.

Go outside, play an instrument, ride in a weird elevator. So much of the creative process is about mood, and you rarely experience that in front of a computer.

  Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

My name is Matt Mason. I am the co-founder of Sarkissian Mason, an interactive design agency.

My first website, built in 1995, won an internship to work at Saatchi and Saatchi in New York City. There I worked on web projects for large corporate brands such as Proctor & Gamble and General Mills.

I later moved to Detroit and started working on automotive accounts including Ford, Cadillac, and Lincoln.

In 2001 Patrick Sarkissian and I started our own company. As the Creative Director for our group, I handle projects for Mazda, Ford, and Daimler-Chrysler, as well as Nickelodeon, Lego, and Hasbro.

  What do you do for inspiration?

Spend as much time away from the computer as possible. This industry has a very negative effect on true creativity; the more you see, the more you try to emulate, instead of innovate.

Go outside, play an instrument, ride in a weird elevator. So much of the creative process is about mood, and you rarely experience that in front of a computer.

However, it is one of the most important aspects of all our websites. When they're launched, distributed, whatever - I want the user to "feel" something. Sure it has to have intuitive navigation and hit all the requirements, but when that screen appears on their desktop it should evoke some sort of emotion or else it was not a complete success.

  Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

http://www.billyharveymusic.com/

Funny, well designed, and unique

http://www.metacritic.com/

It's a very smart tool, and very useful.

http://www.bleep.com/

Ahh, an itunes alternative.

  What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

Making it. Most of us remember how hard it was after the bubble burst. It was a time period where if you weren't excellent, you weren't working, and even some of the best groups fell apart.

  What software couldn't you live without?

Itunes, Safari, Flash, Photoshop

  What projects do you have in the pipeline?

Currently we are working on several projects for Mazda and Nickelodeon.

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

http://www.hi-res.net/

http://www.kurtnoble.com/

http://www.wddg.com/

  What effect on traffic do your new designs have?

Generally we see a very large increase in traffic when a site is redesigned. That tends to taper off after the buzz goes away if you don't keep the site updated, and either submit to blogs and awards sites or advertise.

  Who is your target audience?

It's always different. Which is good. I've designed sites for seniors and sites for kids, and everything in between. In several different languages.

  What area of web design lacks the most?

Purpose. So much of what is out there is just eye candy; all the best work has a unifying theme and a justification for every single element on the page.

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

This is hard to imagine, but it was 10 years ago. And looking back it's really quite funny. It was chrome, and had really big buttons. Thank goodness it's not online to haunt me.

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

No, but if I ever do, it will be Fiction.

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

http://www.mazdausa.com/MusaWeb/NA_Autoshow/

The Auto show season comes at the worst time of the year, just after New Years. This means you're working like a dog while most people are experiencing that relaxing "holiday break".

It was very challenging to bring all of the 3D elements to life, in such a short time period. The site went from concept to launch in less than 3 weeks. In that time period we had to create a fully-articulated Transformer, and render all the sequences and backgrounds.

The hard part was transferring the 3d elements into flash, and deciding what to keep vector, and what to use bitmap sequences for.

  Do you think Flash is here to stay?

Perhaps we should ask Adobe that? Seriously though, yes, of course. The penetration of the plug-in insures its longevity. It will continue to be the backbone of future web applications, except it will start to feel much more like video than flash as we know it today.

  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 think if you are talented and driven, you can make it without post-secondary education.

However, school is important for other reasons than just learning technique and theory. The competition is very important. So is learning to be humble.

The relationships you build in school will be one of your best resources. A good reference can be more important than a good portfolio.

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

You have to come in understanding that very few clients will be interested in design alone. It's very important to show you can think strategically, and prove that you have a stable development process.

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

Track the eye. In layout and animation, always create a path for the eye to follow. Not enough, and it's boring, too much and it's confusing. Define what you want to the eye to do, then build. You cannot just throw in a bunch of effects, or elements, and expect it to work.

And learn the fundamentals, in design, it’s color, contrast, typography, balance, etc... In flash, learn action-script from the very beginning. Don't try to jump in and just edit existing code.

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

I bought a 30" Apple HD Monitor. Ouch. But, considering I spend more time with it than I do sleeping, I guess it's worth it.

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

I am really quite against labels on my own clothing. Graphics are good, but I don't want to wear someone else's advertising.

  Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

Look forward. Everything is always changing. Be ready.

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

Thank you!


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