It is very easy to come up with a crazy interface that is brilliant in its abstraction, but if I sit my mom down in front of it and she just scratches her head, then I have designed something for designers.

  Please give us a brief bio of yourselves.

Ken: Ken Martin, 25 years young, born in the central CA town of Hanford, went to college in northern CA, and now live in southern CI have been involved in computers and art since the early days of Texas Instruments and Atari 800s.

I started a signage company in high school, SignWorks, using CorelDraw and a Roland CAMM-1 plotter to develop commercial signage. When I left for college, it was still going strong so I sold it to my parents and they have elevated to a full-fledged monopoly. I was just happy I didn’t have to flip burgers during high school.

Having gone through the whole dot-com boom, and running a company with my partners with up to 60 employees at one point, I feel I have learned a lot. And that business experience is just one ingredient to my many interests that inspire my work/style.

Ivan: My name is Ivan Todorov, 25, born in Prague, Czech Republic, Bulgarian national. As a child, I had the unique opportunity to visit many places around the word, including Japan and almost all of Europe. I graduated Cogswell College at 20 with a BA in Computer Video Imaging (3D Animation with concentration in character animation). I'm happily married, play tennis and go to raves from time to time.

  What do you do for inspiration?

Ken: I have had a wide range of different experiences with different design platforms over many sleepless nights. From designing logos and commercial signage, to my 3D focus from college and 2D animation, programming a kiosk program for BestBuy in Lingo, and now game design and development, over the course of these projects I have been able to build up working knowledge of a lot of different ways of going about creating a new look, and that is probably my biggest strength.

Or it could have been my rollerblading head injury that wired me different but I would like to think it wasn't. :)

Ivan: My multi-cultural background has taught me to look and appreciate beauty in many different places & cultures. Anime movies are a great source of inspiration. Spirited Away and Ghost in the Shell are my favorites. I often look in art books at the book store or browse on-line. Nature is always a good source for the familiar.

  Please list 3 of your favorite sites.

Ken: Would like to say I cruise a lot of design sites, and I do when I need to refresh myself on the latest and greatest, but I am a newshound and gadget junkie, so I bounce between CNN, MSNBC, UK Times, and Buy.com.

Ivan: To get my daily CG dose, I visit: cgchannel. For interactive design updates I visit linkdup, coolhomepages and FWA site.

  What projects do you have in the pipeline?

Ken: New GE project, couple game websites, and a ton of Flash and Shockwave games.

We are also developing our first full-fledged independent game release for PC/Mac. This could potentially be a big portion of our future and we are all very excited about it.

Ivan: The above, and to be more specific, we'll be rolling out Godzilla and 4 horsemen game websites in the near future.

  What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

Ken: The biggest achievement which I share with my partners, is the success overall of our business. We have been through great and tough market conditions, investors, relocating the entire company down to southern CA, televised specials on us on TechTVs Internet Tonight and KTL

We have always got to work on the types of projects that we strived for and now are very fortunate to have arrived into what we have always wanted to focus on solely, broadband-oriented content and game production. And we are very grateful to our clients for that.

Ivan: I first came to the US as an exchange student, 15, with limited cash, which I used to purchase a P90 PC. My dream was to graduate high school in AZ, complete college in CA, get a job. Since then I have been presented with many opportunities, which have turned out great, and I've made really good friends with whom I'm in business with.

  What area of web design lacks the most?

Ken: Well it's not that it is lacking, but more on its way. We have always been the biggest advocates of complete sensory development from highly interactive animations to custom scored soundtracks.

Basically it boils down to that a site or a game requires human interaction, period. And because the human race mostly has spent their time interacting with the real world, how can we best redevelop and innovate digital interaction based on what people are comfortable with.

It is very easy to come up with a crazy interface that is brilliant in its abstraction, but if I sit my mom down in front of it and she just scratches her head, then I have designed something for designers.

Ivan: Ditto.

  What software couldn't you live without?

Ken: The essentials: Microsoft Word: I am almost in it more than design software.

Flash MX: My utility belt! Logo design, game dev. wireframes, 2D animation, character designs, storyboards, AfterFX content.

Photoshop: Initial web design comps always in Photoshop first. Then after I have created this impossibly compatible design with 100+ unnamed layers, then I figure out how I am going to get that out of Flash.

AfterFX: Used for sneaky effects for websites and the occasional video motion graphics project.

Ivan: Open all day long: Outlook. Design tools: Photoshop & Flash. My college background in 3D animation makes me always have a 3D app installed on my machine. The truth is I rarely get to touch 3D these days. Business apps I mainly use are MS Office and MS Project.

  Who is your target audience?

Ken: Our clientele are leading-edge companies and up and coming firms that want to break a current mould or norm of design and communication.

So inevitably their target audience becomes ours and we research how they are best engaged, informed and entertained.

  Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?

Ken: Too difficult to answer, there are leading design firms for a lot of different types of design, games, sites, motion graphics. Plus it seems like there are a ton of design firms that are doing great work, I just don’t view any firm out there being so special, including ourselves, to be called the top design firm of everything design. And then there is the whole problem of what is great design, is it design that pleases other designers or pleases the mass markets?

Ivan: That's a very hard question. I really like many design aspects of WDDG, 3 Ring Circus and 2A

  What effect on traffic do your new designs have?

Ken: Usually when clients come to us they are looking for something very high impact, so we have been able to focus mostly on the broadband market while still staying friendly to the narrowband audience.

Ivan: We pay special attention to optimizing and breaking up content into multiple files for best delivery on demand. Our overall style however calls for more bitmaps & better audio, which increases the filesize.

We've found that if the experience is good the user will wait the extra time.

  Do you think Flash is here to stay?

Ken: Yeah, I don't really see anything else that has had the track record or the possibility of something springing up and taking over overnight. It will really depend on how well Macromedia stays up with the functionality needed to develop compelling content with 3D and video for broadband and wireless markets.

Ivan: Yes, I do hope however for better audio, video and hopefully some day real 3D capabilities.

  What did your very first site look like?

Ken: It was a website for a Canadian Ford Dealership, I dont even remember the name of it, but it was while I was working at Autoweb.com.

Ivan: It was my personal 3D portfolio HTML site, hand-coded.

  What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?

Ken: You know I'm not sure, I can spend a week on one button animation sometimes. It just depends on how stubborn I am on making it unique.

Ivan: Delivering the GEImaginationAtWork.com website on time under a super tight schedule. This project was a real challenge and many thanks to the solid Blitz Team for pulling through.

  Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?

Ken: I have always been interested in writing a book but it just seems that the book market is flooded with design books that are glorified software manuals, just rehashing of the same info over and over again.

There are books out there with very helpful info here and there, but I just feel if I were to try to compile a book, it would need to stand out and serve a greater purpose.

There are already enough helpful books on software, I guess I would focus more on a Tips-n-Tricks type of publication.

  How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?

Ken: The biggest, BIGGEST thing to learn, after composition and typography skills of course, is fluid, realistic and non-intrusive motion. Design today has a heavy motion requirement and designers that aren't learning traditional animation principles and motion graphics skills are going to have a difficult time competing in today’s and the future design marketplace. Every action must have a reaction.

Ivan: Every pixel matters. Screen real estate is very expensive and I believe that every design element should have a purpose &/or function.

Organize and externalize your code into one place. Name your assets logically. Learn to write efficient functions. You'll find the extra time you spend organizing yourself, your code and your assets will pay off 10 fold in the end and you won't be frustrated having to copy/paste the same line of code in 100 places.

  What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you labels men?

Ken: I miss my HyperColor t-shirt.

Ivan: Not so much the clothes, but I like Anime scrolls and Lava Lamps surrounding me.

  Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

Ken: "Resolve to be a master of change rather than a victim of change." --Brian Tracy

Ivan: People always talk about how lucky someone else is. In reality however I believe the lucky person was just better prepared to take full advantage of presented opportunities.

When you work hard and constantly learn, the opportunities will come and it is up to you to make the best of them. Read design books from basics & techniques to books with case studies. There is so much useful information & strategy in books and so many things you haven't thought about. I'm a big fan of RockPort books.

Also learn typography. And last, laziness is your biggest enemy.

  It's been a privilege, Ken and Ivan, thanks very much.

No problem, thank you.

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