokes in the midst of battles, terrifying evil, heartbreaking drama and sacrifices. It became a part of my schooldays instantly, always something to look forward to. I even watched all the reruns in the weekend.
You’re probably wondering why I am telling you about all this. Well, I loved this show and it’s characters so much, that this is where I really started drawing seriously. I was always drawing these characters until I could just do it without an image or frame of an episode as a reference. I drew them at school as well, and when the kids from my little sisters class saw one of these drawings she had with her, they all wanted one. I started getting requests from these kids and I would draw them with thicker lines because they would copy them and colour them. It was amazing seeing others enjoying my work and being recognised for a skill I just started to really be decent at.
I was also really lucky to have internet at home at an early age, so when this was all happening I was on the internet all the time on DragonBall Z forums and websites. Soon I discovered a service called Homestead, it looked easier to work with than Geocities so I used it to make and publish my very first DragonBall Z site, it was called Relax Dragon Ball Z(very creative, I know).
At first it was just a couple of images with some text, but when I showed it to friends they were all impressed. Soon I was looking for templates that I could customize to look more like the better DragonBall Z sites around. I even used a url shortener to mask that I was using the amateuristic Homestead service. After a while I was getting a pretty decent amount of visitors and other sites wanted to exchange links and banners. The site got pretty well known and another DBZ site wanted to join forces with me, we called it ‘fusing’, and we created a new website. We added stuff about other anime tv shows as well, such as Trigun, Cowboy Bebop, Rurouni Kenshin, Pokemon etc. and called it Anime Spirit. A website with image galleries, info pages, even online episodes!
This became a huge success, and we fused with another big anime website and created an even more successful anime site called Tenko-XL, with our own link exchange network, Topsites board and Forums. It was amazing to be a part of something awesome like this. Sadly, after a while the hype around these animes kinda died down and we closed the site. A bit later I tried to make my own DragonBall Z site again because I just couldn’t let go, and I created Namekian Gods, with a much better designed site using php and offering online episodes which people still loved. It wasn’t as sweet anymore though because the real love people had for this show was disappearing.
This was when I decided to stop with the site and realised I could make some money by designing websites, logo’s, banners etc. You could say I got more serious about it. A while later, during high school, along with a classmate who was a decent coder, I started a site about another popular TV Show that we were really into: Prison Break. The site was called FoxRiver, after the prison in the show, and the dutch domain was available so we went for it. We had a pretty well visited website, a lively discussion forum. We decided to expand to more tv shows, changed the name to MySeries and added Heroes and Lost, which were very popular as well. We provided people with online episodes before they were even showed on Dutch television and the site was very popular.
That success was short-lived though, because soon we received a letter of one of the big Dutch television networks that we had to remove these episodes from our site or we were to face legal actions. As you can imagine that’s a pretty frightening threat for a couple of 15 year-olds. So of course we obliged and we saw the traffic drop immediately along with our motivation to keep updating the site. When we got an offer of a couple hundred euro’s for the site we hastily accepted it and moved on with our lives. I started making logo’s on crowdsourcing sites (terrible I know..) and started designing to someday be able to make a living off of it.
After high school, I went to college to study Communication & Multimedia Design, and during college I did some small logo and web design jobs here and there and eventually started to do freelance projects officially and focused more on my career and establishing myself.
To this day, I still believe that summer afternoon 13 years ago changed my life and was the cause for me becoming a (web)designer.
I will be writing another blog post on this from another perspective soon that will be less of a rant about history and nostalgia and more about the present. If you’d like to share how you became a designer or developer, I’d love to hear about it.
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