I think often times graduates rely on their degree to get them a good gig, when at the end of the day it's really their ability and passion that gets them hired.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
A: REINHARD - Im Robert Reinhard, I'm the CTO of BKWLD, and live in Seattle.
A: VANNI - Im Ryan Vanni, Im the CEO, and live in Sacramento.
A: BKWLD - We started in early 2001 when it wasn't a great time to be starting anything to do with the web. Sometime around 05 we opened the Seattle location. We are 17 folks in total. And we are all generally pretty nice.
What do you do for inspiration?
A: REINHARD - My ideas come mainly just from focused thinking. Not a very sexy answer, I know, but really it's getting some time to focus my thoughts without distraction. And then just pounding it out in my head.
A: VANNI - Concept meetings here are a big deal. Very rarely do we rely on one person to develop an idea. Often times we get or help develop a strategy brief, then pull the group together (right down to the interns) around a table and just start talking.
I'm always amazed at how effective it is. They always start slow, just going back and forth, throwing out all kinds of "what if...?". Then they end with a bunch of yelling and fist pumping as if we're a high school football team just getting our first win.
It's always invigorating and reminds me how the hierarchy of your standard agency creative development is so clunky and inefficient.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
A: REINHARD - Favorite blog: cabel.name
Favorite gaming site: 1up.com
Favorite design site: thefwa.com
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
A: REINHARD - Lately I guess it was this piece of code that positioned dots on a map of the world using latitude and longitude. I try to find something in all my work to challenge myself or improve my code.
Sometimes it's just seeing how fast we can knock something out. So my latest project usually is my biggest achievement.
A: VANNI - As cheesy as it sounds, it's looking around and seeing how we've grown. Not just by size or revenues, but by how our process has evolved, how our business acumen has developed, and probably most importantly building a company where the team members take this whole thing to heart just as much as the founders.
All in all it's a very healthy, happy, and supportive environment, and that is something that always feels like one hell of an achievement.
What software could you not live without?
A: REINHARD - I guess Mac OS. It ties it all together.
B: VANNI - Is it too cliche for the biz guy to say quickbooks??
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
A: VANNI - Lots of exciting things. We are smack dab in the middle of a re-design for 2KSports.com, we're doing a gigantic site for a large west coast grocery chain, just about to launch the site for Ice T's wife Coco, working on a kick ass new site for Back Street Boys, and some other things we got to keep quiet about we're told.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
A: VANNI - In no particular order, I think the ones that have a legacy we aspire to would be Firstborn, EVB and Odopod.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
A: VANNI - Although an increase in traffic is a fun measurement of success, we don't feel it's necessarily the most important when working on sites that are already fairly high trafficked to begin with.
What we look for is an increase in the depth of the visit, and length of the visit. We want to know that we are engaging the user better then the development prior to ours, and that those users are getting to the content we (the client and us) deemed priority.
For instance on Kelty.com (manufacturer of high end outdoor products such as back packs, tents, etc.) we saw the average page view go from 2 to 8. And very important to Kelty, we also saw the average user view 5 products per visit over the 2 products per visit prior to the new website.
With that said, we did just see an astonishing traffic increase of 13k uniques per day to 60k when we launched the new BackStreetBoys.com... and that was just a temp site!
Who is your target audience?
A: VANNI - Interesting question. We definitely do not prefer specific industries, or project types. Too much of anything just gets boring and uninspiring after a while, so we like to keep things diverse.
We are however targeting more direct clients or agencies that welcome our strategic and/or creative thinking as opposed to simply producing someone else's idea.
What area of web design lacks the most?
A: REINHARD - I wish more/all flash sites had deep linking. We rarely implement it ourselves, largely because it's such a hassle to code and if a project has a short timeline, you may not have time to debug it. But it's something I really miss as a user.
B: VANNI - Social networking.....joke.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
A: VANNI - Hell, and no, at least I don't think so, unless someone is playing a mean joke and archiving it somewhere.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
A: REINHARD - Haha, I haven't, but I often get confused with the other Robert Reinhard(t) who has written many flash books.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
A: REINHARD - It would definitely be our current site which we launched last month. We'd worked on it off and on for easily over a year.
Probably took over 2 years if we include all the false starts during the design phase. I bit off a pretty big job for myself with the design as well. Doing all that 3d stuff without something like papervision was TOUGH and next time around I'd definitely use some 3rd party code for that.
I also really wanted to make the experience of the site to feel familiar to an html site, but throwing things in like deep linking, spidering by google, etc was unexpectedly tough.
I intend to post a blog this week on our team.bkwld.com site with a history of the site, some of the difficulties I encountered, and what I learned.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
A: REINHARD - For sure. As long as Adobe stays on the ball with what users and developers need with each release.
I'm really excited about the 3d possibilities in the next release and really surprised it took this long.
Flash will always be held back by its lack of built in spider-ability and deep linking.
I don't see how Adobe can overcome these things since they depend so much on how your swf is built.
I could see Flash in the long run being used less for the main sites of companies and more for campaign sites, games, and a element in rich hybrid sites.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
VANNI - Absolutely! The reality is that an eye for design and ability to strategically concept is almost intrinsic. Of course it can be honed it school, but it certainly isn't born there.
I think often times graduates rely on their degree to get them a good gig, when at the end of the day its really their ability and passion that get them hired...or get them hired here anyway.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
VANNI - That's a funny story actually. When we started that was pretty much my only gig in the company, since there wasn't much else to manage yet.
Earlier I mentioned how our business acumen has developed, well Id like to think our business development is part of that. Back then it started with a phone book, and a phone. I started at "A" and went down the line (our first client was an "A"rchitect, www.whitelam.com).
After that we thought it would be real cool to work for record labels. So I found this site www.allrecordlabels.com, and made a list of the big ones we wanted to work with, called the front desk, and asked who to talk to about websites.
And thankfully J Records in New York actually called back. It was remarkable. Im still shocked it worked.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
A: REINHARD - I've been doing this for such a long time (flash 3) that I was able to learn incrementally with each flash release.
I usually learn about the new AS releases from books, currently reading O'Reilly's AS3 one. If you're just getting started I would say it's not worth it unless you find programming fun and compelling. And I'd suggest coming up with projects that stretch your abilities and learning in the course of making them.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
A: REINHARD - Flights for Xmas to get both offices together. And a Peruvian fighting chicken.
A: VANNI - Well our Sacramento office just moved offices, and suffered a lot of new expenses with furniture and all that crap. I think a couch for the waiting room was the biggest expense.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
A: REINHARD - Yeah, I guess I'm brand conscious. But I combine that with rarely buying clothes.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
A: REINHARD- Keep following your dreams kids! Haha :) I guess I'd say try something new with everything you do.
B: VANNI - Nothing has really come too easy for us so there's been a lot of "hangin-in-there", and it's been incredibly worth it...so I guess that's my advice.