Immaturity of the internet audience is still an unavoidable problem. As we build sites that are super-simple to use, we are hitting the limits of creativity, which can be frustrating for designers.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
David Skokna has brought strategic and creative leadership to high-profile internet projects for over seven years, successfully partnering with clients such as Gateway Computers, Mitsubishi Automobiles, Bank One, MTV Online, Snapple, Tanqueray, Seagram's, and Lenscrafter's.
Prior to co-founding HUGE, he was lead creative of Deutsch Advertising's successful interactive group, responsible for both user experience and the application of Internet technologies.
David also held senior creative posts at Bates Advertising. His efforts in online shopping and the creative application of Internet technologies have won recognition from Communication Arts, AdTech, The One Club Awards, and The International ANDY Awards, among others.
Initially he studied Industrial Design before moving to visual/communication design. When the web was starting, around 94, he switched both his major and his school. He moved to NYC and entered Cooper Union where he had the privilege to study with Paul Rand, Milton Glaser, Dan Friedman, Mirko Ilic, and others.
At that time, there weren't many trained designers around doing interactive, so he was totally lucky to be at the right place at the right time. He had the opportunity to design early versions of MTV.COM, Gateway, Snapple, etc. From there, his client list grew naturally. His last job before opening his own agency was as lead creative for a large advertising firm -- Deutsch in NYC.
"Opening HUGE was amazing; it has really met all my expectations. Lots of headaches, growing pains, and chaos to be sure, but so rewarding you don't have to compromise. It pretty much gave me the ability to choose clients, show the work I am proud of and feel the direct rewards from building great relationships with our clients."
What do you do for inspiration?
When the project comes along we figure out what the main problem is and we start from there. Once we're clear about that, inspiration usually finds us.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
What software couldn't you live without?
Actually, none -- I truly believe software is not very relevant to the creative process, and that's probably why I'm not attached to any particular product.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
We are just starting with a total re-design of www.ikea.com , both strategy and design, a gigantic, exciting project.
We're also wrapping up an overhaul of branding for style.com, vogue.com and Wmagazine.com, which will include a whole new identity package. Our site for ibrooklyn.com (a very large site for Brooklyn chamber of commerce) will launch soon.
And there are a bunch of sites that will launch this fall that all fall under the "entertainment" label.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
Having the ability to do exactly the kind of work I love.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
Traffic seems to increase dramatically after our designs go live, but we focus more on what our clients are achieving with that traffic than on the raw numbers.
We always set up some clearly defined measures of success with our clients before launch, and the goals tend to be things like sales, conversions, or brand awareness, as opposed to raw hits.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
I prefer the work of the smarter ad agencies. If you look at work produced by Chiat Day over the decades, the stuff that Fallon does and certain things by Ogilvy, it's absolutely fantastic. I admire their ability to launch creative work on a grand scale. To bring great work to the masses, without compromising or getting stuck in an approval-by-committee process is extremely tough. I respect companies that can pull that off repeatedly.
Who is your target audience?
That totally varies depending on the client. We don't have a particular design style or recurring signature that was developed with any one group in mind. For instance, with IKEA we are designing for a massive, culturally and technologically diverse global audience across 30 markets worldwide. So accessibility and sensitivity to cross-cultural issues became critical there.
On ibrooklyn, we were addressing very specific, narrow local issues that are of interest to Brooklyn businesses. When you take a results-oriented, conceptual approach to your clients' design needs, you realize that their users are very different.
So you wind up with a different style for each client.
What area of web design lacks the most?
Immaturity of the internet audience is still an unavoidable problem. As we build sites that are super-simple to use, we are hitting the limits of creativity, which can be frustrating for designers. It would be great to design for an audience that is mature enough, for example, to make a distinction between browser and content.
So finding a way to provide inexperienced users with high ease-of-use remains a central problem.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
No tables, no frames, no animation. It's been dead for almost 8 years now.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
We are currently working on a kind of art book, but it's an informal project.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Vector driven pages will stay. Probably something will replace Flash as a plug-in someday, but I don't see any chance of an immediate death.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
We choose a technology that suits our project and clients needs. Flash had lots of issues with breaking the back button and the rest of hypertext model, not to mention with other basics such as printing and security.
So we pretty much stayed with regular, plain html for our larger clients, especially where transactions were involved. There is still a valid fear on the client side about large flash projects. They can turn into very complex, hard to manage and expensive headaches.
So my basic advice is to start with the basics of user interface look at people using your sites and then figure out how to build your projects. Very often flash is only a part of the answer.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Go outside, have fun.
It's been a privilege, David, thanks very much.
My pleasure. cheers.