04 Apr Perspective Shift.

First off, let me thank everyone for such a great reception of Icon Resource. The first 24 hours of its existence were fantastically exciting, and I’ve gotten an overwhelming amount of positive feedback. I will consider all your input carefully. Now, I wanted to tell a story that relates a lot to, amongst things, Icon Resource and its genesis, but most importantly, radically changed the way I look at life and the things I feel strongly about.

It has been waiting to be written since late January of this year. It was around that time, late into the evening, in my brand new little office, that my laptop made the familiar ‘bling!’ sound of new mail. I got off from my chair, opened Mail, and found an email from a representative of Apple. They were wondering if I would be interested in a position at Apple in Cupertino.

Of course I was interested. Apple’s like a shining beacon of pure, exemplary design superiority to me. It’s the company that makes the computers, phones, and software I use and love more than anything else. But above all, freelancing had been harsh to me for a month, and living in constant uncertainty about your income is something anyone could live without. I sometimes, comically, equate my freelance work to the hunting of the earliest humans; you basically have to ‘hunt’ for your daily food. And sometimes, you fail to bring home the game.

However, it’s been no easy consideration for a young designer who lives in one of the smallest countries in Europe. If I’d want to work in the United States, I would have to jump through the hoops of getting an H-1B visa (I’m in no way interested in actually emigrating to the US) and leave behind… well, everything. My home, my environment, my friends, my beautiful and loving girlfriend – even the cats that so familiarly rub up against my leg each morning as I make my way to the other side of the room to give them food. And I’d have to trade the Netherlands, which is a liberal country with a strong anti-American sentiment, for the United States (albeit San Francisco, which does somewhat dampen the culture shock).

And in leaving behind all those things, I’d also leave behind Cocoia, my greatest passion in life, and I’d leave it to die. Apple’s employees are notoriously busy, and there is absolutely no way they’d let me run my outgoing miniature enterprise while I was working there. You can see now why it was no easy consideration, even with such an attractive position at that one special company.

I considered that any accessible visa would probably be valid for about 6 months at most, so I talked with my girlfriend. Of course, I wanted to weigh in her feelings about this matter. We could live with six months, although it was uncomfortably long as an uninterrupted period. We’d been living together for almost three and a half years now, if it wasn’t longer. It would be hard on us, but at the same time, if you truly love someone, you must let him or her chase their own dreams.

I had a phone call with another contact person at Apple, and they offered me a different, even more attractive position. The talk, late in the evening, was flattering and fun, as she explained how they thought I really was ‘Apple material’ and that they really enjoyed my work. In a comical moment of that chat, I was asked if I had done work for Apple before, as Orion, my freeware icon set, had been so prominently featured on Apple’s website. I laughingly responded that it was merely a very kind feature of the website maintainers. After the call, I was gleeful, and started compiling a portfolio PDF of my work for the review by the design group the position was for. A few days later, after sending off the PDF, the only thing that rested for me was waiting, and to continue pondering this dilemma.

In the end, little did I know that it wouldn’t matter a lot.

A week and a half or so later, I got a phone call from the representative again, saying that they’d had a meeting with the team and reviewed my work. The team, as they said, was very impressed, and really liked my work. Unfortunately, the visa situation made it impossible for me to start working there within a few months, and they absolutely required a designer for this position now.

It was a pity, but actually, in retrospect, not so much. I think that at that moment, Apple had me by surprise and shock. They’d even remarked positively on my work. If my mind’s roar had been a whisper before, now, my mind was screaming. I couldn’t know then that some of the best times for me were about to arrive, and although I’ve also had my lows after those talks with Apple, the good times have been a lot more rewarding. But what was most rewarding, and life-changing, was the shift of perspective.

I learned to listen to my mind and my gut at the same time, and while that may seem utterly trivial, it’s harder than you think if you’ve lived your life chasing after that seemingly forlorn dream, that long-winded road to ambition. I know it sounds stupid, but when I work with my dreams in mind, I tend to occasionally forget about those human traits like ‘hunger’, ‘thirst’, and ‘having an open ear for that story your partner is telling you’. It’s a constant balancing struggle, and an earth-shattering event (like the realization that on the track to your long-running ambitions, you’ve reached the end of the line) can tip the scales severely, forcing you to reconsider all those great things in life you previously took for granted.

Someone from the kindest of clients privately said to me over twitter afterwards;

“Sorry to hear about Apple. I know you were excited. No doubt it will happen eventually. In the meantime, their loss is our gain.”

Which cheered me up so much at that time, I still think it may be responsible at least partially for my great perspective shift where I don’t really care for a job at Apple anymore. I’ve lived a lot more appreciative of everything I cherish since this adventure, and living in even closer unity with my loved one. I had realized that I didn’t want Cocoia to die, regardless of what would happen. And that’s the moment where I realized if it will not die, it must grow. I started creating my ambitious plans to make into a reality. After all, if you don’t go to work at your dream job, why not create your dream company by yourself? Take matters into your own hands, so to speak.

Icon Resource was a thought, an ambitious plan of this time. It was into the end of the first week of February when I had formalized my plans for it and began my research. Now, almost two months later, it’s been unleashed, and the response has been overwhelmingly positive. I intend to learn a lot from this endeavor, and help others learn a lot along the way. And it’s not even the last grand project; I’ve several other things up my sleeve for April. But this was certainly one of the projects I consider a big step towards ‘Cocoia 2.0′ – a company independent of my sole success and availability, and a company that’s open to feedback and demands from its environment.

Talking about Icon Resource – I am very appreciative of everyone who helped support me in the first 36 hours with the purchase of access to the member area, and I’ll prove my continued openness to your feedback; over the weekend, bonus content will be added for all existing and future members – some of it based on feedback, and other content that was planned but didn’t make it for whatever reason. Of course, all of this will be announced to members when the time is right.

Icon Resource has even been requested on private torrent websites already, repeatedly showing up in those sections (or so I have been told and shown via email from an anonymous source). Who would have guessed that the pirates of the high webs now desire to indulge in visual interface design as well? Perhaps they’re just indiscriminate.

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21 Responses

  1. 1
    Tom 

    hard choices, but at the end, I think you will not regret it.
    And maybe, if you have luck, when you change your mind, you can send them your CV, and maybe you can get a job there.

    It must be such a good feeling to get a work offering from apple! Most people apply for a job and don’t get one, and you, you got a position offered.

    I wish you best of luck with Icon Resource and icondesigner, sebastiaan!

    greatings from belgium

  2. 2
    Tom 

    greetings*

    sorry for horrid english :p

  3. 3
    jon 

    Sebastiaan,

    Sorry to hear about the opportunity getting away from you. I do think it’s a great honor for you though. How many designers out there can say Apple wanted them specifically? Please keep up the great work. You never know what this will bring to the table. All the best.

    Jon
    Midwest USA

  4. It is good to know that when you wake up in the morning there is nothing set. It is a day that is free to be made into something great. Congratulations on Icon Resource. In fact I’m headed there now myself.

  5. 5
    Hamish M 

    It must have been a tough decision. But I think you made the right choice; for yourself, and your friends/family.

    Besides, had you taken the job, we wouldn’t have Icon Resource. :)

  6. 6
    Matt 

    It seems that all great Indie developers or designers are presented with this choice at some point in one’s career.

    I can imagine your excitement and struggle at the same time. Congratulations on being so well received, but I’m also glad that you have stayed with us in the “community”.

    Best of luck to your freelance adventures, and if you do end up working for Apple some day, we’ll all benefit as well!

  7. 7
    David Sinclair 

    Just wondering, why the hefty pricetag? I’m really interested but for that sum I could buy both Toast 9 & VMWare Fusion.

  8. Sebestiaan, I think you made a very wise decision actually. You where honored by those you honor! Now, you can surpass them, without them holding you back.

    And I will buy me a Icon Resource, so don’t worry about money

  9. 9
    Cameron 

    I would give my left [insert appendage here] to work for Apple down there in California, but I can understand your side of the story, and I must say, I have great respect for a decision like that. It couldn’t have been an easy one.

    I haven’t purchased an Icon Resource license yet for the sole reason that I don’t own a copy of Photoshop, though I’d like to at some point. Being on a student budget really puts a stopper on things like that sometimes!

    Anyway, keep up the great work. I can’t wait to see what you unleash to the Mac community in the future!

    Cheers.

  10. 10
    Chris 

    Kudos on the interest from Apple. Says alot about you’re design senses.

    Cameron – Drawit, Acorn and Pixelmator are inexpensive alternatives, as is Photoshop Elements (Drawit has a free lite version). On an earlier post, Sebastiaan mentioned that the principles taught could be easily crossed over to be used with other tools.

  11. 11
    Moritz 

    Really Inspiring. Maybe you’ll see the real benefits of Freelance Work once "Cocoia 2.0" starts running well….thanks for this post ;)

  12. Wow, that’s amazing! To be contacted by Apple personally. That was a *very* difficult decision to choose from but if this is a hint for things to come, you will definitely have more chances [and hopefully closer to home]. It’s kind of creepy how hackers are already asking for your work now. Good luck with that as well. Icon Resource is something I have been waiting for … you’ll get a membership from me soon enough!

  13. 13
    Josh Pyles 

    Hey Sebaztyun,

    Congrats on the decision. I think you made the right one, although either choice is good, so it was really a win/win.

    I went through a similar realization a while back when I realized how much I love being in business and how I really did not want to move anywhere.

    Best of luck buddy!

  14. 14
    shadownight 

    Very inspiring story… I’m glad everything is working out :)

  15. 15
    Danny 

    An intriguing look at how sometimes your dream job isnt the right one!

  16. 16
    David 

    Do you still have the portfolio PDF you put together for them to look at? I would really like to see it.

  17. 17
    sebastiaan 

    @David: I do have it still, but I can’t really publish it; a lot of it has work under a public NDA. I was only allowed to show the work to Apple privately.

    Thanks for the great comments, everyone.

  18. 18
    Hijz 

    I don’t know what is the feeling when u got the offer from Apple.

    But it’s very exciting yeah.

  1. 19
    Harte Entscheidung at macmuc (via Pingback)

    [...] sich um Entscheidungen.Eine wirklich harte hatte in diesem Fall Sebastian de With zu treffen - Traumjob bei Apple oder Freelancer bleiben ? Wer ihm zeigen möchte, dass er die richtige Entscheidung getroffen hat und sich [...]

  2. 20
    Cocoia Blog » Me on Pomcast. (via Pingback)

    [...] you’re eager to hear a bit more about my work, my person, and the whole story with Apple, I recommend you listen to Pomcast’s latest English episode, where I and Stuff MC discuss [...]

  3. [...] have liked to work there and why I didn’t go for it eventually, but that warranted an entire blog post of its own on my website, so I won’t get into that. 2. What is your current setup and how does it help you with your [...]

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