Nov 24

Why Collaborate? Patrik Larsson and Paul Trifa spill the beans!

Thu, 11/24/2011 - 08:11 — julie

Patrik Larsson (patrikl) and Paul Trifa (enabled) have been successful Envato marketplace authors for years now. They have recently started collaborating under the joint account SimplyPixels.

Though the collaboration is still very new, the idea is very interesting. We caught up with them recently to chat about what inspired them to work together, what projects they have in mind, and what they see the benefits of collaboration as being.

This candid interview is full of insight, experience, and great ideas. And lots of personality. It’s definitely worth a read!

Patrik and Paul, you’ve both been marketplace authors for years. What suddenly gave you the idea to collaborate?

Patrik: As Paul mentions, we’ve known each other for close to a year now and honestly, I’ve had my eyes on him and his work for a few months and finally decided to ask. However, I had a plan for quite some time, where I find another author, collaborate with him to work on really sweet products for ThemeForest, mainly.

Finally, I put out a small, quick request in the Envato group over on Facebook and got a tremendous response from many authors. More than I actually thought. As I’ve had my eyes on Paul and his work before, I was really happy to see that he said he were interested. Needless to say, the choice turned out to be a no-brainer. Something I never figured it would be. There’s no doubt that I’ve made the right choice! Paul is a great guy to work with and we have a lot of fun together.

But I feel I have made the right choice, Paul’s a great guy and he’s got talent!

Paul: Well, we’ve know each other for almost a year now, we never really “planned ” this if you may say so, it just came up one night on Skype. After reading Patrik’s Facebook post that is. As we’ve both been searching for partners for a long time now, but with no apparent match with former tries. It’s hard to find someone who can fill the others needs.

What makes the two of you a good fit collaboration? Is it complementary talents or something else?

Paul: Well, for starters, the main idea behind our partnership was, ” full featured files!” By this, we wanted to give something more to ThemeForest than it currently has to offer. That means, we will always include PSD’s, all elements and icons used in PSD format, very very detailed documentation and a few other secret features that our buyers will love. (I don’t mind sharing, I mind copycats.) We are trying to keep support as high as possible for our customers.

There is no better way to make your customers happy than to really polish a file, give it all the features possible, and make it really easy for the buyer to edit! A good team has to collaborate even if one doesn’t know what the other is doing. Having a designer that creates crazy stuff (no idea of typography, paddings, margins, unique elements) is quite bad but so is having the coder say, “I can’t do that, I can’t do that either, It doesn’t work … etc…etc.”  In the end it’s quite a delicate thing.

So I’m really happy to have this partnership up and running! I could say yes, it’s complementary talents. I can code pretty much everything Patrik can throw at me, and he can design any whacky idea I have! :D

Patrik: In short, yes, we’re more or less complementary talents. As it goes a lot into a design, like; planning, wire-framing, sketching and designing, a designer needs a good coder that understands what one are after by just looking at the design. There’s where, Paul came in. He’s a talented guy that has, at times, crazy ideas that actually works pretty well and, more or less, some trial and error runs.

Now, I’m not saying Paul is the one who has crazy ideas. I can honestly say that I think the craziest ideas comes from, well, me. Haha! Though Paul might agree in some point, we still got a lot to learn from each other.

What type of items do you plan to create together?

Patrik & Paul: Well, everything starts small. We have already started with landing pages. We’d like to make one for each top business category out there. Then we will progress to full templates – again, try to reach all categories, as complex yet simple to edit as possible. And finally we will move to WordPress and do the same.

But, as mentioned before, everything has to start out small. Rushing things never helps. We are still a young partnership, we have much to learn from each others. We are each trying to improve our skills as much as possible and to learn from buyers what they need. But, the main attack plan is the above.

Should all authors consider a collaboration? If not, who should consider it?

Paul: Well, to be perfectly honest. I’d say go for it! Just consider the benefits. We each have a particular set of skills. We either design or code. Both can coexist, but one will always be weaker than the other. So, one can stress you a lot, but can be a breeze for your partner. In my case, my design skills still need improvement. I can design, but it takes A LOT longer for me to do something than it take for Patrik.

Same goes for Patrik. He  can code, but again, it takes him A LOT longer to do something than it takes me! So a partnership makes it MUCH easier for the both of you.

Of course, there is the inevitable question of money. Money is important, but in my humble opinion, I’d rather earn less for starters, until we have a bigger portfolio, but work faster and much more relaxed.

When we started, we decided to make things simple for the both of us. Patrik designs a template. I wait for him to send me the PSD. Once I get the PSD, i start cropping, cutting, and coding it. While I am doing that, he creates another one. By the time I am done, and the template is on the marketplaces, Patrik already has another PSD created. So, I can start work on that one as well. And the whole thing repeats itself. Pretty neat.

So yes. Authors should consider a collaboration. It greatly increases productivity and it helps putting your true talent into work!

But, if you can do both, and you like designing and coding but still manage to keep the same level of quality, well, then you should not consider a partnership!

Patrik: This is a matter thought and opinion really. I’d say: Yes and no. As collaborations can be pretty hard at times, one disagrees with things, got different ideas and one can argue, it’s all pretty much about compromise. If one can’t compromise, then you should really consider to stay solo.

If you think alike, have similar ideas and are able to compromise, it might be worth it in the end. Both Paul and I are strong personalities and we can disagree. But both of us are able to compromise to find something we both like and are able to work on.

How do you create a file? Being two of you, how do you decide what to go with? Do you have brainstorming activities?

Patrik: I usually play with about 10-20 ideas at a time for each design I make. Which most of the time, ends up with me throwing it away and start over again. If I’m not happy with a design I just throw it out, without any revisions, and start all over again.

This is why we speak as much as we do on Skype, to bounce things around and to see if it’s a good match for the original thought. Usually we start by throwing an idea to the other one and see if it’s something that’s possible, most of the time, we decide to get started the very next day with a quick sample from me (usually with elements all over the place), but still consistent enough to see what it’s original thought were.

There’s a reason I love to work with Paul. He’s fast, consistent, detailed oriented and very good in understanding what I go for in a design. Usually he takes a look at the design, says something like; “This is perfect!” or “Needs more polish,” or “Add this and that, remove that and add that.” I’m the same way. It usually ends up with me pulling my ideas in the design and Paul pulls his ideas in when developing. Somehow, we manage to produce a design we both like.

Honestly, I think that we did the same thing when we decided the name and logo for SimplyPixels. Something simple that still looks pretty modern but has those tiny details that matters. We had a few names in mind first, but none that sounded as good and simple as the one we have now. As we work with simplicity and pixels we came to the, pretty obvious, conclusion that our name should be: SimplyPixels. It’s easy to remember and has some punch to it.

We get together every night online. We tweet each other, e-mail each other with progress statuses, peaks, news,  inspirational links. Once that is done, we talk on Skype about concepts, designs, styles, then we discuss resources, what images with the template fit best. Then Patrik is off to designing. After he finishes the design, we again, study it, check for usefulness, check for design flaws, things that can be too complicated, when coded for the buyer to use, things that are not complex enough.

Once this is done, the final question comes to mind: “If I was the buyer, would I purchase it?” If all questions have a positive response, Patrik sends me the .PSD file, I start cropping and chopping and start coding. I make most elements CSS3 compliant, but, the nightmare of mortals which has been cast our innocent souls, lurking in the darkness of the start menu… still needs graphic elements… gee… thanks IE.

The beauty of things? I code one design, Patrik is already designing the next one. We DO NOT rush things, but this is why I love working with Patrik. These things match perfectly! We’ll see how these things evolve once we progress to bigger stuff :)

You say your focus lay mainly on ThemeForest. Will you create items for other marketplaces or stick with ThemeForest in whole?

Patrik & Paul: Mainly our focus is on ThemeForest, for the moment anyway. However, we have played with ideas on producing items for GraphicRiver, CodeCanyon and ActiveDen. As Paul originally hails from the world of Flash and Patrik hails from the world of graphics, it might be quite obvious that we will try to go for both GraphicRiver and ActiveDen. CodeCanyon on the hand, has been a goal for Patrik and somewhat of a goal to Paul, therefore we have considered putting our minds together by developing good looking stuff for CodeCanyon as well as the other mentioned marketplaces.

Who knows, in the future, we might be on all marketplaces. It’s a matter of time, which we got lots of.

We also have a couple of tutorials planned for Tuts+ that we think you all would like. One can say we do multitasking in a way. It’s been a fun ride so far and we can’t wait to see what the future brings! :)

What about top authors? There are some that don’t collaborate? Why should anyone collaborate if you can do it alone?

Paul: Well, we know that there are exceptions. We love them, we follow them, we look up to them. I truly admire authors such as DS, Epicera, Kriesi but I must mention templatesquare, oxylus, Parker and Kent, just amazing colabs on the marketplaces that produce amazing files! I only have to say the top authors of the marketplaces is based on a nice collaboration by generally great guys and that should prove my point!

What tips do you have for people who are interested in getting into a partnership?

Paul: Well, it’s actually quite simple. If your first thought when doing a partnership is, “Shibby man, you can design, and uhm, I can, like code, like, let’s make stuff happen,” then you are bound to fail. There are things that need to be tested out before working.

Try seeing what the other has to offer. Sometimes, a portfolio will not say much about someone. Considering you are developing STOCK files, it’s quite hard to match the quality! When working for a customer, the code can differ, the standards may be lower or higher, depending on what’s needed. Things have workarounds, a few repairs here, a few there, but when developing stock, it’s all about the quality.

So if someone show me a awesome design they made for a client, a few things pop in my mind, like:

  • “Is it designed by him?”
  • “Did he use elements from other sites? If so, are they redistributable”
  • “Does he value copyright, or we will both get kicked off because of some resource he used?”
  • And last but not least, “How much time did he take to design that?” because, you can be the best designer out there and take ages to make it, which is no longer worth the effort.

The last and most important part of a partnership is the way money is split. I will not make our rates public, but I do have to give you guys a heads up. This goes out for real coders who don’t appreciate their partner designer’s work.

Code without design cannot exist. It’s worthless.

Does “We’re sorry but this file does not match the strict aesthetic guidelines?” sound in any way familiar?

And again, designs without code are useless. Well, they are useful, but PSD files are quite hard to get approved, and frankly, they’re not the best selling items out there.

So if you want the relationship to be a long one, don’t think ” Ahh, he’s just drawing stuff in PhotoShop!” because in the end, he’s drawing what you’re coding and you’re coding what he’s drawing.

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