.

The great thing about Flash as a tool is the immensely powerful community it has generated over the years.

  Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

Hello there! I was brought up in Runcorn, home to the famous Runcorn Bridge, widened to four lanes in 1975 one year after my birth due to increased traffic demands. The 2 events are closely linked.

The main event that set me off on a life-long love of computers and specifically computer graphics was my first go on Space Invaders at the local Community Centre. I was too short to really see anything however, so my dad had to hold me up to play it. It was boss. I got my name in and everything.

That was in the days when arcade machines had no memory though, so getting your name in really meant ‘played it that day’. I’ve been hooked on any form of computer imagery since.

I started working on the internet (on? in? at? with?) 10 years ago and have over that period come to realise that what I do is actually marketing.

Who’d have thought! I remember seeing my first banner. There was an awed hush in the office and we all gathered round to have a go ‘clicking through’. Precious moments.

  What do you do for inspiration?

I can’t honestly say I do anything in particular. I mean, I travel a bit, read books, watch films, go to work, ride my bike, take a shower, drink a beer(s). It’s all there really.

It sounds hopelessly naff but inspiration comes from literally anywhere, you can’t have a fixed source or it ceases to be inspiring. ‘New things’ That’s about the best I can manage.

  Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

www.idiottoys.com Their current ‘foreign batteries’ articles are essential reading

www.homestarrunner.com The original and still the best.

www.eurogamer.net Reasonably up to date and much less annoying than IGN

  What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

Work-wise. I’ve got to admit I’m totally made up by how well Zwok! has just done.

Over 150,000 sign-ups and 4 million plays in about 2 weeks. They said we were madmen! They said it couldn’t be done! We showed them!

Oh yeah, and I’m super-proud of the effort the team behind it put in. We over-delivered by a factor of about 5 but goddam, it’s worth it! God bless those freaky little Zwoks!

Not work-wise. Hmm, I guess I’m slowly nailing ‘hard’ on Guitar Hero…

  What software couldn't you live without?

Is Firefox a software? But if I’m not to be a smart-mouth dick, then I’d have to say Photoshop. It’s like an old pair of jeans. Admittedly jeans that get some crazy new shit stitched onto them every so often, but still comfortable and familiar.

The ‘Audio Annotation Tool’ tool is admittedly the ‘sideways zipper’ of recent years. I’ll probably not do another clothing/software analogy. Ever.

  What projects do you have in the pipeline?

Too many! It’s good though. There’s a truckload of stuff going on in the studio at the moment which whilst fairly heavy on the stress does mean there’s lots of ideas and excitement flying about.

Being told to “Get f**cked with your dumb-ass ideas” is excitement right? Oh yeah, and one job involves beer. I’ve been researching for this one for about 17 years.

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

Christ! That’s like your ‘favourite film’ or ‘best evar album’.

Think of it like this. Why do they keep bringing out “NOW MUSIC” albums? “A cynical cash-in on the impressionable youth market, John?” Nonsense! It’s because the definition of what is ‘good’ and ‘best’ is an ever-changing paradigm. Have I got out of saying Hi-Res?

  What effect on traffic do your new designs have?

Well Zwok! nearly crippled us with its success but on the whole it varies from project to project.

Some things are designed to burn bright and attract incredibly concentrated attention for a short time, others are slow burners with a much longer term approach.

  Who is your target audience?

Again, it all depends on the job but thankfully to the large part it’s people in broadly the same demographic as ourselves. Which is great as I’m not sure I’d know how to sell reproduction watercolour plates of Margaret Thatcher to Middle England silver-surfers. “BUY THIS SHIT, STUPID” Anyone tried that banner yet?

  What area of web design lacks the most?

Careless use of technology. Knowing when to say yes and no to technology.

There often seems to be a temptation to slap in as much tech as you can lay your hands on. In the same way that you learn not to Lens Flare everything you open in Photoshop, web design needs to try and establish some form of subtlety and restraint.

Marketing messages in other media have long since learned the best approach is not necessarily shouting in everyone’s face. (except Cillit Bang’s Barry Scott, but he’s a lunatic madman)

The internet really needs a bit more maturity in its syntax I think. I mean sure, a naked lady is all good, but the next ‘viral’ I get sent with some girl flashing her busters before I’m redirected to an online casino I swear I’ll…. That’s where it lacks.

The flip side I think is that some of the most exciting and innovative design is to be found on the internet also. When it’s good it’s very very good, and when it’s bad it’s horrid.

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

It was a multi-tiered ecommerce solution for an international blue-chip client. Actually, no I’ve not done one of those. It was a list of all the people on my Degree Show. “Clicking on your name here, yes that’s right, a ‘hyperlink’ brings up this ‘webpage’ with text and a picture about you and your work”.

It was butt-ugly and half the people refused to put their work on it because they thought cyber-crackers would squirm through the data-grid and steal all their ideas.

  Do you think Flash is here to stay?

F7A$H iz teh SuCk! AJAX RoXoRZ!!!1111 Sorry. No, I think Flash is pretty well established now and broadband just makes it even more so.

There does seem to be a weird resurgence of the notion that Flash in some way relates to poor usability though. That’s not Flash – that’s just inappropriate design decisions for the job at hand.

That said if you’re looking for an ‘immersive experiential branding experience’, Jakob Nielsen might not want to be your first port of call.

  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 guess having no grounding in any form of aesthetic education would certainly make things a lot harder. I mean it depends really, my personal background education-wise was Fine Art, so it wasn’t a direct transition I suppose.

I do think being educated as to how and why elements relate spatially sets you up pretty well for this industry though. How uneducated are we talking here? We don’t want some hill-dweller savant drinking from the studio toilet even if his Action Script is shit-hot! (NB. Bloc are hiring Action Scripters)

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

Working like beasts to produce the very best quality work we were able to.

Admittedly, now we’re a bit bigger and noisier new clients are a bit more forthcoming. They still want the hot shizzle work though so we’re still working like beasts, that never changes.

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

No sage advice as such.

The great thing about Flash as a tool is the immensely powerful community it has generated over the years.

I honestly cannot think of another piece of software that has such a strong collection of people all willing and happy to help each other out.

It’s genuinely heart-warming the amount of times a sticking point with a project has been alleviated by a couple of forum posts. So in terms of advice, just ask around when you’re stuck – help is always out there.

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

Loco Roco for 30 quid. I’m skint at the moment so that’s this month’s treat. Fair due’s though it is an absolute blast! The way they sing! Charming!!

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

I’m pretty prone to ludicrous sneakers I guess.

  Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

No, no more pearl shots from me, or it’s prison.


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