Steve Harris is part of a growing trend: freelance designers who are looking for ways to bridge the gap between print design and web design. To some, this might seem like an insurmountable task, but Harris figured out the right formula by combining his existing graphic design expertise with Adobe® Muse™ software.
Harris became fascinated with technology as a child, when he built computers with his father. Over the years, his interests grew to include art and graphic design, which eventually led to a job in print design and production. It was there that he first experienced working with Adobe Photoshop® and InDesign®, and he realized he’d found a way to combine his interests and pursue a new career direction. Through various jobs that built his graphic design experience and a return to school to learn how to code, he expanded his expertise to include web and interface design work.
Eventually, Harris set out as a freelance designer under the studio name Visual Arms, focusing on branding for startup businesses such as retailers, restaurants, and other small companies. While these client relationships often begin with designing a logo and business cards, they quickly expand to web design. "The subject of a website often comes up when I ask about including a web address on a business card," he explains. "This prompts clients to explore the idea of creating a website, which means I have to have something to offer."
With traditional web design and development, Harris found it challenging to meet his own creative standards and still remain profitable, due to constant bug fixing and cross-compatibility issues with browsers. He started exploring web design and development tools, saw Adobe Muse at the HOW Design Conference, and signed up to be a beta tester on the spot. Harris was immediately intrigued by the software's similarity to InDesign, and felt he could begin right away without a big learning curve.
Harris first got started with Adobe Muse by creating his own portfolio site, Visual Arms. Next came the Sarah Byrne portfolio site for her makeup artistry business, followed by The Funky Banana, a sports and nutrition bar website. "I was able to get started right away with Adobe Muse and I quickly realized that this was going to be great for my business," he says.
Harris values how his InDesign knowledge translates so well to working with Adobe Muse for HTML page layout. Like most designers, he loves typography. And with hundreds of web fonts hosted by the Adobe Typekit® service directly from within the Adobe Muse web font menu, he has endless options for tailoring sites as needed for clients. Strong geometric fonts like Gotham and Proxima Nova are his favorites.
As a longtime Adobe software user, Harris also appreciates the ability to integrate his favorite programs into his new Adobe Muse workflow. “Being able to take my Photoshop mock-ups straight into Adobe Muse for development rather than handing them off to a developer or coding them myself saves me time and money,” he says. In October 2011, he explained this process in a tutorial and screencast training video for Computer Arts magazine.
Harris was recently invited to participate in the advisory group for Adobe Creative Cloud™, and for someone who likes to experiment and test the limits, it's a virtual playground. "I love being able to install any program I need through Creative Cloud," he says. "It also helps keep me organized. I used to have a lot of trouble moving files around and ending up with different versions on different computers. Creative Cloud helps me keep everything synced together."
While he claims he's not much of a motion guy, Harris has played around with Adobe Edge Animate in Creative Cloud. "I like having the ability to download Adobe Edge Animate on the fly so if a client wants a simple animation added to a site, I can make it happen," he says.
He still has a soft spot for code, though, and Adobe Muse lets him experiment with code with ease. For example, he can use Adobe Muse to build the framework of his website and achieve unique additional functionality by embedding HTML and third-party widgets. "While Adobe Muse takes away the need to write code — the most time-consuming part of creating a website — it still lets me experiment with implementing code-based solutions to push Adobe Muse sites further than most users would expect," says Harris.
After mastering Adobe Muse to create websites for his clients, Harris realized he could take his business a step further by providing themes and templates to other Adobe Muse users on an annual subscription basis. His website Muse Themes.com offers themes as well as updates, tips, and video training for Adobe Muse.
Harris encourages feedback and site design submissions from the user community, and offers a commission on all sales of submitted templates. The site distributes close to 1,000 templates each month and receives more than 60,000 page views per month from worldwide Adobe Muse fans. Many subscribers use the templates to build new sites, while others like being able to open a site that is already made, dissect the files, and see how it all gets put together.
Harris is also a new lynda.com author, having recently recorded and released “Designing a Portfolio Website with Adobe Muse.” The course takes users through his unique creative process when building a complete portfolio website, and explains how he integrates Adobe Muse with all of his favorite Adobe design applications.
At the end of the day, Harris is happy to be delivering a better end product that helps him build longer-term client relationships. He's also proud that the community site he has built is truly helping other designers follow his lead.