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Showcase of Web Design In Ireland

This post is the second article of our new series “Global Web Design“. Over the next months we’ll be covering various continents, featuring web developers and web designs from different countries of the world and taking a close look of what is happening in the web design scene worldwide. We started last week with Russian web design1021. We continue now with Ireland (Lee Munroe) and Brazil (Fabio Sasso).

If you’d like to prepare an article for this series, please contact us and we’ll discuss the details.

Ireland. The land of the leprechauns, green fields and Guinness. But what about the web industry in Ireland? There have been a host of interesting things happening both North and South of Ireland recently. Nicholas Felton talked in Belfast, Ze Frank talked in Dublin, FOWA came to Dublin for the first time and FOWD came to Belfast. Are all these high profile events an indication that there are exciting things happening throughout Ireland?

Irish Web Design: Destination Dublin

To give you an insight into some of the interesting stuff happening, I’ve interviewed several high profile Irish designers involved in the web industry and how they feel Ireland is making an impact on the rest of the world, along with a showcase of some of the more inspiring websites being produced.

State Of Things Link

Q: How do you feel the standard of web design throughout Ireland sits with the rest of the world, and how is it changing?

Alan O’Rourke2: I really felt 2-3 years ago that it was lagging way behind. There were a few really good designers you could count on one hand. But lately there are designers and sites springing out of nowhere with top class international standard portfolio sites and an amazing can-do attitude.

Around about the same time a brilliant grass roots community started building with a new openness and sharing of knowledge. Open coffees, Barcamps, and showcase sites all focusing on highlighting Irish talent. In terms of commercial design, photography and illustration I see Ireland being quite comfortably up there with the best in the world. However, it still has a way to go in terms of experimentation and more artistically driven websites.

Irish Web Design: The Blizzards

Eoghan McCabe3: Honestly, the standard of web design in Ireland is extraordinarily disappointing. Most people would rather not admit that and make an excuse: “there are great people out there, they’re just not known”, and so on. But the truth is that there are very few people, if any really, influencing web design on a global level from Ireland. You could make a list of 100 influential web designers from around the world, and not one of those would be Irish.

Why is this? We are a small country and maybe that makes a difference. But there are still plenty of web designers here. I think the problem stems from a general lack of global ambition; a lot of Irish designers, entrepreneurs and others strive for local victories only. But that’s another blog post!

The good news is that change is on the way. And it’s coming from the bottom up. It’s coming from the young guys that grew-up in a more confident, peaceful Ireland. And it’s coming from the underdog Universities like University of Ulster4 and their Interactive Multimedia Design course and, all things going to plan, a good Dublin college who will launch a Masters in emerging web technologies soon.

The Tap Map6

Ray Doyle: The standard of web design in Ireland has come a long way in the past 18 months. We are seeing some new, exciting work from talented Irish designers and developers. More so from the small independent Web studios than the big agencies, who I think are finding it hard to up-skill at the rate that is needed in this fast paced industry. Compared to the rest of the world, I think we are right up there. I feel the majority of the Irish companies are more cautious than, say, companies from New York or London. But with a little time, I think we can shift the mindset to be a bit more daring and forward thinking when it comes to creating engaging web experiences.

Sabrina Dent7: That’s a very complicated question actually. We have a pool of very talented designers here relative to our size, but we’re lacking the trickle-down effect of good aspirational design. To a large degree, people’s standards and expectations are influenced by what they’re exposed to everyday; in the Republic, we don’t have any outstanding broadcast sites like the BBC8, no top-notch newspaper sites like Rue 899, and no WhiteHouse.gov10 – pretty much every government website here is universally horrendous.

Having said that, I think the biggest change is in the clients. More clients are thinking bigger, and looking for higher-caliber design. I think that’s a really positive step forward.

Irish Web design: Glenilen Farm12

Web Standardistas (Christopher Murphy & Nicklas Persson)13: The island of Ireland is quickly establishing itself as a contender internationally. There’s a real energy emerging in Belfast which makes it very exciting to be working in this field, here, at this time. We’re thrilled to be helping to shape the industry as it grows from strength to strength.

Q: Is education in the web industry important in the web industry and do you feel there is adequate education available, both North & South, for developing professional world class designers?

Alan O’Rourke: Hmm, tough question as I didn’t study design in college myself. For an industry that moves and develops so quickly it must be difficult to build a course around it. Most of the institutions do it very well — judging by the quality of the graduates coming out. In this industry what is important is the ability of self learning. College is a great starting point, but then you need to start tracking the industry’s changing standards and techniques.

However, the business part of web design is not quite there. It does not seem to be covered well as so many designers get quite a shock and, unfortunately, some expensive mistakes are made when they start out in the real world. But then maybe it can’t be taught and you have to learn yourself the hard way.

White Noise Studios15

Eoghan McCabe: I don’t know if I could consider formal education a fundamental part of the solution, but it certainly plays an important role. For a start, if universities were to stop teaching old techniques and technologies, they might not hinder or turn-off those young students that would like to explore their creativity on the web. But in addition, forward-looking courses that can point passionate students in the right direction can really make a difference. One example of this is the mass of excited, talented people coming out of the previously mentioned University of Ulster course. A few of these guys will play a big part in web design over the next five years.

On top of this, grassroots initiatives like the Build conference will invigorate those that have lost their way and inspire a whole new generation of web designers. For this, Ireland cannot thank Andy McMillan16, the young, independent organiser of this event, enough. I don’t think even Andy understands the effect he will have on the Irish web industry and, as a result, the Irish economy, by bringing international heroes like Eric Meyer, Mark Boulton, Andy Budd, et al, to our shores. Andy also runs Refresh Belfast17 which is another example of a grassroots initiative that will make a great impact here.

Gareth Dickey19

Ray Doyle: Good question, let’s open a can of worms :). I personally feel that in the digital media industry experience is more important than education. I often ask myself would I’ve been a better man, designer, drinker if I had chosen the path of the student and not that of bedroom designer/HTML monkey on minimum wage. I like think to not, well, probably a better drinker.

The main reason I opted for the experience route and not education was the lack of good facilities in Southern Ireland at the time and, based on some of the student portfolios I have seen recently, this is still the case. What we are lacking is an institute dedicated to shaping young talented individuals into digital media hot shots. What we need is our very own “Hyper Island20“.

Winston Binch of Crispin Porter + Bogusky sums it up perfectly “Our Industry desperately needs more schools that specialize in creating and developing digital talent at the level and capacity of Hyper Island”.

Web Standardistas22

Sabrina Dent: I’m probably biased because when I started doing what I do, there was no formal education available — no certifications, and certainly no degrees. I’m one of those people who believes that good design skill is innate; you can learn everything there is to be taught about user interface design, CSS and XHTML and still not be a good web designer. I’d always choose a good portfolio over a good degree.

There’s a lot of value to being self-taught, not least of which is that you develop the ability to self-teach. Standards and trends in this industry evolve dramatically; tables shift to CSS, ASP shifts to PHP, soulless stock photos shift to quirky illustration, and suddenly everyone wants Ajax for everything. You have to be able to learn new skills as you go along — you’re not going to be in a classroom for the Next Big Thing.

Web Standardistas: As educators, we passionately believe in the importance of establishing a strong foundation on which aspiring professionals can build. We’re constantly refreshing our teaching materials and building upon the solid foundations we have established on our existing courses to offer new programmes tailored to this field. Watch this space.

Brown Bag Films24</em

Q: Do you feel it is important for designers (and front end coders) to have working knowledge of development (back end coding) and to what extent?

Alan O’Rourke: Yes, very. I know it had a positive effect on my design after spending a year in a company of developers. It gives you insight into how your design will function, what is required to make it work (or better ways to do it), and how you communicate your design to a developer. I don’t know syntax or functions and ‘object orientated’ twists my noodle but I know what is possible, what is not, and what is just expensive to build.

Eoghan McCabe: I believe in experts with common sense and a healthy appreciation for what their peers do. I have a Computer Science background and I love to try to understand what the developers in Contrast do for our apps. That doesn’t mean I ever could do their work, but it does mean that I can excel at mine in the context of what they need from me.

Beautiful things happen when you throw a bunch of passionate experts in a room together and let them learn from and help each other to achieve a common goal. I always seek feedback on my design work from everyone in the company, no matter what they do, because there’s always insight to be gleaned from different perspectives. Likewise, I love to brainstorm technical solutions with the other guys before they get to work with the code.


Ray Doyle: Definitely, it’s vital for a web designer to know and understand the limitations of web design. I have seen developers cringe when they are handed a design to code up that’s been put together by a print designer. It’s quite funny to see them flip out. Any serious web designer should have a basic knowledge of CSS/XHTML.

Sabrina Dent: It is certainly a bonus. When you’re developing a front end UI, it’s nice if you know which calls to the database are cheap and which are spendy, for example, or how to avoid little design features that are just not worth their weight in development overhead. But as long as you’re open to feedback from the team actually coding on the ground, it isn’t necessary.

Web Standardistas: We feel it’s absolutely critical for designers to have a working knowledge of development principles. The recent debate between Lukas Mathis27 and Mike Rundell28 goes to the heart of the matter. Their posts, Designers Are Not Programmers29 and Designers Who Are Technical: The More You Know, The Better Your Work30, respectively, offer a comprehensive and well-reasoned look at this topic. In the words of Mr. Rundle, “Designers Don’t Just Make The Pretty.”


If I was to offer you a pint, what would you go for?

Alan O’Rourke: Any Laager is fine for me.

Eoghan McCabe: I’d give it the whole “oh… what do they have” thing and then settle on a Guinness when the disappointment sets in. But in a perfect world, it would be a Brooklyn Pilsner, a Vedett, a Sierra Nevada IPA or a Galway Hooker.

Ray Doyle: Is it your round? I would have to go for JD instead of the pint.

Sabrina Dent: A pint of Coke with ice. I know, it’s dreadfully boring, but I try to make up for it by being entertaining company.

Web Standardistas: That depends on where we are. Right now we’re in Berlin enjoying a couple of Erdingers. A firm favourite in Sweden would be Norrlands Guld. When in Hong Kong, it would have to be Tsingtao.

What’s going on in Ireland? Link

There are a host of upcoming events happening in Ireland in the near future. As previously mentioned, Build will be happening Thursday 5th November 2009 and featuring the likes of Eric Meyer, Andy Budd, Mark Boulton and co. Renowned designer Elliot Jay Stocks33 will be talking at the University of Ulster Thursday 3rd December 2009 (a Web Standardistas34 event).

The first Refresh Dublin will be held on Thursday October 29th 2009 and will feature speakers including Sabrina Dent. Run by Niamh Redmond, Refresh Dublin is an event that promotes design, technology, usability, and standards.

For information on other upcoming web-related events, check out Digital Media Island35 and Digital Circle.

Showcase of beautiful web design from Ireland Link









Living Lyric40


Amanda Holden42


paper jam44


The Ability Awards


Dublin Espanol46


The Exception48


Country Kitchens Bakery50


Rob Hearne






Sponsor Lee54




Dead Good Design Agency56


Mark Wallis58




John Hayes Film60




Totally Dublin64


next bus


Gift Genies66


Discover Craigavon68


Stanley Kubrick: Taming Light70


Oliver Jeffers72


pixelcraft design studio74


Jordan Moore76




The Menace78


Abbey Theatre


Design Innovation




Plan Ireland80




Mr Brian Burns




The Good Little Company84


Luv That Design


The Creative District


Strange Victory86


The Peoples Forest








BBC Irish92


The Harper Organisation




U Music96


Organic Supermarket98




What do you think? Link

What do you think of the Irish web industry? Are there any exceptional sites that haven’t been covered? Share your thoughts.

Stay Tuned and Get in Touch! Link

This article is the second of our new series “Global Web Design“. Over the next months we’ll be covering various continents, featuring web developers and web designs from different countries of the world and taking a close look of what is happening in the web design scene worldwide. We started last week with Russian web design1021. We’ll continue next with Brazil (Fabio Sasso).

If you’d like to prepare an article for this series, please contact us and we’ll discuss the details.

About the author Link

Lee Munroe103 is a web designer from Belfast Northern Ireland who runs an Irish web design gallery and a user review site for Northern Ireland104. You can follow him on Twitter105.

Footnotes Link

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Lee Munroe is a web developer and creator of based in San Francisco.

  1. 1

    An excellent show all around as usual. Some talented designers I need to look into :P

    My favorites so far are: nopostie and Sponsor Lee.

  2. 2

    I wonder how the vertical nosedive the Irish economy is in, is effecting the web industry, especially with rumours of some of big IT guns jumping ship to other countries, Dell, Apple etc.

    • 3

      Apple and Dell have their own countries?

    • 5

      I work for a small agency in the center of Dublin and we are totally swamped. I’ve spoken to another few guys at different agencies and they say the same. So right now, doin’ not too bad at all!

  3. 6

    I love these regions based showcases ! It’s a really good idea. Keep it on !

  4. 7

    Great selection, perhaps missing some great designers. But cant complain, you are showing a few of mine. Mind you, there is an error: above THE EXCEPTION, the green site is it has no title and the link is wrong!! And take the chance to visit will ya? ;)

  5. 8

    Some great looking designs, but can never understand how rip offs and sites with cross browser compatibility make it onto these lists…

  6. 9

    Great article, some nice websites!

  7. 10

    what a refreshing list! i particularly like the use of asymmetry in many of the designs. i am getting so tired of seeing the same grids everywhere i look, as if everyone in the u.s. is lazily using the same css frameworks. although i see them used in this showcase to some extent, their implementation is more thoughtful.

    bravo to irish designers!

  8. 11

    “Hello, I’m a website… please click my buttons gently”

    LOL that made my day, there are many many cool designers and suberb web graphics.

  9. 12

    Some great designs there, but there are a few of them are that are pretty unoriginal too.

  10. 13

    I really like the regional design showcases. I didn’t really see anything that made me go “wow, that’s something I’ve never seen.” I guess I did see green used in ways I’d not seen before :)

  11. 14

    Fascinating article! This series had me hooked from the start, keep it up :)

  12. 15

    Russia vs Ireland – holywar?:)

  13. 16

    Great article. Waiting for Italy… and for my book! ‘cmon guys!

  14. 17

    Im disapointed that rehab studio is nowhere to be found on this article. only last month rehab studio won an FWA award for the work on Doritos ID3, ( developed and partially designed in Belfast! also named Invest NI’s fastest growing company just last month… the company does work for some of the biggest brands in the world..

    check it out at and tell me you think its wrong that rehabstudio wasnt included…

  15. 18

    I am not impressed!!!
    PS. “Hello, I’m a website… please click my buttons gently” was at least funny.

  16. 19

    move on to glocal comprehensions! :)

  17. 20

    Miroslav Nikolov

    October 23, 2009 11:55 am

    Definitely like them :)

  18. 21

    At Sabrina Dent as manager of the NICS web team I take offence at your remark that government sites are
    horrendous. My team have produced and I think both could easily be showcased here. Granted legacy sites (which we didn’t design) are poor but we are knocking out some
    excellent work.

  19. 22

    Christina Lannen

    October 23, 2009 12:10 pm

    I love the Organic Supermarket and The Peoples Forest.

  20. 23

    Living away from home, it’s nice to finally see a showcase of Irish design. I’d like to see an article about Irish graphic designers or illustrators. There has to be plenty to choose from! I agree with Alan O Rourke about the lack of experimental sites. I think you only see these sites only really with either personal or high-end studios.

    Anyone care to recommend an Irish design community other that


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