Learn at least one good magic trick before you die. It will open more doors than you could imagine.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
I graduated from Boston University with a degree in Advertising but after playing around with Flash, I knew it was something I wanted to pursue further.
I worked in the Television industry for a while and then left to come to Firstborn where I started as a Flash developer.
When Jeremy Berg moved to LA to head up our offices out there, I became a producer for our NY office but I wouldn’t say I’ve completely left my past life as a programmer.
What do you do for inspiration?
I read a lot of books.
I’ve been performing sleight-of-hand / “magic” since I was a kid, so I read a lot on the history of magic, the psychology of deception, mind reading, con artists etc… which actual helps me a lot when it comes to thinking strategically and conceptually about projects.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
I guess I should list a Flash site too. Vodaphone Design File. One of my (many) favorite flash sites out there. From the clean design to the beautiful scripted motion, this site has it all.
What software couldn't you live without?
Flash, of course. TextPad and iTunes are up there as well.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
Unfortunately, in our glorious land of NDAs I can’t really comment on the projects we are working on right now. However, I assure you there are a ton of cool things in the pipeline, one of which will be launching for the Superbowl and is going to be pretty huge.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
Of course this is a tough one.
Hi-Res! consistently coming through with solid concepts and cool sites to back them up.
MK12 some of the best motion work around. Ninja. Love. Ultra.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
We can get a lot of traffic both from the design community (by getting sites linked up from places like FWA) as well as the general public.
When we work with agencies, the sites we build for them are usually a part of a much larger effort that use other media for promotional purposes. So with TV spots, print ads, billboards etc… reinforcing the website, it tends to increase traffic.
Who is your target audience?
I guess realistically speaking it depends on the project. We have created projects for clients from the fashion and entertainment industry to architecture firms and resorts.
Each project has its own goals to be met. But for a shorter answer that actually makes more sense, just refer to Vas’ response in his interview.
What area of web design lacks the most?
At this point I think it has been said a million times over…that sites should be less of an interface and more of an environment or experience.
I also think it may be refreshing (and at times necessary) to think of a project in reverse.
As designers and programmers, we sometimes think too much like “our own” and we need to realize that a lot of the time we are creating sites for the “laity.”
I think there would be a lot more interesting experiences on the web if we sat down and thought…”OK, if someone sent me a link to a site…what would really grab my attention, freak me out, make me laugh, cry, scream etc…”
If we can create an emotional connection between the user and what they are interacting with, it becomes much more than a website.
Another aspect is just attention to detail. To me, that is what separates a great site from a good site. Especially if there is a great concept executed poorly.
And for the love of God make sure pixel fonts aren’t blurry.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
They say you learn from your mistakes. The only thing I learned from my first site is that is was bad. Really bad.
I think that’s the only thing anyone could have taken away from it. It is no longer online. The source files were deleted eons ago.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
No. Maybe…but I would probably write a book on fire eating or how to walk on water before I wrote one on writing code.
Or maybe how to code while walking on water. Or code underwater while eating fire.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
There were a few projects that were challenging…and I think a lot of it was just the timeframe with which we had to complete it.
For Atlantis Resorts we created a full Flash site that was completely dynamic, so integrating with their CMS, building the admin and tying it all together in Flash was a fun little project.
There was a lot of heavy lifting in the KPF site as well but I think it’s more of the time constraints placed on a project that make it tough. Anything is possible as long as you have time to figure it out.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
It’s a tricky question. I have met so many people that are self taught – and to be honest – those people seem like the most talented people I come across.
I didn’t go to graphic design school, but I can say that I have personally learned a lot more on my own than I did in the classroom.
However, I think there is a certain groundwork that someone coming from a formal education background has to work from that will ultimately prove to be beneficial for them one way or another down the road.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
I wasn’t here from the start, but I think it’s a combination of producing good work and being out there pitching and getting new business.
With all the creativity that comes out of shops, a lot of people forget that this is still a business and a lot goes into getting new clients, putting together proposals and formulating fair bids for projects.
Your creative team needs to be just as talented as your account team (and vice versa) or things won’t be as tight as they should be.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
Read a lot of books. Experiment. Come up with a cool idea and then try to build it. Refrain from sleeping.
What is the most expensive thing you've bought in the last week?
My overpriced lunch in NYC.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
Jeans, sneakers. Pretty casual unless it’s a special occasion, then I get myself all prettied up like this.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you.
Learn at least one good magic trick before you die. It will open more doors than you could imagine. Just make sure it’s better than the 45 minute-long card trick your Uncle Phil does at Thanksgiving.
It's been a privilege, Dan, thanks very much.
Thanks for the opportunity.