Sometimes something as simple as a math error can create the most wonderful effects.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
Well, from present to past, I am currently a partner at the Barbarian Group. I live in Cambridge Massachusetts. I have a toilet which runs all night. I drink way too much coffee.
Prior to TBG, I freelanced which got me in trouble with the IRS. I had a couple lack luster jobs as a .gif banner ad animator and production artist.
I graduated from RISD with a degree in sculpture at which point I decided to learn Photoshop and Flash in order to pay back my college loans. I grew up in North Carolina. I was born in an army hospital.
What do you do for inspiration?
Oddly, what inspires me the most is the work that is being done by brainiacs who may or may not have any design aesthetic whatsoever.
The stuff coming out of Benjamin Fry and Casey Reas (both of whom are very good designers as well as programmers) makes my toes curl.
One of my company mates has an outstanding and bulging left brain so I like to flesh out ideas with him because my right brain is often in need of company.
So in short, spending time with brilliant people inspires me like nothing else can.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
Currently, the following sites are my favorite, but I am a creature of short attention spans so tomorrow, all three of these sites might very well be replaced with porn and off-track-betting sites.
(Still learning the code structure so the resource material minimizes head scratching)
(These will never stop being funny to me)
(Nifty little site data archiving service. I love that it is free and seems to be a pet project)
What software couldn't you live without?
Mac OSX Jaguar.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
Unfortunately, all the pipeline stuff requires an NDA or at least an offering of some sort so I will only talk about flight404
I hope to flesh out the source code library so that every project I post has corresponding source code. I have learned an amazing amount from the shared goodness of others and it is high time I returned the favor.
Oh, and lots more 3D goodies. Finally getting into openGL and I like what I see.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
I think Method out of San Francisco is doing some amazing work. I am a huge fan of WDDG and the people they align themselves with. And finally, Hi-Res continually amazes me with their atypical approach to web design and animation.
What area of web design lacks the most?
I worry that too many people follow trends without taking the time to understand why they like them. With the new crop of designers coming into the game, I feel that too many disregard their own voice and turn to making versions of sites made by their favorite designers.
Who is your target audience?
With the new version of flight404, my target audience has shifted a bit. Version 5 was more of a potpourri, with experimental projects for those merely in search of new forms of eye-candy, and a journal for those wanting to do a little fiction reading. With version 6, I am shifting slowly towards those that are looking to push out of their flash shells and try something new.
I was a bit intimidated by Processing/Java at first because ActionScript was the only language I ever attempted to learn. I was quite pleased to see that coding in Java is not that different than ActionScript and the two were similar enough for me to make a relatively smooth transition.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
Hmm. My first site was probably an HTML portfolio site for the sculpture and ID projects I made at RISD. And no, they are no longer online. I am not good at archiving. I tend to think that once I take a site down, there is little reason to hold onto it. I don't save greeting cards and photo albums either. I like throwing stuff away. Makes me feel portable. I digress.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
No books with no intention for that to change. I am not a fan of prose. I leave that to more organized people. Maybe a design specific book with little to no text. The reason I gave up on version 5 of flight404 was simply because I was having too difficult a time writing new entries for the site.
Understandably, fiction and non-fiction are entirely different beasts, but both still intimidate me enough to not want to commit to a whole book or even a chapter.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it?
I imagine just making the transition from timeline-based movement to programmatic movement was the hardest part for me.
I spent so much time simply relying on scenes and the occasional gotoAndStop that trying to move into the world of ActionScript was a huge hurdle. But thanks to those like Natzke and Praystation who actively and openly offered up source code, the learning process became a little smoother.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
I think that Flash will be around for a while. I make no predictions about its shelf life. However, I now know I prefer to use Processing for my experimental projects simply because of the faster FPS and the use of openGL-based 3D environment.
I don't see Flash getting to the point where it can handle tens of thousands of individually moving 0bjects in a three dimensional space. That simply isn't what it was built for. But now that I have bitten off the Processing apple, I don't see my interests returning to Flash any time soon.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
My parole officer forbids me from purchasing or wearing overcoats because of the unfortunate incident at the old folks home. How was I to know she had a weak ticker. It didn't say anything on her chart about her being 'overly-sensitive to exposed genitalia'.
It wasn't my fault. If someone should be blamed, it should be those bastards at London Fog for making such a smooth lining which begs to touch the flesh of my naughty parts.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
Open source. For those who have similar background as me (no formal programming training), I recommend the following process:
1. find source code for a really simple project.
2. rewrite the source code, rename the variables.
4. expand. Try adding new variables and new behaviours.
5. repeat step 4 over and over and over.
6. stand back and see what you accomplished.
I think the key for 'newbies' is that many of the inspiring things they see on the internet are not the result of someone sitting down with the intention of making the end-product. Many of the projects (a majority of them in fact) I make are weird tangents from the thing I was actually attempting. Sometimes something as simple as a math error can create the most wonderful effects.
In this regard, being a newbie is beneficial because Computer Engineering majors who make fewer stupid mistakes are missing out on some of the benefits of happy accidents.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Just remember that in the long run, none of this matters.
It's been a privilege, Robert, thanks very much.
Oh, the pleasure was all mine.