I am excited about exploring the possibilities of interactive documentary. It is a genre that is grossly unexplored, yet shows great promise and has attracted very talented storytellers and artists.
I am a Boston-based designer and media artist originally from Westchester County, New York. After obtaining a BFA in New Media Design from R.I.T. in 2005, I worked in advertising as an Interactive Designer and Interactive Art Director. Projects included corporate websites, promotional landing pages, motion videos and flash experiences. My passion for storytelling lead me to expand beyond the web into film/video, as I recognize the potential for engaging transmedia experiences that create a positive and lasting impact. I attended Emerson College in Boston and received an MFA in Media Art in 2013. I currently strive to work on projects that explore the possibilities of modern media and address important social issues.
What do you do for inspiration?
I enjoy finding inspiration outside of the web. I love to go exploring with a camera, sit down with a book and sift through old postcards and vintage photos at various markets and small-town shops. I'm also an avid moviegoer at the local independent theaters here in Boston.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
That is like asking for my 3 favorite albums. . .impossible! :) I'll just list 3 sites that I've enjoyed as of recent, covering interactive documentary, data visualization and social media.
1. Clouds Over Cuba - http://cloudsovercuba.com/
2. Here is Today - http://hereistoday.com/
3. This Is Now - http://now.jit.su/
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
In regards to web-related work, Hollow has definitely been the project I have been most proud of. It not only strives to push the boundaries of the medium, but also works hard to facilitate positive change in a community of hardworking people.
How do you relax or unwind?
To relax or unwind I either tire myself out with physical activity, listen to vinyl records or tinker with my guitar.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
I would likely be engaging in some form of design work.
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
I love to problem solve. Visual design is almost like icing on the cake. I much prefer to lock myself in a room with other creatives to hash out a plan of execution than sit in a box by myself hacking at my brain. Collaboration is key and the combination of diverse experiences and skills is what makes for strong solutions. When stuck, I just need to bounce things off another person. Just verbalizing ideas to someone can shake things loose.
The hardest part tends to be working with clients who have less familiarity with the digital medium. Not all clients truly understand what they want or need, yet they recognize trends. Obviously it is often our job to educate and guide those clients through the process, though this can certainly prove to be a big challenge. My hat is off to anyone who excels in this area.
What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?
I believe 3 days straight. . . you begin to hallucinate.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
At this point, choosing to leave the agency setting has been pivotal in shaping the direction of my career. I may still end up in a studio setting sometime in the near future, but working on meaningful independent projects has certainly redefined my work for the present time.
What software could you not live without?
I would be lost without the Adobe Creative Suite. Years ago, I would have just said Flash, but sadly Flash has become less and less a part of my work. At the same time, I'm very excited to embrace other technologies.
Are there any websites that have shone through as being pioneering in the last 5 years or so?
The Wilderness Downtown was definitely one of those sites that blew many of us away and continues to be referenced time and time again.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
Winning an FWA award is certainly very helpful in establishing some recognition for our project and generating awareness. It's a very prestigious award and we are very honored to be recognized!
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
My first major web project was back in undergrad and involved 360º hotspot environments in flash and those toy skateboards for your fingers. Unfortunately it is not accessible online currently. Actually, that is most fortunate.
Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?
Keeping a dialogue going is very important. One way to do this is through teaching, which is a great way to stimulate creative thinking in a group setting as well as consider alternate perspectives from young generations of creatives.
The web is getting out of the web. Do you find that thinking in digital solutions alone hinders you? Do you feel the urge to solve the problem using all mediums necessary?
I'm incredibly excited by the potential of creating solutions using multiple mediums. We have so many tools at our disposal, yet we have only scratched the surface. To me, it seems that a new wave of mediamakers is developing with a broader sense of media solutions as a whole. It's not necessarily a matter of just becoming an expert in one medium or technology, but understanding how to choreograph multiple components to achieve a desired result. It's this clever combination of methods that can bring on a whole new form of innovation.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Flash may stick around, but its place in the world is certainly changing. I have a fondness for Flash that will never die and I still feel that Flash is more powerful than its current competitors, but the landscape has changed and Flash obviously needs to adapt. We'll see what the future holds.
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 certainly have met plenty of people who are self taught, whether it be in design or programming. Still, I think there is great value in finding a strong program, especially if that program encourages group projects and recognizes the individual roles associated with the professional industry.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
First off, I would say that my undergraduate program at Rochester Institute of Technology provided me with a great foundation. From there, working in an agency setting definitely gave me time to refine my craft as well as collaborate with skilled individuals. In all honestly, I didn't feel like this work came naturally to me from the start. It took a great deal of work before I became comfortable with my process and my approach. So my advice would be to let your passion and drive do the work. You may have to trudge through some awkward stages, but they are necessary stepping stones in reaching your goal.
What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?
I am excited about exploring the possibilities of interactive documentary. It is a genre that is grossly unexplored, yet shows great promise and has attracted very talented storytellers and artists. Merging the functions and sensibilities of film and the web is a formidable challenge, though the lines of modern media continue to blur as we experiment and tailor technology to our needs. I would love to help bring about positive change to real people and continue to push the boundaries of interactive documentary.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
Probably a sandwich. Sandwiches aren't cheap in Boston! Though I'm waiting it out for a Macbook Pro with Haswell, so that is definitely a larger investment on the horizon.