Christian Bullock is a well known PhpBB Theme designer, Known for his unique themes within the phpbb community. Here he answers some of our questions: When you’re not working tremendously hard designing forums what do you do? What is your "get away" from designing? That’s a great question. Given the fact I live quite remote means that there’s not a great deal to do without having to ride into town. Like many others, my “get away” consists of playing games (I enjoy a good, challenging simulator, GTA or FIFA 12) and watching DVD’s. Another getaway of course is music which I am very passionate about – it makes designing feel more like a hobby and less like a job. Music influences a lot of my work, without it I probably wouldn’t design at all. What is an ordinary day for Christian Bullock? What is your daily routine? My day normally begins at 6:45am when I’ll crawl out of bed and begin getting ready for an 8am shift at work. My work typically lasts anywhere from 4-8 hours a day. When I get home there’s little to do other than to fire up the computer and spend time either helping out on phpBB.com or working on one of my many projects. How did you first get into designing themes for phpBB? Is it something you enjoy doing? I first “got into” styling forums way back in late 2006. I was in the last year of school supposed to be revising for my GCSE exams (aged around 15) but was more interested in being on forums. Back then I was a moderator with BlameSociety Productions (the creator of the Chad Vader series on YouTube) and had several encounters with sw-gm.com . I remember one distinct moment staring at a plain old prosilver style and thinking “You know what, I want to be able to turn this into whatever I want” – it all kicked off from there. My Photoshop knowledge at the time was really quite poor, I knew the basics but nothing advanced at all. So, I spent the next few months playing around with HTML, CSS and learning how phpBB styles were constructed. I never read a tutorial, nor did I ever use any graphics tutorials. All of my current skills are self-taught. Is it something I enjoy doing? Absolutely! I won’t lie, sometimes when I’m just starting a client’s style and it’s going to be a long job I wish I could be doing something else. But generally it’s a very good (and lucrative) skill to have – using my knowledge to help others through the phpBB.com styles support forum is also very fulfilling and enjoyable too. Have you got any plans to develop themes for other forum platforms such as Mybb or XenForo? I’d say there are ‘intentions’ as opposed to plans. By that I mean I’d really love to branch out to MyBB in the near future, but I don’t have any plans / time frames to do so just yet. I’ve never been keen about styling for paid forum platforms such as XenForo, vBulletin and IPB – paying users tend to have higher expectations and that’s a pressure I could do without at the moment. Absolution is one of your most known styles but which one do you think is the most underrated? Hmm, good question. I guess I have a soft spot for Dark Grunge (http://demo.phpbb3styles.net/Dark Grunge), and old style I released a few years ago. Like a few of my older styles, I stopped supporting it because I felt I could do better and didn’t want old styles to distract me from making newer, better styles. With a few changes I think it could be a much better style. As a designer what are the 4 top tips you would offer to others following the same path? 1) Think outside the box – There are so many styles where visibly, little effort has been put into making something unique. There are a few places in a forum style with scope for custom imrprovements. These are: Header Navbar Category headers Viewtopic Footer In a lot of the styles I see these areas are left unchanged, which is a bit disappointing given how easy phpBB is to style (to anyone with a good HTML/CSS experience). 2) Less is more – One thing I’ve learned recently is that less is more. All of my styles in the past have been guilty of packing too much stuff in and making them look cluttered. phpBB has a lot of clutter anyway, so adding to it doesn’t help. Just don’t try too hard making it look fancy. Try experimenting with subtle patterns in the background instead of a full-on abstract image. Perhaps use a flat colour palette instead of gradients. 3) Don’t copy – This is really an unwritten rule experienced designers needn’t worry about, but all too regularly novice designers copy / rip other people’s designs. Embarrassingly I was guilty of it myself when I was new to designing. It’s more than fine to seek inspiration from other designs, after all the world revolves around imitation, not just innovation. 4) Listen to feedback and act on it – People who use your style are paying you the ultimate compliment by using yours instead of everyone else’s. When users make a suggestion for the style, give it some consideration. It might just be the difference between getting more downloads for your style or losing users to other styles. There seems to be a bit of celebrity associated with your role in the forum scene, what is it like and how does it affect you whilst you are online? This is an interesting question. To be honest I don’t really know where the “celebrity” status comes from – I have made a few public styles which aren’t that good, do a lot of custom work and spend a lot of time helping at phpBB.com. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it “effects” me, because I am nowhere near as good as other designers in the niche. It does feel good though to know that there’s a core of people keeping an eye on your work and regularly ask when my projects are going live. I’ll be a celebrity when someone on the street asks for my autograph , until then I’m on the same level as everyone else. Orbit Styles is landing in winter, Could you tell us a little bit about that? What can we expect to see from Orbit Styles? OrbitStyles will be made up of a few core different parts. Premium Style store selling phpBB (and later MyBB) styles between $12-15. Knowledge Base (Tutorials) phpBB Styles Support forum phpBB Services including Graphic Design (banners, logos, buttons, icons) MOD Installation Customisations Custom Styles I’ve been busy with clients and offline things, so It’s very unlikely that it’ll be ready before the end of the year. And just for fun, If you were an animal what would you be? Probably something dominant, but difficult to hunt. Perhaps like an Eagle – it would be cool to have freedom of the sky.