I find my inspiration comes through my ability to essentially "re-charge" in the off hours. It's imperative to avoid burn-out and balance those countless hours of work.

  Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

Tony Novak - Born 7/26/71 - 34 years old and working feverishly to lose all the remaining hair on my head.

My heart has always been in technology and if anything I would categorize myself as a programmer by trade.

Now, in my sixth year as co-founding partner and Chief Operating Officer of 2Advanced Studios, LLC. I pretty much do everything other than development and/or design related activities these days.

My daily life at the studio basically consists of Business Development (Sales), Marketing, Finance, Accounting, Legal, Operations, Human Resources, Project Management, and any other job that creatives tend to hate with as much passion as they work. I basically fill in the gaps so that design can design and development can develop.

  What do you do for inspiration?

For me, my inspiration is all about the random, esoteric hobbies that I do in my down time. I love to let the brain drift off as I become engrossed in some form of useless and non-work specific exercise.

I can usually be found baked in an online RPG game, starting (and not finishing) home improvement projects, building a doll house for my 3 year old daughter, or spending countless hours to improve my Japanese skills.

I find my inspiration comes through my ability to essentially "re-charge" in the off hours. It's imperative to avoid burn-out and balance those countless hours of work.

  Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

Google, SlashDot, ThinkGeek ... Just a few of the geeky daily sites I live at.

  What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

Without a doubt, 2Advanced has been one of my biggest achievements throughout my career, or at least I can say it has definitely been the most satisfying.

I have owned several businesses in my time, and in many cases grew those companies larger and more profitable. But, never before have I seen or been a party to the personal satisfaction levels that come from building a studio such as 2Advanced; Whereby the quality of our work product and client satisfaction levels have been the best reward and therefore my greatest achievement.

On a personal front, my daughter Kayla will always be my greatest achievement.

  What software couldn't you live without?

Excel. Nothing beats it for number crunching and business planning.

Anything can handle your accounting, but at the end of the day, all of my ideas get hacked around in big Excel spreadsheets that I can decorate my office with. Definitely, not as sexy as Flash or 3D Studio Max, but it does get my job done and makes for a better plan each time.

  What projects do you have in the pipeline?

Well, I can safely tell you about O'Neill now that it has launched and even received an FWA (thanks again by the way!).

In concert with that project, we are releasing a very cool flash based wetsuit and board short builder application that can be used to customize and ultimately purchase custom products from O'Neill.

We actually have a lot of projects that are going to end up being cool Flash Utility applications, and thanks to the genius of our awesome Flash Developer Team, I'm really looking forward to see what comes out of the studio over the next few months.

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

This is a really difficult question, because one's love for a particular design is such a subjective matter. That said, I have an extreme level of respect for any studio that is really trying to make an honest attempt at building their business in their own vision.

I really don't care what style or genre of design they may subscribe to; the fact is that studios offering quality work and generating satisfied clients are those that tend to win my admiration.

It really doesn't matter if you have years of industry experience, or if you are just starting out, but if you are true to your vision and really focused on helping our young industry to mature, chances are we would be good friends.

  What effect on traffic do your new designs have?

The 2Advanced website has been a testament for our own studies on what sort of traffic can be achieved largely through a strong aesthetic.

While it doesn't apply to all of our clients, we have found that the key to our client's success isn't always good SEO or validating web standards. Instead, we seek to stimulate traffic through experience, and that in turn has its own viral effect.

The 2Advanced website is one such good example, as we are well into the 1 million uniques per month range and we continue to see incredible growth on a month over month basis.

  Who is your target audience?

For our company, we really have a motion centric philosophy and a love for any form of media convergence. As such, we are always reaching out to prospects that are looking to kick a little butt and try something out-of-the-proverbial-box.

It's been fascinating to see sales requests come into the studio, as the diversity of industries and clients never ceases to amaze me. But more importantly, as we have evolved over the past few years, we have really come to understand our target client and this has helped the studio to organically grow its service offering.

  What area of web design lacks the most?

SEO for Flash would sure answer a whole lot of concerns that we have to address every now and then. But, that aside, I just wish there were academic programs really focused on a complete study of New Media.

Our biggest challenge in design is to not only find great designers, but to find those people who have explored the full range of digital media studies (Motion, 3D, Textures, Audio, Illustration and yes... Even Print).

We have seen the most incredible work from those with a greater breadth of capabilities.

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

Don't ask. Anything I have created personally was condemned long ago by the W3. The good news is that I can out design Jakob Nielson any day of the week.

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

Funny you should ask. I tend to play a "back seat" roll in most of the publications we have been in up to this point - Either assisting with the editing or helping to author. But, I am right now working on a pitch to do a series of books authored entirely by 2Advanced.

Something along the lines of a "Studio Insider", which will cover a broad range of topics (which are being requested daily by our site visitors).

  Do you think Flash is here to stay?

Yes. With Adobe's looming acquisition of Macromedia, I believe Flash will continue to evolve into a stronger, more functional program. I'm looking forward to seeing Flash's future under the direction of the newly merged company.

We also are very excited about the evolution of the product itself as Flash continues to embrace video and more elaborate features, we fully intend to be right there with it.

  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 believe the right person will excel in the field with or without educational experience.

Design schools teach individuals the basics of design, which can be helpful to many new designers. But successful designers need original concepts, techniques and styles as well - factors that cannot be taught in any classroom.

My only complaint is that we prefer to see persons with a wider skillset than most schools tend to push.

For example, we are always on the lookout for designers that have a passion and interest in several disciplines such as: Photoshop, Audio, 3D, Web Production, Photography, Motion, Video, Illustration, or any combination thereof.

It's important to a smaller agency to have staff members that really explore their potential whereas we have seen many hopeful student candidates that are more rigidly focused than this.

For those looking to enter the larger "agency" market, this works well, but from our perspective, it severely limits the work that can be performed.

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

Word of mouth. It's funny, but for the studio we have never spent a single dollar in marketing.

We have always been strong proponents for letting your work and portfolio speak volumes about your capabilities.

As such, we have looked to the industry to help convey our name, and have focused in on traditional "free" marketing methods (Blogs, Message Boards, Magazine Articles, Books, Link Backs, Press Releases, Etc.).

A well organized plan can lead to tremendous results, you just need to be diligent and consistent (because this is a very exhausting way to get the word out).

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

This shirt. Because I am both a freak and a geek in my spare time.

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

No overcoats allowed in the 2A office. We are a "t-shirt and flip-flops" kind of organization (and only one type of Flashing is allowed in the studio!).

  It's been a privilege, thanks very much.

The pleasure is all mine, thanks for the invite!

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