.

I think HTML 5 is giving us the first tease of the next step-change in what code and browsers will be doing in the next 1-3 years.   I think it seems obvious, at least to me, that we'll have biometric transactions within approximately 10-12 years, which will be interesting, from an authentication standpoint.   But honestly, I also feel that a backlash will occur, as well.  Many of my peers and I are starting to feel an "online ennui," lately.  

Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

If Kurt's not busy closing sales or taking care of the general financial architecture of KNI, then he's probably waist-deep in the frothy melange of day-to-day client engagement duties at KNI. 

  What do you do for inspiration?

During off-hours, when he's not at his desk you can probably spot him enjoying some Guitar playing in Dolores or Golden Gate Park, accompanied by his little dynamo, Stella, or perhaps taking a walk with his wife, Kate, and son, Owen, somewhere out by the beach.

Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

ESPN360.com  Redfin.com, http://archtop.com/

What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

Raising a child (note: this is still very much a day to day, work in progress!)

How many hours do you work each week?

+/- 45

How do you relax or unwind?

Guitar scales, arpeggios, and other intervalic studies.

If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?

Music & Real Estate

What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?

Getting and then completing projects that make a client really happy and proud.   Dealing with clients decisions that degrade a site's design integrity.   Remember that it all passes away, eventually, like ripples in a stream.   In the end, everything always ends up working out.

What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?

Just one overnighter, fortunately.   Hasn't happened in a while, either, knock on wood!

If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?

Starting, growing another company, prior to KNI.  I learned so much from this experience.  Many of the experiences with the first company were pretty negative, which really helped me learn so much about management, longevity and sustainability.

What software could you not live without?

Basecamp & Ichat.

How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?

As few as 3 and as many as 12

In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?

Flare visualization software is pretty neat.  Nice to see Flash getting more pragmatic about it's position in the marketplace.

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

Huge, Inc.  Fi, GSP 

What effect on traffic do your new designs have?

It really depends on where or if they get featured or otherwise get press.   

Who is your target audience?

This varies, of course, from project to project.  We don't deliberately seek out projects for just one target audience.

What area of web design lacks the most?

Content Development.  So often, you see a great comp for a site, only to be followed by gimpy or lacking content that ends up making even the best design languish.

Are there any websites that have shone through as being pioneering in the last 5 years or so?

I really love redfin.com  I think, that because it's not trendy or some social media thing it's sort of just lurking there in the shadows.  But what a huge game-changing site for anyone looking to buy real estate.  The data, the UI, the app integration, all just so incredibly useful and well done.

Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?

Absolutely.  We aren't necessarily always looking for many new clients, but, early on, we got a lot of great leads from SOTD activity.  It's been a wonderful client magnet over the years.  Thanks!  = )

When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?

One of the biggest challenges has been screen resolution and IE 6.  The IE 6 issue has been a huge one on many of the recent hybrid sites we've done. Anyone reading this should know exactly what I mean about screen resolution.  Right?  Vertical Height?  Visual Folds?  Ring any bells?

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

ha.  No.  And I'm glad!

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

No, just a screenplay.

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?

Family, Guitar, & Chess.  In that order.

What was the last digital effort you saw (or were a part of) that used social media in a way that really made sense. Why?

Ha.  Too many of our clients are part of FWA for me to truly answer this!

Have you been a part of a campaign that was rooted in digital and THEN reached over into other consumer touchpoints? Did this happen organically or was it a part of the plan from the beginning?

Yes.  ComedyFetish.com, which we worked on for Venables.   We did logo development and a bunch of assets for the website that ended up being used in the outdoor campaigns.

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?

We've already starting developing touchscreen apps for other devices, so yes, I guess you could say the web is getting out of the web.  And, of course, we're seeing ads on TV already for web enable TVs that ship with Apps.  But these are all still digital solutions; I don't think there's a way around digital.  I certainly don't see sine waves sweeping back in and becoming involved in our day to day interface transactions.  So, no, I don't see "digital" as a hindrance so much as an inevitable, unavoidable aspect of all mediums.

Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?

I think HTML 5 is giving us the first tease of the next step-change in what code and browsers will be doing in the next 1-3 years.   I think it seems obvious, at least to me, that we'll have biometric transactions within approximately 10-12 years, which will be interesting, from an authentication standpoint.   But honestly, I also feel that a backlash will occur, as well.  Many of my peers and I are starting to feel an "online ennui," lately.   

Having to be bombarded with utterly inane and superfluous apps like "trip it," or seeing people "check in" to totally stupid places is all just idiotic to me.   Why should I care?  If it continues at the current pace I find myself growing less and less interested in most of it.   

I think it'll be a real opportunity for traditionally more accomplished story-tellers to swoop back in a wrest control from the yawn-inspiring noise and pollution of the app-rabble. 

Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?

This is a really tough question because pride and "what's innovative and good" is really so transient.  Things that really blew my mind back in 2004 are dated and really often not that compelling to look back and dwell on 6 years later.   I think the nature of web is that way, just utterly fleeting and transient.   I produced a site for the movie, American Beauty back in 1999, for example, that was utterly astounding and revolutionary.  But if you saw it today, you'd chuckle condescendingly, as would I.   I'm currently, really proud of Cheetos.com, a site that we just launched for GSP, but that's subject to change and I'll probably want to edit this statement in a year or two!  

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

Ha.  About 5 or 6 years ago, built a tabular submission form field that had dynamic drop-down menus.   Our HTML people laugh at this, of course, because in HTML, this type of thing is utterly primitive.  But Flash at the time, and even still, to this day, is still kind of a backward and esoteric tool for doing things like that.   

Do you think Flash is here to stay?

I think Adobe has made great strides to keep it relevant.  AS3's more "OOP" approach, Flex Builder, and the more traditional Design Pattern foundation you now see in Flash development will go a long way towards keeping Flash in the mix for at least the next 2-3 years.  And, certainly not having to do as much cross-browser testing is a HUGE time-saver on projects.   As a shop that does more and more JQUERY and CSS, I can tell you, it's enormously time consuming to do HTML, from a compliance and testing standpoint.   

That said, the demos that I've seen for HTML 5 should definitely give adobe some pause and are a major cause for concern for them, because HTML 5 looks incredibly powerful.  And if you combine what JQUERY is doing with some of the native aspects of HTML 5, it's really starting to encroach upon Flash's traditionally more "exclusive" territory.

And, of course, Apple and Steve Jobs' hatred of Flash doesn't help its potentially endangered species status, either.   If Apple continues to dominate the device market, especially for media activities this spells very real trouble for Adobe. 

There is perhaps a shift in web use these days. We are seeing a decline in the purely experiential sites in flash with huge production efforts, to a relationship with clients based on tools and services, that many times have simples interfaces. How do you see that trend developing? Will Flash suffer?

Hmm.  I don't know.  You tell me!  You guys still seem like you're able to cull a boatload of these types of sites for your daily "SOTD" features.   Are you getting less submissions than you used to?    

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

They can certainly get into Flash Development, but I don't know very many Creative Directors who don't have some type of serious design training in their background.  It's very rare.   But certainly, if you want to be a coder, forget school. I don't know any coders who actually finished school and got bachelor's degrees in computer science.   I'm sure they're out there.  I just don't know any.

If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?

Follow your instincts.  If you love what you do, you have nothing to worry about.   But if you're getting into it for the money or some other reason, and you're not sure if you like it or not, it's probably not going to pan out, unless you grind your way into and through that passion-discovery phase.

How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?

It's actually pretty easy to ferret out the good portfolios from the bad.  When you have been looking at sites and people's work for 11 years you develop an ESP-like sense of who's actually good.  Then it's really just a matter of personal chemistry, at that point, and whether you think you'll be able to enjoy or tolerate having lunch with this person every day for the next 5 or 10 years.  That's a bigger issue, really. 

How do you keep up with the latest capabilities of Flash or do you rely on other members of you team to do this?

Everyone relies on everyone.   It's the sharing, chatting, exchanging of links, and the like, that keep this ball rolling.  

What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?

A car that was like a packet of data, traveling around the city with other packet-cars, all being shuttled by some router-like GSP system.  Something that allowed me to get from the one side of the city to another in 10 minutes, while I worked, and then parks itself.  This whole idea of cars as fetish-identity objects is 20th century.  Just get me there so I barely notice you and then I'll love you.

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

Personal contact.   I'm a traditionalist I guess.  You have to do a lunch now and again!  It's funny to hear me say that, because I hardly do lunches anymore.  But to get the first clients you often have to.  Not always, but it helps.

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

I won't venture too far on this one.  Way too loaded a question.  All I will say is make sure you use swfaddress, so all your sections get treated as pages by the browser, ideally, with deep-linkable urls, and back/forward functionality in the browser.  There's nothing that bugs me more, especially this late in the game, than a flash site that's just one gigantic SWF, requiring you to tediously wait and then navigate through stuff you've already seen just to get to one piece of content. Gross!

How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?

I have my minions.

What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?

The US, of course!   We may be in many forms of industrial decline and labor market-shifts and all that.  But when it comes to cultural and technological innovation in the social and digital sphere, we're still getting it done.

There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?

I have several invention ideas, outside the sphere of web that I dream of executing.  They're oddly remote and disconnected from the world I work in.  I'd tell you what they are, but then I'd have to kill you. 

What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?

As a general rule, I've never been able to predict where anything will end up beyond 3-5 years out.  If I had the power to know this, I'd be the richest man in the world, no?

What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?

Pre-school options for my son

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

Landscaping design and implementation for my back yard.

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

I like to Flash in my organic cotton Hoodie.

Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

When you're 20, 40 seems really far away; when you're 40, 20 seems like yesterday.

It has been a privilege, thanks very much

-Thank YOU FWA~!  


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