Matt walking in Shoreditch
4 minute read

Hello I am

Matt has been a core member of The Designlab team almost since the very beginning. Trained as a designer first and then a full-stack front-end developer, his role has evolved over the years to encompass a wide range of disciplines.

Meet the team

    Matt Laakvand

    Lead Full Stack Developer

Matt has been a core member of The Designlab team almost since the very beginning. Trained as a designer first and then a full-stack front-end developer, his role has evolved over the years to encompass a wide range of disciplines. With a deep understanding of both the front-end and back-end of websites and applications, Matt works with clients in the project's planning phase right through to delivery and beyond. Keenly interested in accessibility, user experience issues, and SEO, he offers a well-rounded vision in all aspects of design and development. Matt enjoys road cycling, hiking, and landscape photography in his spare time.

## What do you do at The Designlab?

I am involved in a project right from the beginning. I take the time to really understand a client's needs and form that into a fully considered SOW. I am involved in the planning and search phase right through to the management and delivery of the final product.

When interacting with clients, I usually discuss something technical about their website. Often this can be pretty complex, but I try to explain things in a way they will understand while not being condescending.

If I need to explain something, I try to keep what I am saying as short as possible while giving enough detail to make sure they fully understand the issue and its surrounding implications.

## What are your past experiences?

20 years ago, I graduated from the University of Portsmouth with a 2.1 BA Hons in Communication Design. My degree, though focused on traditional design practices, leaned toward screen-based media such as video editing, animation, and web development.

Though I started my career as a designer/illustrator, I moved ever closer to being a developer. Now I focus mainly on frontend development.

Because I took that approach, I find myself straddling both sides of the designer/coder fence, which makes me sensitive to both points of view. This helps me to deliver substance and style together.

## What do you enjoy about working that you do?

I come from an art & design background, but I have always had a keen interest in science. So the work I do allows me to stay connected to those two sides of my personality.

Coding is generally thought to lean into the sciences more than the arts, but as a frontend developer, I get to work in both fields simultaneously, all the time.

I can indulge my creative side, being trusted to make decisions about design while I code, but I also get to design the architecture of the applications I develop.

That approach helps me to stay relevant while at the same time offering more value to the process, allowing me to be the bridge between two worlds.

I have been at The Designlab for over 15 years and have felt supported in my professional development. It is strange because although I have been at Designlab for so long, I have moved through various roles, so I don’t feel like I have been in the same job all that time. The Designlab is also a good personality fit for me, as a former class clown, though my colleagues would perhaps disagree!

My opinion always seems to count and often gets sought out, which is flattering. I must know something if people keep asking for my advice and guidance!

I have turned my hand to various things whenever the studio needed it, including video editing, illustration, design, and artworking in the early days. Throughout, though, I have always used my skill as a coder. For the last 8 years, I have focused on frontend development. It is an exciting time to be a frontend developer, especially now with all the doors that JamStack development opens. More time spent having fun and less time spent worrying about dev ops for servers and PHP-based projects.

## What is your background?

Are you sure you want me to open this particular can of worms? My life story coming up...

I am the son of an Iranian father and an English mother, and have spent time in both worlds. However, culturally I am British and was born here. My early childhood was spent between Iran and England before settling here as a family when I was 7. That was quite a shock going from running off into the desert and not appearing until dusk to being confined to the back garden or the strip of pavement outside our house in Portsmouth. I still have vivid memories of my life there, and on occasion, I still hanker for the bleak beauty of the desert that was the setting for many an adventure.

School was a challenge early on when I had so much catching up to do despite my parent's brilliant efforts to homeschool me in Iran. Fortunately, I had some exceptional teachers and teaching assistants along the way.

Before I worked at The Designlab I set up a design studio with a few of my friends after graduating. Great times, but I quickly realised that as enthusiastic as I might have been, running my own studio wasn’t for me.

From there, I was fortunate enough to work at the Paul Martin Design Company, which had links to Pentagram when I worked there. After that, I came to Designlab and the rest is history.

## What are the values that drive you?

In the end, I think my guiding principles are fairness and honesty. I have found that nothing good comes from half-truths and lies. Unfortunately, that can lead to clashes, but I believe it is better to tell a person what they need to hear and not what they want to hear. Whatever the initial pain that causes, this approach usually ends in a successful outcome.

One of the things I try to champion in my industry is accessibility and good UX. I believe that good UX practices automatically lead to good accessibility standards.

## Your top 3 favourite podcasts/books?

Podcast: The Infinite Monkey Cage Books: Consider Phlebas (Iain M. Banks) & The Jungle Book (Joseph Rudyard Kipling)

## What do you enjoy doing when you are not working?

Road cycling. Sampling the finest offerings from the many drinking establishments around the UK. Hiking. Rock pooling.

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