My conundrum is generally picking my next project from the myriad of ideas that I have. Some are stupid, some are good, and some are going to make me incredibly rich.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
Ummm. I’m 28. I like to create and build things. Drawing things, winning at sports and having good sex make me happy. My ultimate goal is the freedom to make anything that I want to without having to worry about stupid things like money and time and resources and what is for lunch and my health and how much I drank last night and client’s strategic goals and the audience’s intelligence level (but mostly the money and time parts ‘cause those are a bitch).
What do you do for inspiration?
I wish that I knew the answer to this. It would be nice to gain control over. I get a lot of ideas when I can distance myself from what is going on at work and what I need to do. I think that all of my best ideas have come either when I’m _almost_ about to fall asleep or when I’m standing in the shower or when I’m drinking Saki at Blue Ribbon at the bar by myself.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
K10k. – for Wuffmorgenthaler which speaks to me like nothing ever has.
Wired – for my daily geek news and whatnot.
IHT – ‘cause it's perfect
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
WDDG – and I ain’t even started yet.
What software couldn't you live without?
None – I’m not dependent upon any software package. But I couldn’t live without a sketchpad and a pen. Destroy the internet, eliminate computing, as long as I can still create something I’ll be happy.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
Personal – about a billion. Work – a little less. My conundrum is generally picking my next project from the myriad of ideas that I have. Some are stupid, some are good, and some are going to make me incredibly rich. The problem is I can’t f-in figure out which are which and there are a ton to sort through.
I have to say that the stuff that Mike and Mike @ WWFT have been doing at YWFT has really inspired me to back up from the computer and do some more hands on stuff. I’ve been painting a lot and working on designing some furniture (for myself – not for consumption).
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
Nintendo, Pixar, Ferrari, (and Apple and Hi-Res! and Lexicon and Shynola and Capcom). Yea. I cheated – so what! Three is too constrictive and your question was vague in the first place. ;P
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
I used to pay attention – I don’t know now. I would say that it depends. We aren’t super “in-vogue” with the web community now, so as far as sending fans to client sites I don’t pay attention anymore.
It used to be crazy as hell though: around the time that we launched John Mark Sorum and Devlab and Anamorph we would crash servers. Some of our stuff for LEGO has shot their traffic through the roof (and not designer site referrals – actual targeted audience type stuff). Same with Altoids. Happy clients = happy WDDG. Knowwhatimsain?
Who is your target audience?
It totally depends on the project. In the early days we would subconsciously design for other designers and that just isn’t really what you should be doing. You have to work with your clients to discover who the audience is, then work to do something that the audience would like and/or find useful.
I mean – Kraft Foods doesn’t care about a spike in traffic from Newstoday.com and they shouldn’t. Design is about engaging that target audience so you shouldn’t get caught up in targeting your personal target audience.
What area of web design lacks the most?
Thought and strategy.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
I’ve contributed to a few but I have yet to write one. I have an idea for one that to this day I can’t believe hasn’t been written. But it would take at least a year of solid research on an industry that is perpetually mutating; so I’m not sure if I’m going to get a chance to do it. (and refer to the previous question about queued projects for more info ).
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
The toughest things to do aren’t the challenging things – Maverick.com was a challenge from day one, but it was totally worth it and I loved it. Altoids.com was a challenge because of the pressure. Our GameBoy game – SuckerPunch has been a monster challenge for a million different reasons.
The tough things are when a client won’t listen to you and you have to execute or design something that you _know_ is totally f-cked up. I have strong beliefs in certain things. I have lots of practical experience in what I’m doing and I’m definitely stubborn. Plus I hate it when a client *makes* you do something that you know is wrong when you’ve told them a million times that this is going to ruin everything.
Recently I had some old friends who were starting up a web company so I agreed to lend a helping hand on advertising and design. The decisions that they made were amazingly amateur and asinine and above all damaging to what they wanted to achieve with the business. But they just wouldn’t listen to me and it frustrated the living hell out of me. I went in with really high hopes and good intentions to help out some old friends, but I came out and was so burnt out that I had to go on a 3 week vacation to get my mind back in order.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
For a good while – yes. It’s getting so powerful that it may just come to rule the world like an oppressive alien dictator bent on using our population for foodstuff. MX 2004 is like PowerBuilder crossed with AfterEffects – fun and incredibly scary at the same time.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
I wish that I had formal training and I’m glad that I don’t. Paradox. School and learning are all about what you put into it. If you need a structured environment to learn design then it’s for you.
Learning from pimps like Sagmeister and Rand and Neville Brody weekly is something that I would love to do now, but wouldn’t have appreciated at all when I was 19. I chose to go into business school because I could draw and paint and sculpt in high school and I *thought* that I could learn design empirically. So I made the decision that I would learn something “practical” in college (and really never thought that I would end up designing for a living). I guess that it worked out so far. To each his own I guess, but I think that school beyond high school is very much worth it.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
Raw luck, good networking and drive to make an f-in ruckus. Huge amounts of hubris and naiveté helped too.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
“Ehehehe – try and keep up beeeatches!!!! You aint takin us down you noooobs.”
What is the most expensive thing you've bought in the last week?
A vintage Empire Strikes Back poster from Japan. Raddest thing you’ll ever see – I’ve only seen one copy for sale. eBay is my heaven and my hell. Long live eBay.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
In the winter I’m a label whore from hell. In the summer being a designer label whore makes you look too effete for my taste. This winter I like: some of the Burberry stuff is shit-hot, a little of the Prada stuff is cool and some YSL is good but last year was a hundred times better. This summer was all about Volcom, 2K, Fuct and Rabbit and Redtree.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
If it don’t make you feel good don’t do it. And don’t be trendy – in the end, when you look at your portfolio you’ll want to throw up. So be true to yourself and make sure that your work makes you happy.
It's been a privilege, James, thanks very much.
Cool – have one on me – it’s on my tab tonight.