We all strive to produce the best work, however having to produce for the masses and having clients who don't necessarily take risks is what keeps us from breaking that barrier.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
My name is Craig Elimeliah I am 31 years old, I started off my career as a designer in Jerusalem, Israel where believe it or not I was in rabbinical school at the time and eventually moved back to NYC where I grew up.
I started a small interactive agency called Pixelon Design where we started developing web sites and web based applications that were unfortunately way ahead of their time although we had a decent client base that shared our vision and kept our doors open and allowed us to innovate as much as their businesses allowed us to.
I then developed an eLearning platform and a complete web based fashion design and ERP system called Fashionware, I sold that company and then joined Firstborn as a producer.
I am married (again, my second go around), have a bunch of kids, my hobbies are obsessively spending way too much time on the web, writing, designing, cooking and editing my wife’s poetry.
What do you do for inspiration?
Inspiration usually finds its way to me. I love my daily subway rides to work, I find a lot of inspiration in peoples faces. I am inspired by my kids who always seem to find something fresh in places I fail to recognize. My wife is also a huge source of inspiration and manages to keep me focused.
The FWA is also a huge source of inspiration, before I prepare a spec or a proposal I spend some time on the site and try to find new ideas from the various sites listed, I try to find small nuances, little things I like about each site and try to re-create them into new ideas.
I am also inspired by my team at Firstborn. The dedication, hard work and excellence in everything they do keeps me inspired to continue to produce the level of work that is expected from us by our clients.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
I probably see about 100 different new sites a day so this is a hard question but if I had to choose my absolutely favorite 3 websites they would have to be:
1. The FWA because I go there first thing in the morning each day to see the SOTD.
2. CNNSI.com because I am a sports fanatic and I am flood my brain with all kinds of sports facts and statistics not that I even care about them but it is a sort of exercise that keeps my mind chugging along.
3. Digg.com because I find there to be the most unimportant yet vitally interesting news stories and when I need to clear my mind of the world’s woes it’s a good place to glean for some non-depressing news.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
I am assuming you mean professionally, because my children are my greatest achievement.
Professionally, it would be where I am today. I really thought that after the dotcom bust that us internet junkies would be left floating without a paddle.
My passion for the web, its intricacies and vastness, to be able to create content that is viewed by millions is something I consider a great achievement.
Producing projects for Firstborn and our clients is something that I take very seriously and creating quality content for the web is a rewarding role in setting a standard for a medium that unites us all as a global community.
What software couldn't you live without?
There was a time when I literally couldn’t breathe without opening up Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop, I still use them often but on a more personal level.
I would say that Outlook is now my most loyal companion however my nights are usually spent with my old friends Photoshop and Illustrator.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
I can’t really say who it is for but I am flying across the country tomorrow morning to shoot some footage for a site we are doing that will be launching in April.
Based on our preliminary designs and our shot list it is going to be one of the best of its breed. Reserve a spot for the SOTD now because when you see this one you’re going to be blown away.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
I know this sounds completely loaded but Firstborn in my opinion is one of the best shops out there today because of our diversity and ability to take on any type of interactive project as well as our approach when developing.
The Barbarian Group completely takes me by surprise every time; I love their execution and ability to innovate new ideas, they are very talented in my opinion and display a very fundamentally sound and progressive outlook in all their work.
Dstrict blows me away I absolutely love their work, Korea is loaded with talent.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
Depends, I recently did a site for AXE that blew the charts up, traffic was dizzying although they do an amazing job on banners and are one of those brands that consistently draws big crowds based on their demographic.
I think in this game it really does depend on the brand and their ability to properly launch a site. You can have a kick ass site and no one will ever see it because the client simply doesn’t know how to get it out there.
I do my best whenever I launch a new site to get the buzz going. I have a pretty good way of getting sites noticed and getting people to start talking about them and spreading the buzz.
Who is your target audience?
Oh please, who isn’t my target audience? We work with all the major agencies, our clients range from a wide spectrum of products and services so we pretty much target almost every audience out there based on who we are developing for.
I have produced projects for women’s feminine products, chicken, sneakers, electronics, computer chips, fragrances and so much more, so that pretty much covers everyone.
What area of web design lacks the most?
Interactivity. I see so many shops simply trying to execute the same idea over and over again, it has been abused like a orphan and in my opinion interactivity hasn’t been perfected, not even close, we are a long way from seeing consistently solid interactive design and video presented to the user in a truly innovative way.
We all strive to produce the best work, however having to produce for the masses and having clients who don’t necessarily take risks is what keeps us from breaking that barrier. Clients need to have more trust in their interactive partners.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
Every time someone asks me that I laugh. My first site is still up and believe it or not it’s pretty much still as I first designed and built it.
It was for an online computer parts eCommerce store that took a chance on me when the web was very young. They let me experiment in so many ways that even they didn’t know about. You can see it here this site is over ten years old now and still rockin!
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
Oh I plan to; it’s actually one of my main goals in life. I have several ideas and plenty of material for a few different books both business and personal.
I would love to write a book about the explosion of interactive multimedia in about 10 years from now and look back at us geezers who helped make this biz what it is today.
I look up to all of us dotcom’ers who stuck it through and came out even stronger when lots of our friends jumped ship and went into finance or some other field. I think we are pioneers, revolutionaries blazing a digital path into the future, and that includes you too Rob.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
The toughest “thing” was a hybrid flash website for a freakin kosher deli of all places.
I really sold him on a flash site so that we could get paid to flex some flash goodness. I really pumped the guy up, the owner was so demanding he wanted it all and this was about 8-9 years ago, he wanted video (we faked it), wanted music, wanted everything most sites have today except he wanted it back then.
He was very demanding but he also helped push me at the time. It’s a corny site but the roots lead to where I am today.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
I think Flash will eventually replace the standard web interface languages and unfortunately become pretty easy for most people to develop similar to the way HTML became.
Mom and Pop will be creating flash sites and the playing field will go back to who is most creative, who has the best ideas and who can innovate better. I think eventually it will all boil down to who is smarter, more creative and slicker about how things are done.
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 think that for some people who are more classroom oriented it can be a great place however the best people I have met out there were “from da streets” meaning they were always creative, graffiti writers, taggers, t-shirt makers, collage mongers, anyone who was using Photoshop in real life before they even knew it existed.
I remember cutting out images by hand and shellacking them to my Doc Martins creating all kinds of new textures and designs and walking around the city showing them off.
I think those who are naturally creative will automatically migrate to where the action is. I interview a lot of people at FB and I meet all kinds and I must say that it really depends on the individual and how passionate they are about what they do.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
I wasn’t around ten years ago when FB was getting started. But I think it is the same way we get business now, constantly producing quality work and never compromising our standards.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
I think I have forgotten more than a lot of these kids coming in know now (how old do I sound?).
My flash skills are now diminished and I, sort of like Yoda who no longer uses a light saber, just use my wisdom and experience.
My advice is look around and appreciate the world, emulate it and create beauty and quality, I see a lot of crap out there, just putrid sites of this and that, people think they are cool, I am not into them I like simplicity and beauty, Flash is the new paint.
Don’t try to impress just love your work and it will show.
What is the most expensive thing you've bought in the last week?
Pair of jeans and some spring shoes.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
Not at all, jeans and a t-shirt is all I care to ware.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Stay true to yourself, create as much as possible and never sell out for money or fame.
Do what you love because you love it and the rest will come. An artist should be blind with passion for what they do; they should be willing to try new things and never go into a project with a negative attitude.
There is a balance in the world and that balance needs to be achieved. Clients will complain, they will demand and they will want the world, this tends to make designers and developers bitter and cranky, the key is to approach each and every project with as much enthusiasm and zest as possible or it is doomed from the get go.
It's been a privilege, thanks very much.
Thank you Rob, for being such a productive member of the interactive community and dutifully maintaining The FWA for all of us to enjoy.