Kirill Zakharov — Unsplash

A Montreal-based designer, focused on simplicity, clean code and good typography.

What led you into design?

I'd definitely have to give video games some credit. I remember trying to find resources online about Conker's Bad Fur Day (a video game on N64) and all I could find were boring text-based walkthroughs. So I decided to change that. After some digging, I stumbled upon GeoCities—where I launched my very first website. It had it all: a hit counter, 88x31 buttons, trailing cursors, those under construction gifs, a guestbook and even a fan art section which was populated with drawings submitted by strangers. It was awesome.

I then made more websites around videos games that I played: from Counter-Strike clans to World of Warcraft guilds. I don't think I even realised at the time that I was kicking off something that would end up turning into a career. I've had the need to create products for people ever since.

What does a typical day look like?

I'm not a morning person. I'm also lucky enough to have teammates all over the world so we're not tied down to a 9-to-5 schedule.

On a typical day, I wake up around 8-9am and start my day with some coffee and music. I use my mornings for admin work and catching up with teammates. I try to schedule calls for around 10 am in order to free up the rest of my day for actual work. If time allows it, I browse some design galleries to get my creative juices flowing. Around noon I make my way into our office (which I'm still awed by to this day). Rest of the day is spent zoning out between design and code. I love the quiet of the night time: so you'll often find me up late at night, tinkering on a design/dev problem or working on side projects.

What’s your setup?

I have a pretty standard setup both at work and at home: a 15" MacBook Pro hooked up to a 27" Thunderbolt Display with a Muji .38 pen and a random notebook by my side. I’m terrible at drawing, but love to scribble down ideas.

On my desk: A plant that needs to be watered. A black lucky cat and a small ceramic sumo wrestler figurine that I got as gifts from my friend Charles Deluvio. I also have an “Everything will be awesome” sticker from Tobias van Schneider that he left on my desk a while back—it’s been used as a daily reminder ever since.

The one thing that I probably wouldn't be able to live without is a good office chair. I never looked back after investing into a Herman Miller Sayl.

Where do you go to get inspired?

My best inspiration comes from travelling. Nothing like walking in a new city and discovering beautiful architecture, or a well-designed restaurant, cafe or store.

Despite being more involved in web, I studied film photography and print design in college and university. I love the raw feeling of those mediums, so I tend to steer towards the same vibes on the web. We're really lucky to be surrounded by an abundance of inspirational work and design galleries online. A few of my favourites: thegallery.io, minimal.gallery, typewolf and bench.li when things get a little weird.

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

I recently switched to Wealthsimple to handle all of my investments. Coming from dealing with a financial giant that made you fax in your information and have daily "maintenance" downtimes, Wealthsimple truly had a "wow" effect on me—pretty pixels aside (which they are). I'm talking from a product-as-a-service perspective: from their onboarding to customer service to the little things like sending your mum flowers on Mother's Day. This all plays a big role in the design of the company as a whole.

At the end of the day, a well-designed product is personal. Something that solves a problem for you might not be the same experience for someone else.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

It's a bit meta, but it has to be Unsplash Instant: a Chrome extension that replaces your new tabs with beautiful photos from Unsplash.

The original version was designed, developed and launched on the Chrome store in under a day. At the time, I didn't expect much out of it. A year later, it beautifies new tabs for over 70,000 people. A simple hack day project that turned into one of the first things people install on their new computers—which is pretty awesome to hear.

In general, I’m very proud of everything the team does at Unsplash. I’m really fortunate to work with such passionate individuals.

What design challenges do you face at Unsplash?

The biggest challenge is keeping things simple. Unsplash is a very bare-bone product with a lot of character. It's easy to slip away and over-complicate things.

We have a lot of data in our equation, so finding the balance between trusting your gut and data is also an ongoing challenge.

What music do you listen to when designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

  1. Say yes to new opportunities, but also know when to say no.
  2. Your personality and work ethics will get you further than skills.
  3. Focus on building relationships and perfecting your skills, money will come later.
  4. Do what you love and love what you do. Don't settle for working on something you're not proud of.

Where can folks follow you?

You can follow me on Twitter, Dribbble, Instagram, Unsplash or visit my website.

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