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My career plan since the age of 5 was simple: rock stardom. As it turns out, life does not always accommodate such a seemingly simple goal.

Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

My career plan since the age of 5 was simple: rock stardom. As it turns out, life does not always accommodate such a seemingly simple goal. I turned to a small visual arts school for comfort—drumsticks in my back pocket—and found a new outlet for creative expression; graphic design. 

I started working for a small graphic design studio in 1997 where I developed a passion for typography and interactive design. I spent 10 years working as a freelance graphic designer and art director, focusing primarily on interactive projects; web sites and application UI design. Somewhere between the beginning and the present, I spent a few years as a Creative Director for an ad agency. 

Two years ago I found my dream job working as Art Director and Lead Interaction Designer for Second Story. I'm honored to work with such an incredibly talented group of people on a wide range of imaginative and innovative projects.

What do you do for inspiration?

A few things; 1) I have an ever-growing stack of inspirational images that I flip through often; everything from design, art and photography to medical imaging, 2) My co-workers at Second Story have wealth of great ideas and unique perspectives that I find very inspiring, 3) Go outside. I'm most inspired by the natural world.

Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

cnn.com, google.com, graphic-exchange.com

What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

My wife and I have two reasonably well-mannered boys. I have not experienced anything more challenging and rewarding than being a father.

How many hours do you work each week?

42.5

How do you relax or unwind?

Go outside. I have a passion for the great outdoors and there is no better city in the world to live than Portland Oregon for nearby outdoor adventure; surf, skate, snow, hike, etc. It's all here.

If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?

I would be a photographer. It's the perfect blend of analog and digital creative expression. I also fantasize about working as a mountain rescuer and a studio drummer.

What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?

My favorite aspects of working for Second Story are the collaborative environment and the wide-range of fascinating projects; I spent my first year at Second Story learning about the scientific data behind global warming, the history of computers, everything related to the University of Oregon and Mount St Helens

Second Story's projects are content intensive and technologically innovative. This leads to many visual design and user interface challenges.

When I get stuck, I either discuss the issue with other team members, work on something else for awhile or get out of the studio. I've found the best solutions come to me on my drive home after work.

If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?

Early on in my career, I had the opportunity to work closely with a fantastic creative director, Marne Zafar. She had been a creative director at Vogue and Redbook prior to my meeting her. Working with her instilled in me a passion for typography and minimalism. She trusted me to work on projects for which I was not qualified and mentored me with great patience.

What software could you not live without?

Photoshop. It can do everything. I imagine, one day, I will be able make breakfast with it.

What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?

My first web site was an online portfolio for the graphic design studio I worked for in 1997. It was 600px wide, had a splash page with a useless animated gif and made extensive use of nested tables—I made an artform out of nesting tables. The site is no longer online.

Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?

Spend time with my family, sleep and get outdoors (away from technology) as often as possible.

The web is getting out of the web. Do you find that thinking in digital solutions alone hinders you? Do you feel the urge to solve the problem using all mediums necessary?

Definitely. While Second Story's strength is and has been in digital media we are currently exploring and using all mediums necessary to tell engaging stories.

What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?

From my perspective, being a designer is much like being a musician. Whether or not a musician can engage an audience is not necessarily based on their knowledge of music theory and history. It's based on the ability to channel emotion, experiences and stories through their instrument and/or voice.

Technically speaking, I attended an art school. However, I spent a very short amount of time there (9 months) only learning how to use the tools of the trade; Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark Xpress and Adobe Page Mill—yes, I said Page Mill. Everything else I learned on the job and via my own passion for the work.

How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?

It's currently my most difficult task. Second Story is constantly on the look out for designers with a unique combination of skills; excellent visual design, experience with a wide variety of digital media, passion for storytelling and a willingness to work on projects spanning several years. On top of all that, we need designers who enjoy collaborating with people; other designers, content creators, programmers and producers.

What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?

Sweden. Democratic design will always be innovative in my book.

There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?

Anything for the Mount St Helens Institute. Check.

What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?

Second Story will continue to push the envelope of interactive storytelling by blurring the line between physical and digital experiences. A recent project we completed for the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, GA is a good example.

What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?

A new bike for my son.

It has been a privilege, thanks very much

Thank you.


Links

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Chris DeWan
Chris DeWan

An immersive media experience at the World of Coca-cola, Atlanta, GA.
An immersive media experience at the World of Coca-cola, Atlanta, GA.

Interactive installations at the University of Oregon Alumni Center, Eugene, OR.
Interactive installations at the University of Oregon Alumni Center, Eugene, OR.

Touchscreen kiosk at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, Mount St. Helens National Monument, WA.
Touchscreen kiosk at the Johnston Ridge Observatory, Mount St. Helens National Monument, WA.

Vault of the Secret Formula at the World of Coca-Cola

University of Oregon Ford Alumni Center

The studio.
The studio.

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