At times you have to stand back and ask yourself "is this really pushing the boundaries?" If the answer is no you should go back to the drawing board and start again.

  Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

Left school at 16, worked as a news photographer, then a DJ, then trained as a sound engineer for a year, worked in an electronics factory before landing in new media in 1995 after discovering the wonderful Macintosh and learning Photoshop.

Got into programming via the ZX81, grew up playing the Atari VCS and wasted my weekends in video game arcades playing games like Defender and Tempest.

mN has been going since 2000, now 24 strong with a fabulous bunch of clients.

39, married to Lisa since 1992, living in Southport, working in Manchester.

  What do you do for inspiration?

I try and keep my eyes open to new experiences all the time. That can be anything from watching human behaviour to noticing small details in product designs.

I'm also a big film fanatic too. A lot of interaction design is about rhythm and flow, and that's one of the things that I love about film. That and the immersive, escapist nature of watching a movie.

I don't really look at other sites too much - real windows are much more interesting than the desktop versions.

  Please list 3 of your favourite sites.




  What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

The creation of the team at magneticNorth.

The people we have here are insanely talented and we have a great company culture that is totally centred around creativity.

  What software couldn't you live without?

Oh the usual, Photoshop, Flash but also stuff like Processing and Context Free.

I love Processing as it's such an amazing community of people, creating a beautiful little piece of software that helps people grow their own skills and explore creative code.

But the main thing I can't live without is my notebook - the best piece of "software" ever made.

  What projects do you have in the pipeline?

mN is moving to a new building this year so that's a big internal project for us, and right now we're looking at ways of creating an environment that will be as interactive as the work that we make.

We're also planning on putting out our own mN products, though not your usual t-shirts and the like but things that have a very mN feel.

We're also working on some physical interaction projects, one involving controlling digital media with vinyl records, working with a local scratch DJ.

Plus there's a host of other stuff which I'm not aloud to talk about!

  What area of web design lacks the most?

Well I think there's two that spring to mind.

Firstly the use of sound on the web is pretty poor. There's not many sites that have truly looked at using sound in innovative, interactive ways, usually sound is just a backing track, thrown in at the last minute.

What we tried to do with the Blueprint site is fuse the two together - the sound controlling the motion graphics.

Graphic pioneers like John Whitney and sound pioneers such as Raymond Scott were doing incredible stuff back in the fifties - much more inventive than most of the stuff I see around today and yet the computing power they had was none existent.

At times you have to stand back and ask yourself "is this really pushing the boundaries?" If the answer is no you should go back to the drawing board and start again.

And the second area is that of emotional response. Have you ever used a website that has made you cry? I know I haven't. Yet I can watch something like Stephen Poliakoff's "The Lost Prince" and it upsets me.

I think that's partly to do with the suspension of disbelief that films can create and interactive media struggles with, and I think that's down to that fact that you're engaged in the act of using it.

Then again there are other areas like video games that totally have an emotional response.

I remember playing the original Wipeout - your heart absolutely pounds as you race around the track as the music pounds in your ears.

It's very much an emotional response, ditto with pretty much every other video game.

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

Crap. It was a fan site all about the original Outer Limits tv series.

Very nerdy but I really cut my teeth on it - this was back in the day before innovations like coloured backgrounds and the like. It did though get nominated for a Yell award!

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

Yep I've written one solo effort, Drag Slide Fade all about using actionscript to design with.

Contributed to a lot of other books and am currently writing my next book, to be published later this year. Can't say any more about it at this time but it's going to be very different from the first.

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

I suppose the Psycho Studio application written in Flash 4 was a real challenge. A video editor before you could do proper video in Flash.

It's currently offline but plan to put it back up in the next month, and the source files for the basic engine are available via my site - though it's badly out of date now!

  Do you think Flash is here to stay?

Absolutely. It's a great cross platform medium that's pretty much ubiquitous on people’s machines now, so much so that it's pretty invisible.

That's the sign of a technology that is here to stay - that fact that as a user experience you don't notice the plumbing any more.

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

Well I never went to college or university and I've done OK, so yeah of course you can make it without an educational background.

But I'm not decrying the value of education. I think a good solid grounding in design principles is incredibly important and is something that I've had to learn as I go along.

Plus time at college etc is a great opportunity to experiment without having the pressure of clients breathing down your neck.

To be honest though the thing I look for in any new member of the team is raw talent and a passion for what they do. No amount of education can give you that.

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

Simple - making great work that you really care about.

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

Learn something new everyday.

It doesn't have to be anything complicated or directly related to design, just try and notice things around you and store them all up for use later.

But most of all actually make stuff rather than just talking about it or putting things off till tomorrow.

I've met loads of people who always tell me about what they're going to do rather than what they have done - and practically all of them never ever do anything.

And don't surround yourself with "yes men" or get complacent. It's not healthy having people around you who tell you're great all the time. You need people who can honestly tell you "that's crap".

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

My new Philips Cineos TV and Yamaha Sound Projector!

  Thanks, Bren, it’s been a privilege.


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