.

Rob has been asking me to complete an FWA interview for several years now. Until now, I've been reluctant to take him up on his flattering offer. It just didn't feel right.

Prologue:

I'm Richard Lent, founder and CEO of AgencyNet. Let me start off by giving you an explanation for what promises to be the longest FWA interview in history...

Rob has been asking me to complete an FWA interview for several years now. Until now, I've been reluctant to take him up on his flattering offer. It just didn't feel right.

I'm just one person within an incredible team of 40 creative, intelligent, talented, and passionate individuals. It didn't seem fair that I'd be the one essentially taking the credit for our team accomplishments.

And then I thought about the pre-game player introductions of Super Bowl 36 when the New England Patriots went against tradition, and instead of announcing each player on the team individually, they choose to enter the stadium as a team and bask in their collective glory.

From that moment, the NFL changed their protocol and every subsequent Super Bowl has had "team introductions" on both sides.

That feels rights for AgencyNet. We hope you enjoy our 'Team' interview…

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Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

AgencyNet is an award winning digital advertising and marketing agency. We specialize in developing emotionally engaging and strategic Digital brand experiences.

Over the last 14 years we have developed robust Brand Portals, ideated successful Buzz Generation Campaigns, created ubiquitous Digital Content, and served as a strategic consulting partner to some of the world’s most recognized and respected brands.

We are more than a web production shop, design house or programming group. We are AgencyNet.

What do you do for inspiration?

12 of us turn up the tunes, 10 gain inspiration from outdoor activities and nature, 7 from traditional and alternate forms of art, 6 from other people’s work, 4 from photography, 3 from reading, and 1 brave sole from swimming in the ocean.

Please list 3 of your favourite sites:

16- Google, 12- FWA, 12- Digg, 6- Smashing Magazine, 4- Facebook, 3- Netvibes, 2- Get the Glass, 2- Wikipedia, 2- Web Designer Wall, 2- ESPN, 2- Ted, 2- Adage

What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

16 responded working with great people in an environment that challenges and inspires, 7 replied developing a global brand portal for a major Spirits company, 5 said creating a beautiful standards-based portal for a major television network, and 3 were most proud of graduating from design school.

What software could you not live without?

22- Photoshop, 14- Outlook, 12- Firefox, 9- Word, 7- Flash, 4- Excel, 4- After Effects, 4- Maya, 3- FlashDevelop, 3- Visual Studio, 2- iTunes, 2- Firebug

What projects do you have in the pipeline?

9 intelligent people said “we’re under NDA’s”, 6 less intelligent people said a redesign of Bacardi.com, and 4 said a major kids-centric portal for Warner Brothers.

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

16 (obviously biased and somewhat pompous) respondents said AgencyNet, 11 said Big Spaceship, 6 went with North Kingdom, 4 said Firstborn, 3 like FarFar, and 2 chimed in with Group 94.

What effect on traffic do your new designs have?

32 people ignored this question, 4 felt site redesign has an initial effect on traffic as the public is enticed to check out the fresh creative and content, and 2 reasoned that we are now much more sophisticated in incorporating organic SEO techniques in Flash which enable our Flash redesigns to naturally capitalize on the power of search.

Who is your target audience?

18 felt we are target-audience neutral, 9 said 18-34 year olds, 5 said kids/ tweens/ teens, 3 believed we go after hip males 18 to 25, and 2 alleged we target soccer moms.

What area of web design lacks the most?

22- usability, 12- good storytelling, 7- interaction design, 7- content, 6- standards, 4-immersive 3D, 1- clients who allow agencies to innovate

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

14- horrendous and no, 11- hideous and no, 4- animated gifs-a-plenty, 1- <BLINK>ANNOYING</BLINK>

Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?

8- no and yes, 6- have contributed to a book, 4- no and no, 1- a cookbook is in the works

What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?

6 developers said a robust music mixer, 3 went with integrating 3D with green-screen video and rich Flash animation, and 2 said a robust portfolio/asset manager in Flex/XML.

Do you think Flash is here to stay?

A UNANIMOUS YES

What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?

16 believe design school is an excellent foundation for a career in the Digital industry, 12 considered it valuable but not essential, 6 felt it was a necessary evil to learn the basics, and 4 stated it depends on the individual.

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

Those of us who were around that early in the game credit a few notable projects for some big name clients as the breaks we needed to stir up awareness for our agency. We followed those projects with our current version of agencynet.com and that’s when the inbound requests really started to heat up.

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

14- reading and research, 11- experimentation, 10- practice, 7- ask co-workers/web community, 3- there’s no substitute for experience, stick with it.

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

9- Gas, 5- Christmas presents 3- Macbook’s, 2- Wii’s, 2- mountains bikes

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

8- I’m a woman and YES, 7- Threadless T’s, 5- comfort is king, 4- Diesel, 3- Penguin, 2- Hugo Boss. (Editor's note: I always get busted with this question! Sorry ladies :))

Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

17- do what you love, 10- never stop learning, 9- ask lots of questions, 4- travel and explore other cultures, 2- make the buttons glossy

It has been a privilege, thanks very much.

Thank you Rob and The FWThe pleasure was ours!

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Additional answers of note:

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What do you do for inspiration?

I actually get the greatest clarity when I'm looking to really push the envelope from music. I'll put on my headphones, crank up the iTunes and sort of get lost in whatever comes my way. I feel that when I try too hard, or over think something is when my work suffers the most. Listening to really loud music relaxes me enough to sort of step back and naturally let my brain do what it needs to do.

- Augi

Read. Everything and anything I can get my hands on. Inspiration may come with anything from a classic novel to industry news.

- Betsy

Draw inspiration from other venues such as motion graphics, video games, movies, cartoons, etc.

- Josh C

I love going to non-everyday places and enjoy the scenery, observe people, and relax. I love to look at my surroundings and take elements in and twist them into ideas.

- Matias

I like to sit in our conference room by myself or with a few other people and throw ideas around. We have this interesting painting on the walls, where people always ask "what are those little pacman-looking creatures?" To me, they are creative fleas and its good when they bite! I also like to run and digest all the things I've heard, seen or learned. That always results in inspiration!

- Lindsay

I view the world around me and take inspiration from the simple things.

- Marc

Similar to most people in the creative industry, I find inspiration in almost everything I love and do like movies, reading, cartoons, collecting toys, mountain biking, napping, and listening to music. However, the trick behind stimulating your brain with new ideas is to keep on open mind and become an observer. It’s important to appreciate the details in everything. The next time you go to the movies, pay attention to things like the transitions or the animation of the title sequence. Analyze and question why things function the way they do. Those answers may reveal some great insight for new ideas.

- Bryant

I find that I obtain an overwhelming amount of inspiration from my coworkers. Every single one of them inspires me in a different and unique way.

- Melanie

Explore art galleries and installations, create fine art and mixed media, shoot photography, travel to faraway lands with unusual cultures, and research emerging technology and design.

- Joshua P

I like to observe other peoples' or companies' works with a very open mind. It is always inspiring to see what others are doing with the same tools you have to work with. It helps you continually realize that creativity is endless.

- Zack

When I am looking for inspiration I like to research areas outside of my every day. Sometimes I just need to look around. At Agencynet we have such a diverse group of people I can find inspiration just by socializing with the people around me. With all the different views and backgrounds everyone is constantly learning new things and we all feed off that energy influencing and inspiring each other.

- Justen

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Please list 3 of your favourite sites

Having a background in interface design I lean toward sites that talk about CSS. As such, most of my favorite sites are CSS oriented. Two sites I love are: smashingmagazine.com and webdesignerwall.com. I also love ETSY.com because it brings together creative people who buy and sell all things handmade. My goal is to start selling my photography on there this year.

- Tracy

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What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

Launching Bacardi.com, a world-class global portal. The technology behind it is amazing and I am extremely proud of our technical and creative team.

- Matias

Completing the MOJO Web portal. It's a great example on how a team can come together and create something amazing. Not only is the site ridiculously large (content wise), it incorporates many different technologies Java, JavaScript, Flash, XHTML/CSS and AIR. Perhaps a more notable accomplishment was that the site was built in about 3 weeks!

- Dave N

Being a student ambassador for the US when I was 15.

- Joshua P

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What software could you not live without?

Aside from the usual tools like Photoshop, Illustrator, Flash, etc… I don’t think I would get very far without my trusty # 2 pencils and sketch book.

- Bryant

FlashDevelop - hands down. This is a great open source IDE aimed primarily at Flash development (although it also has syntax highlighting and code completion for other languages such as Javascript, Html, Xml etc.). It has so many invaluable features that have found their way into my daily workflow that I really can't imagine life without it!

- Ben H

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What effect on traffic do your new designs have?

I like to think that semantic markup and a high content / code ratio naturally improves search engine rankings. When using flash, we make sure that a search engine is fed the best possible information instead of simply disregarding it.

- Chris J

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What area of web design lacks the most?

E-commerce seems to be stuck in a UX rut.

- Melissa

Interaction design as a discipline in itself could use a little more love. Due to the previously static nature of most standards based sites, this used to be only a deficiency found in Flash based sites. As DHTML and Ajax based standards sites become more common, it’s becoming necessary to spend more time focusing on interaction design in standards sites as well. The solution, as always, is to turn our attention to the user and ensure that 0bjectives for a given page or task are clearly defined to enable us to make good decisions about issues concerning how users interact with our clients’ web sites, mobile applications, and brands.

- Jason

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What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?

Trying to mimic video effects using vector animations. The end result usually has people guessing what it is... AFX or Flash?

- Marcelo

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Do you think Flash is here to stay?

Yes, I strongly believe so. Flash is a fast evolving technology empowering developers to reach users in multiple mediums. It's the best way to narrate a story and give life to a message.

- Omar

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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 know for a fact, after a number of years in this industry, that people can train themselves. I do think however, that design/graphic school does give people a good foundation to hone their skills,

- Adrienne

As Leonardo da Vinci said "Poor is the pupil who does not surpass his master". The best way to learn is by trial and error and is how advances are made and new ideas discovered. At the end of the day, it requires passion and not just a piece of paper which says you have the education although that may help to get in the door.

- Larissa

I think like any other formal schooling, design schools provide the basic understanding required to get started in the field. I have always thought that truly great talents are not fostered in schools but rather in the hours before and after.

- Garett

Based off of personal experience, graphic design schools can only bring you so far, but it's up to you to pick up the skills you need to establish your path into the interactive industry. Most of my knowledge came from many caffeine-induced sleepless nights and picking up various books at the local B&N.

- Chris F

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

We learn by doing and research. Keep an eye on typefaces, whitespace, design trends, color theory and balance for a start. Over time your design intuition will grow and you will learn to trust the design choices you make based on specific 0bjectives.

- Larissa

The best advice I could offer is to be driven, take charge of your education and absorb as much as you can. There are some great resources and tutorials out there but as a Flash developer I am a huge fan of learning the concepts and the best place to do that is often times outside of Flash. Researching programming techniques and theories from other languages can give you better insight and a better grasp on how they fit into your projects. Another part of learning is being able to ask. When I was first starting out if I had seen something online that I couldn't figure out on my own or by researching I would figure out who built it and send them a email introducing myself and asking them. Sometimes the answer or at least a nudge in the right direction is just an email away.

- Justen

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

A pair of $300 limited edition Yasohiro Mihara Puma high-top shoes. Now I can moon-walk. Oh yeah.

- Joshua P

Skull Candy Earbuds

- Zack

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

Not a "labels man" but I never ride without my Icon Ti MAX (Titanium) Mesh Jacket.

- David B

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Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

A little pearl that I like to revisit from time to time is: Do your best and forget the rest. It sounds really simple, but if you linger on it for a minute you will see that there's some great stuff packed in between those words.

- Latoya

Passion should be your motivating factor. Hold onto it and find ways to keep it alive.

- Ben B

If you are really serious about Flash development, don't limit yourself to actionscript. Programming is as much an art form as it is a science. Learning about compiled languages such as C/C++ and even assembly will give you a foundation that a lot of people in this field simply don't have. With the constant evolution of the Flash platform and thus increasing level of complexity in Flash based RIAs this is a foundation that will become more and more invaluable.

- Ben H

There’s nothing better than loving what you do for a living - I look forward to coming to work every day. I highly recommend it to anyone who currently doesn’t. Sounds like a good New Year’s resolution to me...

- Betsy

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