How I Became a Maker | Founder of Pixel Resort | Michael Flarup
Thank. You whoo. This. Thing on this thing is on awesome. Wow. Mr., bingo himself. Giving. Me an introduction hey everyone, ah I. Get to close off the first day it's. Almost beer, o'clock in the schedule, I think yeah, whoo this, guy knows. I'll. Try to get you warmed up for that my name is Michael and I am a designer that's my twitter, handle if you want to connect. Please. Take pictures tweet I read them all afterwards and weep. There. Are so many things that you can give talks about in this industry so, many disciplines, so many talented, experts sharing knowledge but. Something, that we all have is an origin story so. That's our path to what we do today and and the lessons that we've learned along the way and those, talks are usually, the ones that I find, the most. The. Bestest. Because. They're quite unique in our different experiences yet, somehow they managed to say, something Universal, about being, makers so, today I brought this a little. Key note here that, I am whoops I'm humbly, calling, how. How. I became a maker. Yeah, you. Guys still awake right because I know it's pretty late long day. Yeah. Okay. Okay so. Let me tell you my story I I. Was always interested in making, things I I drew a lot as a kid here's a self-portrait, age three so happy my mom saved this I. Was, a cool kid from the 80s growing up in the 90s and, from. Very early on I drew things that interested, me right this is two characters from the Danish television series bamse, and Cooling now, bombs and Cooling directly translated, is essentially bear and chicken which i thought, was kind of fun definitely my favorite show when I was a kid and you can tell I'm already a pretty decent, illustrator, there that's bomb so that's cooling obviously, alright even. Dressed up as bombs for Halloween my, mom make me this costume I. Grew. Up I became a teenager I became a geek and I, played Dungeons & Dragons I, built my own computer, here's. A picture of my setup back then I love, that thing blurry, picture we're. Doing games and this thing called click and play anyone remember click and play this, wonderful, game here. Yeah. Representing. This, wonderful.
Little. Game making tool you would make these little games in it and I'd sit there next to my friend Rasmus, he would do the coding and I would do the art and add a dream of one day making, real games that all the people would play right I remember, really wanting, a black keyboard but I couldn't afford a black keyboard so, I spray-painted. My, keyboard, black with Warhammer, paint. That. Is probably the epitome of being, a geek you you're painting your keyboard, with Warhammer paint it wasn't, very good keyboard I was really sticky, but I kept it for like five years because, I loved that thing I made it right I I. Got my first digital camera loved, it I think, getting a digital camera was kind of like my gateway, drug into making more things on the computer I thought this place called, deviantART. DeviantART. Anyone. Remember DEA hands, yeah. Hey. We're, all gonna start somewhere right it was probably my first real creative, outlet, I uploaded, my pictures there I got likes and I got comments and this kind of brings me to one of the first lessons the first big secrets, I learned as I was finding my way I learned. That I had to stay motivated to, push my crap now, it's a foundational. Skill of any successful, creative I think motivation. Is what separates people who are able to stick with something from, those who are not now one great way I found very very, early on just to hack staying, motivated is, to get feedback and appraisal, for the progress you're making ain't, nothing wrong with the like economy, right share, what you're making to keep those Pat's on the back coming now we have this real human, need to be rewarded for the stuff that we do and the, main reason why people stop pursuing the dreams is because they lose motivation. Finished. Gym nation high school in 2003, this lovely picture here was taken of me and at this point I was very interested in design I had learned myself some HTML had, taken my first steps in Photoshop and I thought you, know what I'll go and I'll study, design at the science school right yeah, besides, school boy. Was I wrong this. Is a picture, that was brought in the local newspaper, that's me in the middle right there, I'm. Visiting with my new design school it's it's pretty obvious I'm I'm like the only guy I. Was. Really out of place not just because I was the only guy inherently, that might have been a good thing you know but there was very little expertise. And the sort of things I was interested in look at that gullible fool, he thinks he's on his way to become a designer he's like. All. Right they, didn't, fit in during design school here's a cover for a chair I designed, I hated it I'm pretty sure the teachers weren't too keen on me either design. It felt, inaccessible. And serious, in a way it seemed wrong to me I just wanted to make things on the computer and when, I wasn't at school I went back home and I made websites, for anyone, who would wanted them basically here's a splash screen remember, when we had splash screens for. A local butterfly, park right well. I wasn't very good right but I loved, it let's just would we choose German, over here obviously here's. What it looked like when you entered the site you can't tell from this still but the butterflies were gifts they're moving just gorgeous stuff really um. To. Be honest I didn't learn in March at design school I grew my hair long I drank a lot of beers I finished, the education, because my mom told me I had to, and. I swore, that I'd do something totally different with my life something, not, related to the sign that went well but. This brings me to another lesson.
I Sure. Wish I could go back and tell myself this, because. If things really aren't, going according to plan you shouldn't, really worry too much there's. Always something. Else waiting behind your current obstacle, and somehow you'll. Find your way I found. My way into a turtles costume I enrolled. It at University in 2005, studying, Natural, Sciences, of all things, far. Away from design as I could write attending. University was kind like a breath of fresh air after the toxicity, of design school and I. Made new friends and, I became chairman, of the fret bar and, started. All manner things we had to ask, channel the frat by only running the small organization, we had to make some flyers like yeah I can make some flyers it's fine it's okay other, people, on campus kind of got wind of this they came to the party hey Michel we have the student handbook could you illustrate, the student handbook yeah sure I've never written, a book before but I'll I'll try design had gotten a lot less serious for me because, it wasn't really a goal it was just something I did because I liked it 2006. Also, the year I got my first mech guys. Remember your first Mac right yeah. I love that thing I got really interested in replacing those wonderful, icons everywhere on the OS I was, getting more and more into drawing things on the computer I made wallpapers. Because wallpapers. That's something you can do that other people can use sort of like a utilitarian, art in a way. Fanboy. Wallpapers, like this really. Fell in love with Apple and their products, I rekindled. Those click and play days and made sets, of icons these little 32 by 32 pixels you, have to sit and draw in every pixel, by hand and then I gave him away for free for developers to use in their applications, and I, remember it clearly 12 years ago now I was. Sitting in geography, class as I launched, my first portfolio, I needed, sort of a place to keep all these things that, I was making and I. Had. No idea what I was getting into yet but it kind of taught me something this is pixel resort the very first version which is my little one-man company it. Taught me something really valuable, almost. By surprise you need to, make yourself available, now. This seems super, obvious but a lot of people they don't do this and they're surprised that no opportunities. Find them while, it's great to be on social networks it was sort of a game changer for me, when I opened, up my own portfolio on my own domain where I controlled, the entire experience. It's, one of the first things I always tell younger designers like get, an online, presence, to, take part in adventures you need to be discoverable, now, back at university still, wasn't sure I wanted to be a designer for. My bachelor's, I studied human-computer, interaction. Try, to be a programmer, found out it was like the worst programmer, in the world possibly. But. I was constantly drawn to the visual side of things the types of websites I may change the bit and I think a pretty consistent thing and the stuff I did early on was of this love for colors and textures, just playing around with colorful, drawings in Photoshop and I slowly, but. Surely fell, in love with design again now. I still had it in my mind that I wanted to get a master's degree. So, me and a bunch of friends we all applied for the master's degree, at the IT university in Copenhagen, I remember, the day we handed, in our motive motivational, applications, this wonderful, picture was taken of us, idiots. And. This, is what my motivational application, looked like we read each other's applications, and all that and it's so cool that I was the only one that summer that didn't get in, so. My. Academic. Career came to a screeching halt. Right I was, pretty bummed out about that but then I kind of remembered this thing that we learned right don't. Worry find, your way so, I launched a new version of pixel resort and I was soon doing all sorts of freelance stuff I did, more illustration, stuff and and trying, to improve my drawing skills and getting paid for it at the same time I, did like lots of fun conceptual. Work this is for an antivirus, solution, obviously, I. Took. Every opportunity to make things in Photoshop i saw the movie wall-e, and ran.
Back Home and tried to render them in photoshop this is more than 1,500. Layers in Photoshop combined. It. Was around that time I got an offer to join a Danish, agency, called retouch, now I hadn't had a real job as a designer before just hanging around at home I hadn't, had an actual salary, and a team before so I joined and, we moved into this loft and I got to work on a. Ton of stuff you won't believe some of the stuff I worked I was just. Fair with me so I got to make their logo funnel of making logos I was doing lots of icon work sketching. Them out and rendering these little vector icons for various clients. Got to do a ton of websites with horrible stock images like this one with the baby that's definitely one of my favorite, worst ones right. We've. All been there. Anyone. Know what this is. No. Oh you, in for a treat this. Is the Jes extender the, premium, penis enlargement, kit. Yeah. Let that sink in for you. At. Retouch, we're doing graphics for them so yes I ended up working on the affiliate, packaging, for the the Jes, extender the, banners, and website designs I told. Your words on a lot of wheel stuff I put that doctor up there looks, real professionals gonna help you out right, yeah. On. The, flip side we worked on with upscale supermarkets, on credit card designs very, different and I. Even did product photoshoots because I had, a camera I was like hey who has like michael has a camera fine okay so, he I did first and you know when you do these photo shoots you take hundreds, of pictures and take all that raw data and you ship it off to a country with cheaper labor to cut them out that's usually how it's done I was. The cheap labor I cut all those pictures out. Working. At an agency was, kind of like being drafted for the army like it's it's not always fun in fact it's it's sometimes downright horrible I see a few agency people here that's okay, you, get to see all the greatest, and all the worst aspects, of client interactions, and you get to work on so many different thought, things but. It was pointing for me to spend my time there because when. I arrived my. PSD, files were a mess I wasn't used to working with other designers, and I didn't know much about the grater process, of making things working. With people that are better than you is a very important part of becoming better yourself, I, still. Freelanced on the side pursuing. The type of projects I thought was fun still, made some wallpapers, from time to time and. After. A period of time I went to my boss Johanna and told him you know what I'd like to quit it. Was right in the middle of the financial crisis my bank and many people around me thought that was a stupid. Move but. I. Was. Learning that you need to take risks if you want to change your circumstances.
And Not just be happy with how things are but allow yourself to keep moving so I launched a new version of pix restored start a freelancing, full time, luckily, client. Work started picking, up and, and. When, I didn't have freelance work I made, things that I myself wanted. Started. Doing lots of replacement, icons here's another take on the Adobe suite of icons. New. ITunes icons, again solid, love for tactility and colors a more, fun Safari, icon I actually ended up doing a whole range, of experimental, Safari icons because, you know just playing around this idea of all the types of compasses you. Know what, does it look like if it's like you, know a GPS. Or a needle. In a glass of water or a flight compass, or a nautical compass or, one with the earth underneath I took all those and actually made a poster that people bought and hung in their offices was just super weird and humbling to me. I'm. Sure you understood by now I'm a big gamer did lots of illustrations of things that inspired, me from games here's a sword from Dragon Age and I took that and turn it into a wallpaper pixelization. Fan, so, wallpaper, I did retraining the V and save five probably. My most popular wallpaper, paper to date was this thing right go figure minecraft, I. Did. These downloadable. Icon sets that included the source files the PSD file so that people could build out their own icons and grow the set and. I'm showing you all of these kind, of oddities because. It helps me pinpoint another. Lesson one of the, most important, lessons you can learn as a creative in my opinion, and that is make. Up right. It's, okay to do something just because you think it's fun just because you want to learn and you want to share now, you can do you can make things without clients, you can make things without someone telling you to personal. Projects can easily. Be, the driving force of your career now, I'm gonna given you an example I have a very good example of this so. This kind of starts with another wallpaper I know wallpapers. So. It, I had this habit of making these Christmas, wallpapers, every year and lots of people who download, them and it came to a point where people were actually waiting, for my yearly Christmas wallpaper, and one, of those were a guy. Named, Willy now, he liked the art style and he contacted me about an idea, he had for an app apps very new back then and, he was from Denmark sure. Let's meet we had some beers and eight, months later we launched our first app together it. Was called outside, you just look through a little window and you see all the weather outside I drew all weather. And. When. It launched it seemed like the whole world, talked about it and one morning, we woke up to this. And. Of course this is the first full week of spring and other flowers of blowing birds are chirping I know this because I have an app on my iPhone, this, shows what it looks like outside so, I have to go outdoors I can just see spring on my. Like. Two guys from Copenhagen, looking at each other holy, Sh we. Should probably make a company and we actually, ended up creating a bunch of weather apps over the years. And. We. Found that this product development studio called robocat, and. Went. On to hire lots of people and work on some amazing projects and I'll get back to a few of them just to emphasize some lessons I've learned but the, first lesson, you should take away from that from me, sitting, at home in my boxer shorts making, wallpapers, to meeting Willy to making an app to, being joked about on Jay Leno is that, you. Never know what little, side project, or piece, of content, that will lead to the next big thing the next thing that will shape your life now, every time you make something and put it on the Internet I love this analogy you're, essentially lighting, a spark in a flammable room, waiting, for things to ignite you put out an app you, make a website even. A blog post just. Keep igniting, that spark. While. Robocat was kicking off I launched a new version of pix resort notice how there's a consistency. To this talk every time a new chapter in my life seems to open up I update my portfolio.
That's How often that happens early. IOS. Days remember, like this got, to work on lots of UI for phones right skew morphic stuff like this with material, and you, know lights. And textures, and oh UI, for games look. At this amazing popping. Bubble wrap game the, most, downloaded. Bubble wrap game in the world I might add we made, an unofficial app for the Roskilde, festival of large music, festival in in Denmark they. Already had an official app so I was like kind of like hush-hush but we didn't, get paid, got free beer so that was nice. Worked. On illustrations for various things worked on editorial illustrations. Logos, for own projects is a failed social network we tried to launch sprites. For games we made illustrations, for games there's a game we had to slide things across the table I drew these on my Cintiq and then I rendered them in Photoshop we when. We bought our apartment, in Copenhagen I set, out to draw that old house spent, hours, on it just so we could put up a notice in the hallway saying hi you, know designer, moved in, no. Reply from anyone, but I liked it. Made. A lot of icons and all. That brings me to the next lesson, right you, want to make a lot of things to, really find out what you like to do and what you're good at and what you're perhaps not very good at you need to try out as many things as possible and, that's kind of a double lesson here because the way you hack that is you, say yes to everything. If. You want to make more things you shake the tree you create personal projects, put, them online make some noise and then say yes to every single opportunity that comes your way I have said yes to things I had no, idea how to do, put. Yourself force yourself into those situations and you will learn a tremendous amount another, way of saying that is and you've heard this before fake it till you make it right that, is absolutely true while. We're still doing desktop, application, I can select stuff like this I was. Circling more and more around the art of making app icons, for mobile I love that process, of sketching. Out ideas and, then rendering those ideas and making that those ideas fit the UI. Going. Through that motion again and again like, sketch, render. Ideas, render. Sketch, render. And by, becoming really good at the process, and not only any particular, tool you're sort of training your part of your brain that helps you build way more complex, things, so, at Robo CAD we would go on to make lots of products with, millions of users because. We became good at that process, of coming up with ideas than, executing those ideas while telling a good story now. We made use. We use that process to make award-winning, games to that little kid playing around click and play would have been amazed, by we. Used that process to create hardware. We. Sketched. Out and rendered our ideas and then told that story in a compelling way and we created these little digital thermometers. For smartphones as an extension of one of our many, many, many weather adventures, and we, launched, what, essentially, became, the most popular Kickstarter, campaign in Europe in 2013. Got, more, than ten times the amount of funding we asked for when on this amazing adventure of creating, these little things in China and shipping more than 40,000. Units to 77, countries, now. What I'm the point I'm trying to make here is that to make anything you need, to learn the process it's not just about tools not about one specific discipline, it's not about whether or not you call yourself a UX designer or a product design or whatever. Everyone. Can transcend their own field of expertise, and make just about anything, if they learn the process, now. From, making all these things it, became clear to me that there's. Many things to be made they'll, probably always be some things that you like making more than other things right you guys, probably feel that way as well for me that, has always been. A PI consumer I can see in general that's why I'm wearing the ikana Steiger. This. Was the icon for the first weather app I just talked about cold outside and it's, amazing to me that everything, about that app and all that it meant to us and the many users can be represented, by that single image, making. App icons truly became, one, of my big passions, to. Me Icona they're kind of like the jeweler's, of design in a way we. Get to craft these little gems these little, pieces of concentrated. Design and. You get to tell the story in a wonderfully, restricted, canvas and, you get to create this little scalable.
Branding, Element and I've. Made icons like these where you you get to use your painterly. Side or icons like these where you have to carefully consider every, little shape. Every, little gradient. And where you try to layer, symbolism. Into, the pixels. Sometimes. I even just make icons for fun like. These here I made for a personal project I call app icon Wars, just. To play around the restrictions, what happens when you remove the outlines, of an object you, still recognize the, characters, and you get to play around with renderings, and lighting and, textures. I love. Photoshop. Also. The more sillier parts of it I have, made a lot, of icons truly. For my own products and for clients around the world and I wanted, to tell you that because one other lesson that I've learned is, that, for. All the talk about learning the process it's. Okay to fall in love with something too, recklessly, pursue, something because that is what you enjoy doing it, seems so super, obvious but you'd be amazed at how, many people doesn't, think this applies to them I want. To show you something that just to hammer home this point something I usually show design, students when I give, talks at schools and I. Call this the, circle of fun you, guys ready you're, still with me right I know, I talk a lot, okay. It's quite simple you do, something you think it's fun you share it with someone the internet um, there's always someone. Who thinks what you're doing is cool they in turn gets, you more projects of that kind let me try to break, that down for you if it's too abstract I love making, icons. App icons as you just saw sometimes, I just make them for fun put them on gripple on Twitter whatever some people find them interesting they comment, and maybe, they share them a client, comes along and needs app icons. He. Or she sees my stuff and sort of stuff that I think is fun to do and hires me to do an icon now I got an icon that I've been paid to do that I can present that on my portfolio and so, the circle continues right, on the. Flip side unfortunately. There's. Also this thing that I like to call the circle of boring, yeah. You, do something that's boring, right it. Happens, it happens to all of us you know it might be a job you might be a student you might have taken that project, if you're a freelancer because you needed the money there's, many, reasons why we do things that we think of boring, now. Unfortunately. When you share that work, someone. Thinks that what you've done is cool and in, turn the world presents you with more things of that nature example. Not, super keen on making websites, for clients let's, say that I took. A website, project because I really, wanted, that new drone right so what. Make the website the, website launches. Before they hate who made your website oh Michael make the website hey Michael you want to make a website for me no right, in, many. Ways you become, what, you work on and. It's it is that's why it is incredibly, important, to do what you think is fun a lot, of people think that speak, to a lot of people about this and a lot of people think that the good projects, they're just around the corner and that, just isn't true. That's I think I think you regularly, need to look in the mirror and see. If you're in the right circle. Yeah. So. As things were progressing I was constantly experiencing, things like this I made something either for someone or for myself and, all the sudden I get to do a bunch more of it like making a bunch of food icons are becoming the professional, chicken icon is that I am I, play, around the rendering one night and the next thing I know I end up the line of posters on society6.
Yeah. I. Create, some resources for myself and make them available for download they get a million downloads and I get invited to speak about app icons or icons around the world now one thing leads to the next no matter what humble beginnings they might have I become. What I work on and if. You become what you work on it should be obvious that you need to pursue what excites, you only, you have the power to really move in any direction here, it's not no no one's gonna come and hand this to you guys, we. Help the nonprofit organization, be my eyes design. And launch an app that connects blind, people with sighted people amazing, project, and like FaceTime for week sided or blind people and they, had an amazing launch, they got worldwide. Coverage and. 300,000. People signed up in the first week, now. It, was a crazy time but it's hot me that, you, can make things that change your lives with, your creativity you can actually make a difference for someone else as a designer I've I've, done this we're, still focused sometimes I'm making, that little button interaction, so nice. You, can actually make stuff that changes people's lives and don't. Wait until it's handed to you either when we got one of the new Apple, TV's before, it launched, in, was. That 15 in. Denmark, we. Sat around like what would be the coolest app to make for the new Apple TV right, that would obviously be to make an app for the Danish national, television. The DR but, many had tried to pitch DR things through the ages they told us not to bother they even told us that might kind of be a little like, dangerous. Legally, we, went ahead anyways, made the prototype, and uploaded. A video on YouTube, showing it off and at the end of the video says who do we need to talk to dr very, sassy move was a Friday. Next. Tuesday in a meeting room with them like, there's, like crap. Crowd around, a big, big conference table in a glass cage they're. Just about to call legal but they wanted to hear what we had to say for ourselves like. Push. Back my chair pitched my heart out about, why why. A small team my gosh should make this for them we actually got to build it and we launched it for them and it's one of the most downloaded apps in Denmark on the platform now that's all good and well but more importantly, do, you know what TR makes, one. Guess this. I'm. Some cooling obviously. Right that's. Made by DRS working on the app damn it I got to visit bounces, house made. Your bonus. Don't. Wait, for permission to do something awesome, thinking. About my professional, life it can essentially be boiled down to pursuing things that my inner kid would love listen, to the kid in you it's a clear line to your real desires and when, you find something you want to do more you need to take some serious steps towards, it I remembered, what that little kid back in so many years ago dreamed of so, to focus more of my time on making games I started that company called, north play in 2016, specializing, in entertainment, design I have, a four year old son and he, loves trains I think most for you also love trains but we made a game about trains and worked on it for months was a first products a little new little games to do sort of them I'm a make, or break everything, depends, on it right it's called conductors I don't know if anyone played conductors. Yeah. There's a few hands don't be shy uh you. Control these little trains we have to transport passengers try to avoid these terrible, accidents it ended up not being a kids game at all but every little world sort of this possibly needs to solve and it's incredibly difficult we launch conductors, in 2016. And end of 2016, and it's been a wild ride every. Earn, last year we won a 9 mga Award for it in San Francisco and the, game has now been downloaded more than three million times now that little kid playing around click and play he definitely got his dream come true three, million times but, I'm telling you this because it helps me convey the last important, lesson that I've learned I'd. Never be able to do this if it wasn't for my awesome team that is well liked and that is bass and I and work with a few other really talented people on all.
The Amazing things that I do and I've learned that you, don't need to make everything alone. The most awesome, things are usually made with other people and I see a lot of new entrepreneurs or specifically. Students, struggling, with this like look around you at an event like this it's almost beer o'clock right find, someone, and go. On that journey of making those things with them I, want. To end up here I'm a little over time I know but I'm the last one so I'm gonna steal, those minutes anyway, telling. You again to do what you think is fun now it sounds, so, obvious that people entirely. Overlooked, it I know you've heard it before I people, even dismiss, it as a cliche, it's, a phrase that's easy to repeat but hard to live by and I think. It actually requires a lot of courage it will give you setbacks you might might not get into that school you wanted or you might have to quit a job and take risks but, it is not just words if you, steal your life by it you. Will find your way thank. You. You.