"Actually I literally dream of cool projects I would like to do when I'm asleep..."
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
Hi there, my name is Dries Schaballie. I'm partner and creative director at Sevenedge interactive media. Sevenedge is a small no-nonsense interactive agency in Belgium. You can also describe me as a digital artist and creative enthusiast, I spend most of my time on creative concept, design in Photoshop, working on animations (Flash / After Effects) and experimenting with 3D.
There are two main things I do for inspiration. First of all going outside and enjoy nature. Secondly studying other visual creations and movies. For example I really like the early work of movie director Ridley Scott. I can spend hours watching the behind the scenes of Blade Runner. Especially if you watch inside looks of older movies you really respect the evolution of how the creative process changed over the years. Sci-Fi movies inspire me especially because mostly it requires the designers to create a whole new non-existing world. When I watch behind the scenes I really get a creative boost, an imminent "urge" to create. So that's why we at Sevenedge try to release behind the scenes of some of our projects (www.sevenedge.be/makingof). It's a good way to share our creative enthusiasm.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
I'll list some of the less obvious like Google and Vimeo, but still sites that are among my favorites.
www.abduzeedo.com (great design/inspiration community)
www.ventilate.ca (always good design related info)
www.zombo.com (the most inspiring site since the birth of Flash. The only limit is yourself!)
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
My biggest achievement started in 2006 to the present day, when I teamed up with my business partner Frederiek Pascal and making Sevenedge together where it stands today. We are like two cogs running on a smooth well-oiled machine called Sevenedge. Because our skills are completely complementary we can both focus on what we really do well. Frederiek handles all the client relations, project and business management while I can keep a constant focus on the creative matters.
Spending time with friends and family is very important. I must admit sometimes when there's a tough project I get stuck in a "bubble" and just keep working and working until it’s perfect. On the downside you feel completely empty after a while. Thank goodness, I have a wonderful wife who supports me all the way. So my motto is: work hard & play hard!
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
Probably a creative job in another field, let's say... maybe as an art director on a fishing boat? Just kidding... I really don’t know!
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
The favourite: the feeling when you found a really good creative idea and the moment your Photoshop design is almost finished and looking like you imagined it. The hard part: last minute concept or design changes, clients who don't pay on time, crashing software, ...
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
Finding the right business partner is surely one of the most important turning points in my life, because not everyone in our industry has the same passion, enthusiasm and goals. Also, hiring the right people is a must. We at Sevenedge are like a small family. We play table soccer, ping pong and other "mind blowing" office sports together. It creates a strong bond.
What software could you not live without?
PhotoSoup, it tastes good with croutons.
How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?
About 4 to 8.
In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?
You should try Livebrush (www.livebrush.com)! I bought and used it to create some new canvas prints for our office. Livebrush is a paint tool based on the Flash drawing API, you can import your own vector brushes (.swf files). Fun to play with!
It's really important for me to keep experimenting with different design styles, programs and so on. Every now a then I work on a desktop wallpaper or a personal experiment design using these new techniques. You can find some of the wallpapers here (www.sevenedge.be/wallpapers).
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
Yes! We are now part of the FWA celebrity club with free booze and... Eh, no, but it feels like the crowning glory of our work. We are very proud to be listed among so many excellent companies and online projects. Winning has gained us more website traffic and more international inquiries.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
Flash 5 and Swift 3d experimental Dsdesign site (my personal site), it was kind of weird in a cool way. I released some sources on Flashkit 10 years ago. It's still there, go find it if you want to see it. :)
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
No, I never did. I would like to do some kind of graphic novel. For example, I love the artbook "Utherworlds" (ballisticpublishing.com/books/utherworlds) by Philip Straub. I love it when the designs itself tell a story and let imagination roam free.
My urge of keep experimenting, creating personal art and wallpapers have definitely given me a lot confidence and skills in working on client projects. So I would recommend this to every designer.
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
I think "websites" will be on our cereal boxes like in Minority Report... And the internet itself will be more evolving into a large artificial intelligence. Hmm, maybe not... That's a tough question, no one can really answer this so forgive my pour guesses.
Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?
The new Sevenedge site. I'm happy we found a way to keep it both commercial and experimental. We also tried to create some effects and looks that have never been done before.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
Haha, now you will laugh. Not really tough but very time consuming. I once spend a week creating XML co-ordinates for all the Belgian congregations, villages and towns and put them on a Flash map. I had to look it up in an atlas first and then translate it into Flash. It were about 3000 x and y co-ordinates.
There is perhaps a shift in web use these days. We are seeing a decline in the purely experiential sites in flash with huge production efforts, to a relationship with clients based on tools and services, that many times have simples interfaces. How do you see that trend developing? Will Flash suffer?
There will always be different sites for different audiences. While the days of full blown Flash sites are definitely over I don't see that as a bad thing. Online projects get more focused and targeted on the right goals accompanied with the right kind of design and interactivity.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
For me education was good for my personal development. I had been experimenting with Flash and Photoshop on my own. It was nice to find some kindred souls when I was studying. You can get into the field without educational experiences, but it will be harder. You'll have to start with less attractive projects like creating massive XML files ;) The best thing is to keep really focused and passionate about what you do. You’ll get where you want no matter what.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
Only submit if you feel it’s worth submitting. It really takes time to get good result. If I look at myself and compare my work now and two years ago, I already see a huge difference in production quality.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
Zapp brannigan's Nimbus, the most fearsome spacecraft in the galaxy.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
Having an experienced marketer as Frederiek by my side helped a lot. When we do a client proposal, we immediately try to overwhelm the client with designs and creative ideas that they are honestly charmed by our enthusiasm and skills.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
From a design point of view, try to be a master in Photoshop. Then advance to Flash, 3D and motion. Keep your main focus on Photoshop but branch out to other areas to broaden your view. Also, learn to work fast! Learn all the shortcuts, in this industry being able to put out good results at a fast pace is a gift from god, since all the deadlines are scheduled "yesterday".
Yes! Actually I literally dream of cool projects I would like to do when I'm asleep. I keep dreaming of a special kind of experience site and adventure game mixed into one seamless experience using all the latest technologies. I love it when you are able to create a special mysterious atmosphere, similar to the feeling when you play Myst for the first time, but in an online production. Maybe under the authority of a major game publisher? It would be a challenge to recreate a part of the gameplay of a PlayStation 3 game and translate it to the web as a special promo.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
The amazing ARdrone by Parrot! I bought it in France last week. It's really an impressive remote controlled quadricopter. It's quite a sight when it hovers around in our office, but my coworkers don’t trust my flying skills. They dive away when I hit the takeoff button.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Work hard, play hard!
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
It was a pleasure. Thank you Rob.