Time is the rarest resource in our world.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
I'm Michael Lebowitz, Co-Founder and CEO of Big Spaceship.
What do you do for inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere. I read dozens of blogs, watch a fair amount of TV, read books and magazines, and try to see movies, though it's become difficult since my son arrived earlier this year.
I also get tremendous inspiration from my co-workers at the spaceship and my friends at other agencies. We're very fortunate to work in an area of the industry that has such a high level of intelligence and curiosity.
How many hours do you work each week?
Around 50-60 hours a week.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
I could keep going....
Is there a particular moment in your career that stands out?
There are lots of high and low points when you've been in business for close to ten years. I'll never forget winning our first competitive bid against the company I had left. It was pretty damn satisfying.
I'll also never forget some of the lessons I've learned from the low points: never hire assholes, for example, no matter how talented they are.
Are there any websites that have shone through as being pioneering in the last 5 years or so?
It depends somewhat on what distance you're looking from. Design trends come and go.
They're fascinating and relevant, but they interest me less than technological evolution that enables richer experiences. I think a lot about We Feel Fine when we're brainstorming now.
But pioneering? For me Adobe AIR is pioneering. It will enable whole new kinds of experiences.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
I really like North Kingdom's work - great production value and polish.
And have always admired group94 - I still reference OurType all the time.
But "top" is a funny concept, because there are 5-10 groups that are producing consistently interesting and innovative work.
My guess is there are a lot of others who can't because it's still so hard to get opportunities to innovate. The industry desperately needs to mature and allow more opportunity.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
We launched a game this year that had 25 years of gameplay in six weeks. But traffic isn't always the best measure of success. It always depends on your strategic goals and audience.
What area of web design lacks the most?
The industry lacks common language, standards of engagement, and educational standards.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
Of course! We don't do any sales, and our only PR effort is submitting our work for awards. We get engagement inquiries that reference finding us through The FWA pretty regularly.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
I wish those early sites were still around. It was an interesting time. Totally backwards and lo-fi, but we were trying to figure out a lot of things because it was all so new.
I remember having a conversation about a "dream application" that would slice up and optimize your layouts from rulers and thinking "maybe someday!" I also remember flash 2.... and debabelizer.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
I've contributed to a few, including yours. I'd love for Big Spaceship to do some books. It's always a matter of time. Time is the rarest resource in our world.
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
Nobody can see three years into the future of this industry let alone ten. But I will say that I think the whole gauntlet of microsites, minisites, etc. feels like something that will seem really quaint before too long.
I mean, we probably all feel a little embarrassed by the "skip intro" era of a few years ago. We'll look back at this time similarly. It's still nascent. I think it'll keep up at this pace for quite a while.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
Everything we do with flash is tough. Thankfully, I don't have to figure it out myself. :-)
Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?
I love the work we've done, but I'm most proud of our culture and team more than any product.
Ask anyone at Big Spaceship what makes it great and they'll say the people. They're right and that's the best thing in the world.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
When I got into the industry everyone was self-taught.
I think a lot of the design schools need to change the way they think about their curriculum to be more valuable to their students and more relevant to the new realities of design (and prospective employers).
I see way too many programs split between graphic design and digital design. There are way too many people coming out of school with a little bit of everything, but not enough of anything.
That said - school's a great way to build a portfolio. You just need to keep educating yourself regardless of who else is teaching you.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
All we did was focus on the quality of the work. The quality led to more work. We've never done any formal "sales" so I can't speak to that.
Q. There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
I'm interested in doing more application design. Applications can become way more expressive and fun to use than they have been traditionally.
We've barely scratched the surface of how even mundane tasks can be made fun through innovative interaction and quality experience.
What is the most expensive thing you've bought in the last week?
Plane tickets for Thanksgiving with family.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
I don't care so much about the vehicle, but would love to have a driver. I'd get so much more done!
Do you have any links to photographs of your offices you could share with us?
We'll send some along.
What does the future hold for your company?
A continued and amplified focus on innovation, quality and fun by expanding into some new areas and evolving the types of engagements we take on.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
It's been a privilege, thanks very much.
Likewise. Long live FWA!