Imagine stepping across a threshold into a bright room, where the floor is swept and the furniture gleams. The windows glint with sunlight and open onto vast and mysterious meadows. A vase of tulips draws you to its vibrant colors.
The experience is just like being welcomed into the heart and mind of designer Veerle Pieters, whose illustration-inspired artwork is as whimsical as it is colorful, clean, and precise. She and her designs exude boundless energy.
After years as a solo graphic designer focused mainly on print, Pieters met her partner in art and life, Geert Leyseele. Leyseele provided humor and smarts, an artistic aesthetic, and a strong business sense — a perfect match for Pieters. Together, they cofounded the agency Duoh! in the tiny, beautiful city of Deinze, Belgium. What's with the name? It stems from two words: Duo, as in two, and Oh!, as in “I like what I see!”
The agency was founded in the early days of the Internet, and Pieters, always up for a challenge, decided to add web design to her existing graphic design practice to stay current. She has since mastered CSS and HTML, and become an authority on front-end web development.
Now, on any given day Pieters and Leyseele can be found designing and writing HTML and CSS code together like two kids, filled with youthful openness and originality. Laughter, as well as disco, funk, and the occasional “chill” tune, waft across the airy space. And, yes, the windows look out onto two wide meadows.
Pieters takes on a new project only when she feels a connection with the client. One such client was Fab.com, the hot new design-centric e-commerce site that runs flash sales and racked up two million members in its first eight months. The company, like Pieters, seeks to erode the perception that design is elitist or exclusive. Pieters did a complete graphic design package for Fab.com that included a new logo, website design, and iPhone and iPad apps.
The Fab.com project, as always, started with bold color choices, but broke from the typical “Veerle flavor.” She chose a simple red, black, white, and gray palette to help make the photos pop. Then, using Adobe® Illustrator® and Photoshop®, she created a design that was clean, lightweight, and compatible on different devices. "It was a fun challenge, because everything had to look beautiful on Apple's new Retina display," Pieters says. "Pixel snapping in Photoshop and Illustrator CS6 helped me keep icons and other shapes super crisp."
Pieters' work is as varied as it is beautiful. Other recent projects included a colorful, eye-catching book cover for "Adaptive Web Design" and the cover for "The Smashing Book #3," a professional guide written by experts on how to revamp websites and make them multi-browser friendly. Among her favorite recent endeavors was a cartoon dragon logo and online design for Suikerdraakje, a site that offers wares for newborn babies, for which she explored different typefaces using Adobe Typekit®.
When it comes to sharing her techniques and philosophies, Pieters is notably generous — a trait that has garnered a worldwide following. Her blog showcases her work but also includes articles on product, home, and graphic design, as well as tutorials on Photoshop and Illustrator. She has nearly 200,000 Twitter followers and frequently ranks on various top-50 lists of influential female bloggers.
In all of her work she experiments broadly, and has recently begun working with the new capabilities for creating seamless patterns in Illustrator CS6. She's also looking into Adobe Creative Cloud™ to make it easier to access more tools, as well as share and review her designs online with clients.
When Pieters is not creating or writing code, she clears her mind by biking through the countryside. She's acquired a racing bike now, so she can go the distance — but cobblestones? She could live without them. Biking, for Pieters, is just like design, with ups and downs, rough and smooth roads, and the goal of reaching new heights.
“Great designers always try to find the middle ground. After all, you work for the client, not for yourself,” she says. “But don't get me wrong, I never blindly follow what the client dictates. I always aim high and pedal hard.”