It's a funny story actually. I bought a book called "How to design a website in 1 week" or something to that effect, created a terrible site, and barely managed to land a web design job.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
I graduated from Cornell University with a degree in architecture. I worked at an architectural firm for a short bit, but ultimately moved over to web.
It’s a funny story actually. I bought a book called “How to design a website in 1 week” or something to that effect, created a terrible site, and barely managed to land a web design job.
Fast-forward a few years, tired of the corporate scene and itching for independence, I started ROKKAN with Chung Ng, a friend I had met at work.
Soon after, we brought on Charles Bae and Marielle Reading as additional partners.
What do you do for inspiration?
I look around to see what’s going on in the field, what other designers and design shops are doing, but I also like to get inspiration from places like film, television, product design, fashion, etc.
I don’t really have a process for getting inspired. Sometimes I just don’t get inspired at all but I still have to do the work…
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
One of my favorites has to be www.orisinal.com. The illustrations and the interactivity are truly addictive.
Completely unrelated to “design” I always find myself going to www.rockbottomgolf.com. They sell golf equipment for pretty cheap.
A lot of the Vodafone sites are really nice, too. The way they integrated video, 3d and flash is very well executed.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
I would have to say ROKKAN. From very humble beginnings, we started this company with no clients and no capital, just a desire to do it.
We’re in our 6th year now, we’ve grown to 20+ people, and we’re enjoying our new office space in Soho.
We’ve managed to grow and maintain a really nice culture with an amazingly talented bunch of characters. We work hard. We get silly. We have fun (most of the time).
But most importantly, we’ve managed to crawl ourselves out of the credit card debt we amassed starting this thing. That, in and of itself, is a big achievement for me.
What software couldn't you live without?
I can’t live without Photoshop or Illustrator. I step outside of my design bubble from time to time do Information Architecture, but even then I have to use Illustrator. It just looks so much nicer that way.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
We actually just finished a website for Civ City Rome, which involved many long hours in 3D Max and Flash.
We’re right about to launch a website called Breakthru Radio, an online radio station with a focus on unsigned and recently signed artists.
And we’re designing the website for Virgin America, the domestic counterpart to Virgin Atlantic, with one of our advertising agency friends, Anomaly.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
MK12 is great.
I like what Odopod does a lot.
North Kingdom does some great work as well.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
We’re very goal driven, so we work hard to ensure that our success is measurable.
Great design always has a large impact on website traffic, but additionally, developing strategies to drive traffic to sites is equally important.
Who is your target audience?
We have such a wide range of clients, ranging from financial services to video gaming, so it really varies.
Ultimately, we do good research and planning before a project to align our strategies and tactics and we execute based on our findings. The audiences may vary but the overall approach stays consistent.
What area of web design lacks the most?
This is a tough one. There are so many opportunities as far as web design goes, how it could evolve, grow, etc. in the next few years.
I don’t think I can think of any single area where design lacks, just a broad generalization that the opportunities seem pretty limitless.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
My first client website was for GE Industrial Systems. Not the sexiest piece of work, but it was my first real paid web design job. The client chose my direction from a few others so I was pretty happy.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
No Books yet. I’ve always dreamed of publishing a comic strip one day, but no plans so far.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
I’m starting to do a lot more 3D in Flash. Mostly PNG sequences integrated with Flash.
I wouldn’t say it’s the toughest thing, but it is kind of tricky simulating that realistic look and blending it into Flash. Civ City Rome is an example. I’m also working on another site for Coke using 3D and what not, but that’s a work in progress.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Definitely. Flash usage has only been growing and with increased bandwidth these days, broadband Flash sites are really pushing the envelope every day.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
Proper education is very important and highly recommended for any budding designer, but not absolutely necessary.
If you have the talent, the passion, and the ability to sit in a chair for long stretches of time, then you can become a great designer.
Being self-aware is key, being able to be critical of your own working, knowing what your strong points are, what your weaknesses are, and being able to take the steps to improve.
But with that said, stay in school!
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
Getting your first client can be hard, especially without a proven track record, portfolio, business cards or an office. We started small and went to people we knew who wanted sites.
Our first job was for Small Empire, a skateboard shop out in New Jersey. After we did some work for him, he referred us to a friend who was starting an energy drink company.
And after a while as we started growing our portfolio, adding people to our team, and getting in touch with more companies through friends and colleagues. To this day our biggest sales vehicle is referrals and word of mouth.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
I used to sit for hours on end experimenting with Flash, trying to learn new things. There are a lot of great resources out there. It really just takes a lot of discipline.
What is the most expensive thing you've bought in the last week?
Last week I went to the new Golfsmith on 54th st and tried out half a dozen 2-hybrid irons but didn’t end up buying any.
I’m sure that really made my salesman’s day. But I think the last expensive thing I bought was jewelry for my wife – a simple necklace, nothing too fancy.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
I like nice stuff, but I don’t like wearing obvious labels. I just buy whatever I like, whether it’s from the Gap, Old Navy or somewhere fancy.
But bottom line, I’m always looking for a good deal no matter what.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
My big thing right now is balance. I’m not very good at it, but it really is important to have a good sense of balance in your life. Work hard, play hard, and all that.
But again, I’m still trying to figure this piece out. I go through phases where work will consume me. Not so fun for the missus.