..inspiration sometimes comes in a dream, I see complete designs in my dreams and find myself getting on the computer at 3AM to sketch out a rough design of what I can remember!!
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
At the ripe old age of 23! I formed a new media company called Twilomedia, this soon became Theory7. My 0bjective was to build cutting edge sites, stuff that hasn't been done before, like www.guinnessrecords.com and push the flash community forward by introducing concepts like selling the entire source code to our site www.theory7.com, a resource that I really could have done with three years ago!!
What do you do for inspiration?
This is always a tricky one, inspiration sometimes comes in a dream, I see complete designs in my dreams and find myself getting on the computer at 3AM to skech out a rough design of what I can remember!!
When starting designs, whether in flash or 3D, I often just draw a square or circle, look at it for a while and then develop a concept from there. You can’t learn new ideas in a book, you just have to do what works for you.
More conventional methods include browsing flash sites (as this is part of my target audience, I like my designs to appeal to the flash community). Another good inspiration for interface design especially, can be found from looking at the equipment lying around the office, our Sony digital cameras have great button layouts and the front panels of the pro-logic amp and VCR all provide neat layouts for interface design.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
www.flashkit.com is an invaluable resource, a big part of our business revolves around providing a service to the flash community and flashkit reflects the current flash trends. www.ultrashock.com backs up flashkit as a flash resource. Another regular stop is www.propellerheads.se, a resource for my favourite music software "Reason".
What software couldn’t you live without?
I would have to say Flash, not because it is my main tool, but because I need flash to combine all of the software that I do use, some of which include 3D Studio Max 4.2 + the Swift 3D Plugin, Photoshop, Premiere and Reason/Sound Forge for music and Sound FX.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
Although the Guinness World Records site was a great achievement in terms of flash and XML integration, personally my biggest achievement would be the success of the "Theory7 Source Code" product.
Selling the entire source code to a full commercial flash site had never been done before and its success and failure was totally dependant on the flash community and their reaction to it. As expected the more advanced flash developers just said "what’s the point", but the newbies saw it as heaven sent. It is something that would have helped me a great deal when I first started out.
Three years ago the attitude was very much "keep your tricks secret and you will stay on top". I don’t believe this to be the case, you will not remain on top by keeping your knowledge to yourself.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
I am currently in the process of developing V.7 of the theory7 site, which is going to be aimed heavily at providing a resource for the flash community.
As far as commercial projects go I am about to start on a huge flash project, unfortunately I am not allowed to talk about it, sorry!
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
A difficult question to answer, the top design companies, in my opinion, are unknowns in the flash world and have mainly grown out of the marketing industry, but to answer the question in terms of the online flash industry my favourites would have to be www.2Advanced.com, Dennis Interactive and www.fantasy-interactive.com.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
When new designs are launched traffic increases by about 30 times the normal daily amount, it then drops, but to a higher level than before the new design was launched.
Who is your target audience?
There are two sides to Theory7, one is the flash resource aspect of the company for which the target audience is primarily the flash design community. The other side to Theory7 is the traditional "new media" aspect, primarily web based and aimed mainly at entertainment companies or companies that I feel would be fun to work with, we try to avoid corporates, banks, insurance, etc, as they often avoid being creative in their projects.
What area of web design lacks the most?
The attitude towards flash as a complete solution for a website is what I find most frustrating, people seem to think that anything more complex than a simple presentation site will need to be done using something other than just flash.
Trying to convince companies to commit to a 100% flash site can prove difficult. We took this approach with Guinness and succeeded.
Surfing a website was never meant to be a frustrating experience, where the majority of your time is spent looking at a blank white page while the page refreshes with new content, flash solves this problem, so why not embrace the solution!
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
Although the flash was primitive my very first site was actually pretty cool, not because I was any good at web design or flash, but because I was able to use my previous 2 years experience in 3D to aid the final outcome. You can check it out in the clients’ section of our site by clicking on "Twilomedia Version 1" link.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
Not as yet, but I would like to create a trick book, hundreds of short tricks in flash, 3D, photoshop, even how to FTP, etc it would be a useful bible for the newbie web designer.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash?
Probably building V.6 of the theory7 site. On building this site I wanted the code to be as optimised as I could possibly get it, for example the navigation system is controlled by a single button script, the system works out which section to load/disk to drag, etc based on a single number allocated to the button.
These methods along with extensive use of functions made the code very efficient and gave me many headaches! I’m not a programmer by heart so for me this was an achievement.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
I don’t think that Macromedia would ever be foolish enough to kill off one of their most successful products, so in one form or another I think flash will stick around.
There will probably be plenty of rivals creating better vector based software in the future but I think it’s a bit like the Windows situation, there are better operating systems around, but that doesn’t mean that they will take over from Windows.
Its user base is just too big, but then you never know with the web, I guess we will see.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
The most important thing that I learnt from University was the importance of gaining an understanding and appreciation for all types of media and the strength this would give me in later years. For example I was taught the basics of video editing, 3D modelling, web design, 2d design, programming, sound editing, etc, etc, just enough to get me started.
After Uni this grounding proved invaluable. I think it’s definitely possible to get into this industry without educational training, but without studying at Uni I don’t think I would know the range of software that I do today. I would most likely just be really good at flash and have nothing to back it up!
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
Theory7 has been lucky through its popularity in the flash community to have clients come directly to us, so I guess in that sense the most important thing was having a website that people would be inspired by and talk about.
What is the most expensive thing you’ve bought in the last week?
Actually it was a couple of weeks ago but I just bought a Canon Eos 10D and lenses for about $3000, it takes damn good pictures though :)
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
I learned a basic set of multimedia skills, ie 2D, 3D, video, programming, etc at university.
When I graduated flash was just taking off and upon seeing its capabilities I set my sites on learning this software in my spare time. 6 months later I had my first web design job and 6 months after that I started my own company.
If you have the passion to learn all you need is a cheap PC and a couple of books on flash. The best advice that I can give is to avoid learning flash and flash alone.
If you want to be a great designer you must learn the very basics of 3D, video editing and 2D. It is also important to know how your PC works and how to properly handle files in Windows. The next time you upgrade your PC have a go at doing it yourself.
Another simple tip when building your first project, make multiple copies of your main file, for example name you flash file main1.fla, then after every significant change save a new copy called main2.fla, by the time your finish you may have up to 50 copies, but trust me it may save you when things go wrong.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
Don’t buy expensive clothes because as soon as you wear them out some idiot burns a cigarette hole in the sleeve!! Visit Bangkok and you can by a lovely Diesel shirt for £3.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Don’t be knocked back by harsh criticism, just take on board the constructive stuff and ignore the rest, that’s the only way you will progress.
Don’t listen to people in the flash community who seem to think that something should be done a certain way, there are no rules, do what you want to do and you will be successful. Don’t let flash rule your life, there is plenty of time to build that site.
Take nice long holidays, believe me your mind will be much clearer when you return and your flash work never better.
It’s been a privilege, Nevil, thanks very much.
No worries, hope I’ve given some useful advice, cheers for the opportunity.