There (Troma) I had my crash course in web design, which I had no previous experience in. I also got to appear in 2 Troma films as blood soaked extras.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
As long as I can remember, I spent just about every free minute with a pen and paper in my hands.
I knew early on I wanted to do something artistic with my life and decided to go to school to study Industrial Design Technology, which was mostly special effects for film.
Straight out of high school in late 1992, I was offered a job at a local ad agency in Lancaster, PA based on some particularly gory illustrations I had done; and I decided that real world experience was much better than anything I could learn in a classroom.
I stayed in PA, working for various newspapers and a magazine.
Then, seven years later, I was offered a job at the New York-based B Horror movie studio Troma as their Interactive Art Director.
After I recovered from the initial shock (I am a HUGE Troma fan), I made the move. There I had my crash course in web design, which I had no previous experience in. I also got to appear in 2 Troma films as blood soaked extras.
Eventually I moved on to Shooting Gallery, Fusebox and Big Spaceship - the last being where I finally had the opportunity to work with people that shared similar visions. I gained more experience there than any other place to that point.
For the first time I got to see what Flash could really do and ideas flourished rather than being squashed by less understanding Creative Directors.
After Big Spaceship, I was hired here at WDDG as Art Director. I started off working on projects for Burger King, Amex, Ubisoft and Kraft as well as designing the last WDDG corporate site.
I moved up to Creative Director on our current project for Altoids, The Altoids Entertainment Extravaganza.
This project has given me experience working in many different aspects of the design and entertainment industry, and has given me the opportunity to continue learning every day. I have found my home here around people who are highly creative and just as deranged as I am.
What do you do for inspiration?
I tend to start studying everything around me - books, t-shirts, architecture, people, street signs.
My favorite form of inspiration, though, is old books and magazines, especially anything pre-1950. I think they had great design sense back in those days and just looking at them starts the creative juices flowing.
I have to say though, my best ideas seem to come from nightmares or while I am in the shower.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
This is a tough question since there is always such a constant flow of new and interesting sites out there. So, some of my favorite resources that I use on a daily basis are :
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
Making it in New York. Where I come from, just about everyone is a factory worker and no one really understands the design field.
I was looked down on when I first got started, and was constantly told that my "skills" would never get me anywhere.
It gives me a great sense of accomplishment to be where I am today and to be able to continue having these amazing opportunities.
What software couldn't you live without?
Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash and OSX
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
Right now we are working on the next installment of the Altoids Entertainment Extravaganza.
It's exciting because the character we are about to introduce is such an extension of myself that I really get to pour a lot of me into it. It is going to be insane and potentially make a few people very uncomfortable.
On top of that we are putting together the new WDDG website that is incredible so far. We are doing some things that really haven't been done before and I think people who see it are really going to appreciate the amount of work that is going into it. It's going to be a blast.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
I am not really one to love shoppes in particular but rather more on a project by project basis.
Here are a few that consistently impress me.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
It's a toss up since it varies so much between the normal corporate sites and the more conceptual pieces.
We have definitely been lucky with clients that are willing to let us take a chance and do something different and often a bit odd.
One of the fun things about working at WDDG is that a lot of people know who we are and appreciate our sense of humor. So when we do something that is a little outside the box, people tend to talk about it within the community.
I truly believe that the design community has been good to us over the years and I love seeing the excitement whenever we finally get a project up online.
Who is your target audience?
My peers. A lot of the concepts that I come up with are mostly appreciated by others in the design community but are sometimes lost on everyday users.
Typically I just like to create a user experience that will make someone step back and say "that's really cool".
What area of web design lacks the most?
File size restrictions. Even today with broadband becoming more the norm I still get frustrated that I cannot have higher quality images and video on certain projects.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
It was a travesty. I had come from doing print design for 7 years and was suddenly the AD of Interactive for Troma.
I think it was the very first Fangoria magazine website. It was terrible. Thankfully it is long gone.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
Writing is not my cup of tea but I have been kicking around the idea for a pretty gruesome pop-up book for a few years. Maybe some day.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
Since being at WDDG I'd say the site for Burger King's Chicken Fight.
We had to put together a fully functioning, multiplayer fighting game in less than 3 weeks.
We had a mountain of video assets we had to key out as well as color correcting, clean up, sizing and testing before even getting in to the meat of the project.
Once it was finally ready for Flash we were faced with the monumental task of animating and piecing together all of the moves, hit reactions, falls and finishing moves as well as creating the lobby and back end functionality.
On top of all that we spent even more time making it easy to play and tweaking the mechanics to make sure it was a fun experience.
There were many nights spent working straight through and James Baker and Ricky Bacon really came through putting all of the Flash elements together on such a crazy deadline.
In the end it came out great and we were even able to get it within the size restrictions that the client was asking for. That was truly the most daunting and challenging project I have worked on in years. The campaign ran its course and is no longer available online.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Absolutely. With Adobe taking over the wheel I think we are going to start seeing more and more full motion video websites in the future. I am looking forward to it.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
Definitely. I have never been to school. When I first got started I spent every free moment sitting in front of an Apple LC III learning everything I possibly could about designing on a computer.
I think with the right amount of dedication, perseverance and ambition you can do anything you set your mind to.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
Just by doing it for a long time. Every new version that comes out for every piece of software we use brings new and exciting things.
For me it was just a matter of exploring and figuring things out within each program to really get the feel of what they are capable of.
If I had any advice it would be spend time with your programs, really get to know them, that way what you have in your head will translate that much smoother on to the screen or the page.
What is the most expensive thing you've bought in the last week?
A very large new rat cage for my 4 rats.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
Oh God no. I am probably the worst dressed person in the office.
Being an old school metal-head I am normally in some kind of beat up black t-shirt and a pair of cut off Dickies.
One of my favorite interviews was during the internet lull when people were scrambling for jobs. I went on an interview dressed very appropriately, clean cut and professional.
Later when I got the job and showed up for work with bright red hair, a concert shirt and a labret piercing they actually asked me if I was the same person they interviewed.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Get up and walk around every once in awhile, it will help the circulation in your legs and help prevent lower back discomfort.
It's been a privilege, thanks very much.
My pleasure, thanks for stopping by.