Everyone has some degree of design talent inside, but the path taken to find it is unique to the individual.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
For general design news, I've perused k10k every day for what feels like years - well before I started contributing content to their news feed in mid 2002. As for news and views about web standards, css and xhtml, Zeldman is always a very good read. For Flash MX related links and news, I always drop by FlashGuru for the latest dish.
What do you do for inspiration?
Sleep, long walks, music, and travelling whenever possible.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
Asking my wife, and best friend, to marry me.
What software couldn't you live without?
Flash obviously, but I also depend on BBEdit, Photoshop, Illustrator, and Peak just as much. I also shave quite a lot of time off my workflow by using lots of little OS X utilities and shareware apps, including LaunchBar, DragThing, Watson, and others.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
I guess it depends on the definition of "top," for there are lots of very successful, talented agencies that turn out splendid work - too many actually to mention by name.
As for companies I can directly point to that influenced my own work, Future Farmers would hold the top spot. Their work demonstrates a free-wheeling spirit, originality, and subtle social commentary that's all too lacking on the web.
To remind myself that God truly is in the details, I always enjoy the insanely tight, pixelled logic of Cuban Council.
Last but certainly not least are Hi-Res!, who are somehow able to persuade corporate clients to green light some of the most beguiling, beautiful web sites around.
What area of web design lacks the most?
Storytelling. There are plenty of slick, stylish web sites on the web, and even more weblogs with rich textual content of a personal nature, but there are very few exploratory, immersive, story-based sites. So much attention, and rightly so, has been paid to site speed and usability, but I wish there were more sites that truly took advantage of the one-on-one, often private environment of the web.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
These days I'm mainly working on the redesign of a web site for a very large client, which I can't say a whole lot more about other than it involves the coding of lots of CSS/XHTML templates, plus some really exciting Flash / ColdFusion / Flash Remoting applications. It's a big project, but I'm also juggling a couple of small business web sites, plus a Flash-driven product catalogue for an international company based here in Atlanta.
Who is your target audience?
Dominey Design was originally launched to be a fun, tongue-in-cheek user experience, and not at all a "professional," graphically conservative, b-to-b services style of site. I had originally planned to create a more buttoned-down experience in the hope of attracting more clients and web development projects, but to my surprise the site was actually more attractive to a number of clientele because it demonstrated - in their words - an original, fun, creative spirit.
Because I had put so much of my personality into the design, some clients felt closer to the person behind the work.
If anything, the post-launch results taught me that sometimes the clean, lean grids and crisp typography a lot of designers pine for aren't always best.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
Like everyone else, I would assume, new content always produces a huge spike in traffic, and sometimes a bunch of email. Then once a little time has passed, things quiet down, and I can get back to business once again.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
No, and according to authors I've spoken to, you really have to pen a blockbuster book in order to recoup the amount of time it takes to put together a quality product. The concept intrigues me, but for now, no.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
No. Dominey Design actually went through two, fairly complete static composites before being tossed for the work you current see, which was the maiden voyage.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Absolutely. But will Flash replace standard HTML? No way. Flash has many strengths over the relatively static experience of raw HTML, but should never be used for any site with lots of textual content. It is up to the designer to make the most logical choice of which tool to use for an optimum user experience, and not try to force a square peg into a round hole.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
Absolutely. I'm living proof.
That said, breaking into the field without a formal education does require a considerable amount of self-motivation and entrepreneurial energy. Everyone has some degree of design talent inside, but the path taken to find it is unique to the individual. Some designers require a structured classroom environment, while others (like myself) learn best through books, deconstructing other designers' work, and experimentation.
So no, attending graphic design school is not necessary if you honestly believe you have enough creative talent, technological savvy, and business acumen to succeed.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
Two things - creating a web site, and word-of-mouth.
The web site is a no-brainer, but is incredibly important because by it’s very existence a designer conveys their commitment to the trade. Even someone without any clients can get their career kick-started by creating experimental works for themselves and immediate circle of contacts.
Clients are ultimately attracted to raw talent and ideas. By experimenting, and expressing creative energy in a personal form, designers help draw attention to themselves. Lots of great web designers started off this way, with careers that ultimately to either a full-time position with a large media company or a rock-solid list of clients.
And of course, there's word-of-mouth. Don't jump into the business thinking you'll have Coke or Volkswagen beating down your door. Start small. Provide a service to a client (small local businesses are obvious targets), and then follow-through with requests for assistance finding other contacts they may have. If the job was a success, clients are usually eager to help-you-help-their-friends. Repeat enough times, and you'll eventually create a solid foundation of steady work.
What is the most expensive thing you've bought in the last week?
Flash MX 2004 Professional. Flash will probably retail for $1,000 bucks in a few years at the rate Macromedia is going with their pricing.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
Well, the toughest Flash-related task I ever learned was ActionScript - period. I come from a print design background, so wrapping my head around the logic of ActionScript - events, methods, actions, properties, etc. - plus the concept of a moving timeline, was quite difficult. I'm still not the best ActionScript coder in the world, but I can do enough to get by and bring my designs to life.
As for a working project, my Flash MX Turntable experiment was by far the most difficult. The project was really a personal way to learn and use the new event methods in Flash MX, so the project took longer to finish than intended. I was literally learning along the way. Time unfortunately wasn't on my side, and I wasn't able to totally complete my vision for what I wanted the app to do, but I think it was very well received.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
Learning Flash is truly a dual-brain experience. On the left, you have the programmatic side, which includes writing ActionScript. For that I followed the path most others do - lots of reading (especially Colin Moock's ActionScript: The Definitive Guide) and experimentation.
The right is far harder to teach, other than to encourage personal exploration, and to have the confidence to develop a style that doesn't look like everyone else. Start small - savor your successes - and grow.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
There is life beyond Helvetica Condensed. I promise.
It's been a privilege, Todd, thanks very much.