Designers need to look back in history and see what’s been done, see who the pioneers are, and really dive into the minutia of the lifestyle.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
Born in ’79. Went to the University of MN up in the sticks of Duluth from 97-02. Moved to Minneapolis and joined Periscope Interactive to design in early 2002. Established Matter Design in 2003 with Andy Gugel and T Scott Major.
What do you do for inspiration?
Other than the everyday surroundings around me that everyone else refers to…I need an organized, sterile workspace and lots of good music.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
- Reservocation for the news.
- You Work For Them for the books.
- K10K and FWA for the sites.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
Hmmm…just holding onto a job and keeping ahead of the curve. I think especially with how bad our market is right now (3 out of 5 designers unemployed), I feel fortunate to have worked so hard, and to have stayed up so many sleepless nights in a row to learn the skills and craft of both print and interactive design. And still…somehow…manage to maintain a relationship and convince my fiancé to marry into such a chaotic lifestyle.
What software couldn't you live without?
Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash and I-Tunes.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
Matter is movin’ forward. The site is in progress and will showcase our most recent skills. Also, after 5 years and 50 concepts, I finally stripped it down to the essentials and put my portfolio up…and named it White.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
I think the best, both print and some interactive, pieces are coming from We Work For Them. They’re doing both good client and personal work, and the effort they’ve invested in bringing exposure to the fundamentals, diversity and knowledge of design through You Work For Them is what the design community needs. Not only on the web, but in print as well.
I’m far more inspired by solid print work than interactive, so Segura comes to mind, as well as the elegance of Jennifer Sterling, sterile but smart Cahan and Associates, and of course the ever-evolving Arnaud Mercier from Elixir Studio …just to name a few extra.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
I suppose it has some impact. Especially with a redesign, when the old site blows, it’s not hard to increase traffic with a nice functional interface, fresh content, and some sort of benefit for the consumer when they visit.
Who is your target audience?
It all depends on the client. All are different and all require an original concept and execution per project. You can only go so far with a single style. If you don’t explore you won’t progress.
What area of web design lacks the most?
I think the interactive arena could learn tons from the fundamentals and experience of print design. So many web designers are starting out straight on the web without ever touching paper. Although they’re different mediums, the philosophy of each is the same.
Designers need to look back in history and see what’s been done, see who the pioneers are, and really dive into the minutia of the lifestyle. It’s not always about flashy animations, trendy interfaces or broadband connection. It’s communication, philosophy, detailed craft, grids and fundamentals.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
I did a design portal called Core Element, which was on my old site, Aesthetiks. I stayed up for 3 days straight creating it for the 2nd round of the May 1st Reboot. It was simple flash with uncompressed images, no loaders, and fuzzy type. I ended up becoming too busy to keep it updated and so it was a 1-launch wonder.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
I would really like to. Since my design above and below the surface is based on principles, and strict rules, I think it could be beneficial to write down some of my processes and reasoning behind my design technique. Even though they’re all based on the fundamentals written for print design decades ago, a new twist, or even an interactive twist, would be interesting.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
When I first played with Flash, I was amazed. Up ‘til then, which was about 4 years ago, I was tryin’ to figure out how to build static html pages and make a rollover. The freedom flash gave me, as a designer, was refreshing. Yet, learning it was tough, and when I discovered the benefits of more complex action scripting, the capabilities of Flash for me increased, but the time invested and the amount of knowledge to be learned on the technical end was, and still is, overwhelming.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
Considering the state of the economy, and its impact on our industry in the short time it’s been in such a drastic downfall, I feel that, for anyone in the creative community, it’s very foolish to assume you can be a rock star without any educational background. A majority of designers coming out of both liberal arts and design schools are finding it extremely hard, if not impossible, to find a job. If all you do is design, and you can’t find a design job…have fun flippin’ patties.
I think it’s important to educate yourself in as many areas as possible. Not only in case your dream job as a designer flops, but also because it will be valuable when you apply it with the wide range of clients you’ll eventually work with. Communication and organizational skills are key, and I don’t think any of the premadonna high schoolers possess those skills yet. I’m still tryin’ to work on mine.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
A solid portfolio, a hard-working team with a lot of character and good attitudes, and skills that show a large range. The more passion invested, the more you’ll get back in return.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
It’s gonna stick around for a while. Especially with the leaps and bound of improvement it’s made in the development and video arenas. It’s readily outgrowing its reputation as a design tool, and is pushing interactivity, at least online, to new levels.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
Learn how to design first. There’s no such thing as a web designer. Learn the skill behind effective communication and organization first, and your techniques will carry over into any design criteria. Flash and the web are just tools. You’ve gotta learn a lot more before you learn and use the programs. I think too many designers are jumping into the technology and forgetting about the purpose of design.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
I design, and I develop. But I’m definitely a designer and not a developer. I see my own development process as a continuation of the static design, using motion, sound and animation to enhance the design and experience on the consumer-side.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Don’t just slap it together and eyeball it. Grid that shit out and measure it down to the pixel.
It's been a privilege, Jesse, thanks very much.