I was a self-styled hacker (hax0r?), but I wasn't any good at it...
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
I wear a lot of hats.
I've been working professionally as both a developer and designer from the start, and am happiest when I can play at the intersection of the two arts (programming is as much an art as a science).
That's what really drew me to Flash initially, as far back as the FutureSplash days.
I began my professional career as a web designer, moved to backend development, then became "Director of Interactive" (whatever that means) for a small-ish marketing firm.
A few years ago, I went solo, and since then have grown my little company up to eight very talented people. It's been a lot of fun.
What do you do for inspiration?
Everything inspires me. Traditional art, other people's work, other media (movies, games, print, etc), real life and the natural world.
I try to remain as much a child as I can when I look at the world... some of the things that we take for granted are absolutely mind-blowing.
Consider reading about a rainbow, or the aurora borealis without ever having seen or heard of it. You'd think the idea was ridiculous fancy, but it's a beautiful reality.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
No clue. I visit too many sites in a week to have favourites. (btw is FWA Canadian? British? You spell favourites properly). (Editor’s note, FWA HQ is located in London, England.)
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
Enhancing the quality of life for the people I've hired.
I've tried hard to create a workplace that is fun, productive, stimulating and rewarding, while giving people lots of time to enjoy real life with their family and friends.
I'd like to think I've succeeded for the most part.
What software couldn't you live without?
Flash. Photoshop. OSX.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
Commercially, there's not much I'm allowed to talk about. I am planning to expand our design capabilities further, which I'm looking forwards to.
Personally, the idea of getting some work in a museum or exhibition really excites me!
I'm also planning on building out a version 2 of gModeler to fully learn AS3 and see how far I can push it.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
I can't say I've ever bothered rating design companies. I really like Wefail's work, because it has character, and there really isn't enough personality on the web today.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
A good design refresh will always boost traffic. I worry more about conversion - actually turning traffic into an appropriate result.
I'd like to think our designs do a great job of both.
Who is your target audience?
It depends on the piece. The audience for my company's work is usually dictated by an agency or end client.
My personal work is really digital masturbation, and is created almost entirely for my own enjoyment. If other people like it, I'm thrilled.
What area of web design lacks the most?
Humanity? We're missing so much of the human experience online... humor, fun, personal interaction, emotion, personality, true art.
Very little in the digital world reflects any of the positive things that make us human, whereas the negatives (violence, greed, consumerism, exploitation) are over-represented.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
I was a self-styled hacker (hax0r?), but I wasn't any good at it, so my first forays on the web were "hacking" sites that had no content, but were really pretty (at a time when hacking sites were all grey and black - not that they've changed much since then).
My first Flash sites looked like some of the worse Flash sites online today - lots of stupid gewgaws, like music players and customizable backgrounds, with little personality and terrible usability - but I learned a lot building them.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
I've contributed to a few books, but prefer writing articles, blogging, and teaching. I'm considering writing again, but looking for the right project.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
I'm not sure. Most of the things I consider to be really tough (and fun) involve a lot of up-front thought, and not much time on implementation so it's difficult to estimate the time spent on them.
Some of the (public) pieces I found really interesting to build were the webcam tracking experiments on incomplet.org, my custom pathfinding algorithm, gesture recognition engine, my 3D Puki game, gModeler (one of my first really large apps), and FlashOS1 (which was built in Flash 5).
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Definitely. With the latest browsers and three or four plug-ins you can achieve maybe 75% of what you could do in Flash 7 on the web.
With Flash 8, and the upcoming 8.5 player it bumps down to maybe 50%.
I'm a fan of open standards for HTML and the broader web, but Macromedia's (Adobe's) unilateral control of the Flash platform is what enables them to innovate so quickly.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
For sure. I'm a university drop out, and graduate of a handful of somewhat dubious certificate/diploma courses, and now I guest-lecture at universities, which still seems a little weird.
School is a great place to get force fed new ideas and techniques, which expands your mind and gives you some direction to start your own learning.
However, it takes individual passion and creativity to build on that foundation and become an expert.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
When I first started? Living in a cardboard box and building sites at 10% the going rate... it didn't work so well though, just got me a stable of idiot clients that expected everything on the cheap.
Building cool things for myself and pushing them out into the community is what has helped me win smart clients that want me to build the things I love to build.
When you're first starting, you tend to have a lot of free time - use it to build the stuff you wish someone would pay you to build. There's a good chance the money will follow.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
I've learned pretty much everything I know from playing.
I still love the technology enough to play with it after I'm done my "real" work. The minute you stop loving it enough to play, you stagnate.
What is the most expensive thing you've bought in the last week?
A sweet new office for the company!!! I'm totally psyched!
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
Perhaps it's a knee jerk reaction to being involved in the marketing world, but I refuse to wear anything that has an obvious brand on it (unless they are a client, or bribe me with swag - ex. Media Temple and Macromedia).
I Flash in anything from butt nekkid (usually after having some "brilliant" idea in the shower - Aeron chairs leave interesting patterns on bare asses, btw) on up...
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Umm... not really.
It's been a privilege, thanks very much.
Likewise. Thanks for all the inspiration over the years FWA!