There is this battle going on between the habits that the couch potatoes are adapting and the promise of the future.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
I started Orgdot Ltd. together with Olaf Havnes in 1997. Prior to the birth of Orgdot, Olaf studied maths for ten years (university of Oslo) and and then he quit to write novels. After writing and publishing six novels (Aschehoug) he discovered the net and maths as a means of communication and got back into programming.
I studied painting and filmmaking in England and spent about 6 years, until the upstart of Orgdot, working freelance with print, architecture and scenography to finance personal projects and exhibitions. I got my first computer in 1985. Orgdot sort of just happened, - Me and Olaf took over a relatively large studio space in Oslo and we originally defined the space as an artist collective. As images started to appear on the net, we took a collective interest in the media and together started to produce small screen based experiments mainly written in java:
We have since worked in tight collaboration and produced a multitude of both commercial and non-commercial internet projects of an explorative nature.
Today Orgdot consists of six people (Gunnar Solheim, Carina Cosenza, Kevin Murphy, Per Heide apart from Olaf and myself) covering everything from back end programming to motion graphics.
We always work as a team as we realise that no individual can master all the aspects of contemporary web assembly of any scale.
What do you do for inspiration?
The studio and the discussions we have amongst each other and with our clients are a source of constant inspiration. For me it is also important to get out and about observing all the things that surround us, little and large; the gestures of people, the tragedies of the world or the mechanics of a ballpoint pen.
Anything really as long as it helps me to keep an open mind, a state of mind that my four year old daughter constantly advocates.
We also try to keep purely experimental and non-commercial projects running at the studio - hard to keep up but well worth it. Oslo is also a great place for sailing.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
Surviving, keeping a family together and having good friends. I am also really glad that Orgdot has become a personal project for more than just me and Olaf.
What software couldn't you live without?
A browser, a text editor - and then the whole list of amazing software: ai, psd, fla, 3ds, aep, qt, etc.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
After doing the netradio for the Norwegian Broadcasting corp (pc only), a year and a half ago, we realised the need to smarten up flash. None of our clients have the flash skills necessary to keep their flash sites dynamic and up to date. We wanted to make a content management system that would make it just as easy to publish into flash, with all it's mixed media possibilities, as it is to pay your bills or write an email.
One of the great qualities of flash is the freedom that it gives designers. Flash seems to encourage experimentation and alternative navigation in addition to add time as a structural element.
Ideally designers and artists should be able to communicate without having to make technological considerations at every crossroad.
The system is called Swfit and is a modular realtime publishing system for flash that we are about to package as a product for others than ourselves and our clients. A large part of the Swfit project is open source and some of the code may be found at:
Apart from doing a lot of design and development for Norwegian cultural institutions.
We are also trying to find partners for a few online game concepts. We believe that online gaming is the most interesting arena for pushing the social and technological boundaries of the internet - and finding new methods of creating public space.
Who is your target audience?
It depends entirely on the project. A project like the netradio is targeting every Norwegian in the world, but other projects, like www.trafo.no is targeting young creative people (making music, paintings, design, plays etc.) between 16 and 22 - estimated to represent about 5% of that age group.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
I think it is very difficult to identify someone as the top. A lot of companies make quite interesting sites for themselves but fail to transpose their creative guts and sensibility onto their clients and ending up playing it safe.
Hi-res!, for being truly innovative and not being tempted to copy themselves. (I still smile when thinking of their previous "pretty pictures" intro).
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
Yes, it's still down there in the dungeons of our server: www.orgdot.com/zindex.htm
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
About a year after the netradio was out we heard that about a third of the visitors to NRK were there to use the radio. Prior to the radio portal and player, there was practically no audience to hear streams available (the reason for making the service more visible/ available).
We haven't done many re-designs. Most of our projects have been created from scratch so it's hard to tell. These days we are getting quite a lot of traffic from the global design community on the jobs that we do. Unfortunately a lot of the jobs are done for Norwegian clients and are therefore in Norwegian. A site like Kharon4a is getting about 500 unique visitors a day.
What area of web design lacks the most?
Innovation. There is this battle going on between the habits that the couch potatoes are adapting and the promise of the future. We like to compare the current evolutionary stage of the internet with the stage of film when people were queuing up to see the "Train arrival..." by the Lumieres or 20 minutes with a boxing kangaroo.
The web has all the seductive potential that film has. It also has the aspect of architecture - a certain space to explore and conquer in your own pace, making the audience responsible for their own experiences. From just spectators to agents actively influencing the world they enter.
Too many people have grown accustomed to the "grammar" of html - reading from the top left to the bottom right, - making designers bow to the immature skills of the general audience. We need to encourage designers to apply their communication skills on a level that not only meet but also educates the general consumer. Only then may the net evolve into its full potential.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
As I mentioned earlier, Olaf has written and published 6 Novels (all in Norwegian unfortunately). We also did a book about the Norwegian artist Inghild Karlsen (preview at www.orgdot.com/ik/)
We haven't written any books about Orgdot, its deeds or our discoveries so far. It would be great to do one though - It could have chapters like; "The art of noise", "God is in the details", "Blur vs. pixel" and "The big mingle".
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Yes, at least for the foreseeable future i.e the next five years or so. We now see that a lot of major developers are starting to embed the player into their products.
Some mobile phones, Pda's and TVtop boxes can already play swfs. We are currently discussing a project with a Norwegian broadband vendor about making a TV top box interface in flash. Then again, we once thought that java was the platform for audience consumption.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
In my opinion the field is still so new and developing so quickly that everyone working in it has to be autodidactic to some level.
In Oslo they are having real trouble finding people who can teach these things on an advanced level. Most of the key players are busy developing their own skills. Formal training will give you a basic confidence in some aspects of this profession of ours, but you have to be prepared to enter a never-ending self-motivated learning cycle.
So, providing that you're disciplined enough, I don't really think that the educational experience or the school environment is a must. An internship with a progressive company that gives you real responsibility could be just as fruitful.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
Luck :) - Providing that you have some good stuff you can come a long way with a decent presentation of your work while you passionately talk about it. Passion goes a long way. I also think it's vitally important to convey that you're not another tailor of new clothes for the emperor.
There are still a lot of clients feeling a little uneasy with the media and they are often a little sceptical to young blood. If you do get under their skin, don't spoil the chance, there wont be a second one. Always remind yourself that it is a lot easier to sustain a return customer than to find a new one.
What is the most expensive thing you've bought in the last week?
A packet of cigarettes.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
Sharing the task of learning with the people you work with and using the net for all it's worth. The internet is an incredibly generous place. The only way to build a large flash project is if every movieclip takes care of itself (that way they become recyclable too).
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
It would definitely be Swfit - the flash publishing system of ours. I suppose it's a bit besides the point in this context, but it's a good example of the complexity that the integration of all necessary technologies creates. It´s run by a series of proprietary java servlets that enable sql databases to speak to a series of pure and functional fla modules that can be designed in any imaginable way (bulletinboards, interactive maps, chatrooms, slideshows etc.).
A recent example of this database integration is www.trafo.no/arena.htm where anyone can create a user account and publish their work into flash, it's all automatic. When we developed www.kharon4a.com the writer administered all the texts from his home in Hamar. Absolutely all of the text in Kharon, animated or not, is located externally and can be easily altered (into English for example).
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
Noh, I got this big black wool thing in Prague last autumn and have been using it since. We are doing some intranet stuff for Levi's in Norway at the moment so maybe the label situation will change. :)
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Beg, borrow and steal, but in the end, do it with a twist and make it interesting for yourself.
It's been a privilege, Stein, thank you!
Not at all, thank you - we think your project is excellent!