...the abundance of daily launched websites tends to overcharge the "world wide web" visual landscape. It's getting much harder to catch the user's attention in 7 seconds.

  Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

Benjamin LAUGEL, I'm 28 years old, living in Paris FRANCE. I have a high degree in communication for companies and an advanced multimedia instruction.

After finishing studies, I started working in a French cosmetic company but I realise that I've always preferred the packaging and its design rather than the product itself.

The Soleil Noir adventure begun in 2000 with Olivier my associate...and we're still here! :)

  What do you do for inspiration?

My team and I don't really get our inspiration on the net. We really appreciate watching a movie, taking pictures in the street of Paris or just having fun decorating the office :)

I think that we've been really amazed by movie trailers and the special effects some directors have but we always try not to be too much immersed in the technology that surrounds us.

We always keep an eye on the "natural" effect, in our graphic design and also in our animations.

  Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

So, we had a vote and here are our three favourites:

1/ www.google.com because this is where I can find anything!

2/ www.ultrashock.com for the community and feedback on great Flash projects

3/ www.lemonde.fr A French newspaper to be “aware” of world events even at the office (but we also have cable and satellite :))

  What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

First of all, one of the biggest was to build Soleil Noir, in France, it's a little bit hard to make and keep this kind of company. The market is unstable and the French vision of marketing and promotion has no comparison possible with the English or American market.

That's why today we are working worldwide and I’m very proud of that.

But what would Soleil Noir be without the people working for our clients?

I think that my biggest achievement was to create such a great team! Some of the "Web alchemists" have been working here for more than 4 years...I think that really means everything and shows the spirit of the company.

  What software couldn't you live without?

First of all the greatest Macromedia Flash of course, 90 % of our productions are made with Flash. But we also use Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator and After Effects.

  What projects do you have in the pipeline?

Whaouuu, so let's take a look:

We have two big projects for Ubisoft, One in the US and the other for France. Also we have just launched the official EMI France website.

We are in charge of promotion for a big book editor in France (websites are coming soon). Also, The BadBc website which is the Portfolio of one of the most famous European Graffiti crews.

And a website and videos for an American communication company…

Plus some other projects such as an amazing website for a broadcasting software company and....we’ll keep you posted.

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

1/ Apple, I’m sure that the designers are coming from another planet!!

2/ IKEA for the Swedish design that I love and the way this brand has grown up!

3/ PIXAR for their character design and wonderful ideas; I love this company.

  What effect on traffic do your new designs have?

Before the last version of our website, our traffic was very poor (about a hundred unique visitors per days) but we knew (we were comforting in this idea) that a design studio couldn't reach many more people...

Since the last version of our website, our traffic has increased incredibly. Now, we receive about 2.000 unique visitors per days. Some of our latest productions have realised the same effect.

I think that we have a real artistic identity and an affirmed design direction. We really appreciate companies such as FWA that supports and recognises our work. Thank you.

  Who is your target audience?

The entertainment industry represents more than 80% of our productions. Also, because most of our productions are made with Macromedia Flash, our websites are best viewed with high bandwidth (and sometimes a big screen!)

  What area of web design lacks the most?

Due to bandwidth constraints, real-time capabilities, web design still experiences difficulties to exist as a fully fledged media output: poorly compressed graphics, endless loading phases, etc.

Furthermore, the abundance of daily launched websites tends to overcharge the "world wide web" visual landscape. It's getting much harder to catch the user's attention in 7 seconds.

  What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?

Oh god, I’ll never show you my very first website (which can be a case study for a school student telling what you must not do :)).

The very first website Soleil Noir made was the first version of the Hostile-Records music label (that version is no longer online). It was made in January 2000.

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

No I’ve never tried but I would really love to. I think that a book about: “How to make an efficient online promotion” could be an interesting title for the French market.

Most of the people in France are convinced that Flash is a “game design” program and that the only concerned market is that of entertainment. We have made several online promotions with Flash for corporate companies that have been a real success.

Our market is a little bit late in animated online promotion, most companies don’t trust in Flash because nobody has taken time to explain to them how they can benefit from it. Today, I try to change that and to give the companies the promotion they deserve.

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

Stopping developing by myself and letting my team do it :)

Since Flash 3 I developed everything for Soleil Noir, finding interesting clients and recruiting the most creative and technical team. I spent five years so far doing that and I think this is just the beginning…

The result is online and it’s here: http://www.soleilnoir.net

  Do you think Flash is here to stay?

That’s a really good question, two years ago I would have said: “yes of course”, but nowadays, technologies have changed.

We can notice that Flash has evolved and that it has integrated a powerful programming system and has implemented sound and video. But I also notice that my team usually uses different video software to enhance Flash productions.

Today, you can’t only use Flash to make huge animations.

Also, the development of high-speed connections allows us to produce and diffuse more multimedia content. If TV goes Interactive, we are also now exporting web developments to TV (for animation for example).

I think that Flash will be able to stay if this huge evolution is followed by Macromedia (or Adobe) but another good question could be: “Are Flash designers going to keep this software for developing?” could it be possible to use powerful video software to create interactive online video to replace our “poor” animated websites :)?

  What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?

Most of the people here at Soleil Noir came from different schools. Some are from Design schools, others from marketing schools and we even have a journalist here who is an artistic director!

I don’t think that you must have graduated from a “Design school” to be an artist or to be able to work in web design. I think that, first of all, you must have passion, work hard, be aware of what the other countries are doing etc.

The sense of design and web design is something you have or don’t have. I’ve seen people with lots of graphic experience unable to produce a high quality website. That’s why it’s very hard to find people being able to produce the kind of website we make for our clients.

  When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?

1/ Give your clients more than they expect, they will be the first contact to bring you new work opportunities. If you’re good at what you do, you will always find clients.

2/ Spend money promoting your company! The print representation of your company will sometimes be the first thing your potential client will see.

3/ If you have passion and you know how to communicate it to people, then, the success is at hand!

4/ But the most important thing is that I’ve never sold my services as products. Today if many companies come to Soleil Noir, it’s because they appreciate our way of working and building websites.

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

You learn when you practice, today. If people here at Soleil Noir have such high skills in Flash development it is because:

1/ They love Flash :)

2/ They are using it everyday

3/ They work with people that give them new development ideas.

4/ Our clients give us the opportunity to develop very important Flash productions.

  What is the most expensive thing you've bought in the last week?

A Canon EOS 20 with a professional lens which is amazing!

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

By myself, I really like Replay or vintage Puma overcoats.

Concerning my team, Etienne (atn) makes his own overcoats with his personal design and sometimes wears Hixsept clothes. Alex (aster) really enjoys DC or es wear.

Of course we wear labels clothes as the company has their website handcrafted by the Soleil Noir label! :)

  Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

I just wanted to thank everybody here at Soleil Noir for their great job and their personality.

I’ve promised to name them, here they are:

Mag – Aster – Mara – atn. – Mx. – Jocker – Ad – Kast and DaytO

  It's been a privilege, Benjamin, thanks very much.

The pleasure and privilege was mine, you do a great job instructing Internet users and making them aware of the best-animated websites on the Net. Please keep posting news for them and for us!

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