Flash's days are numbered. There's such a massive surge of energy towards HTML5 and natively built apps. I think it's only a matter of time that Flash is reduced to nothing but banner ads and video players.
My design career all started in grade school when I would draw pictures of Bart Simpson with speech bubbles containing my homework assignments for the day. I would also frequently draw every character from Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter in my notebook. The tradition continued in college at the University of Georgia where I would stay up super late the night before a big art history test, spending all my time designing a complete and thorough study guide as opposed to actually studying it.
After college I worked as an in-house designer for various companies and slowly transitioned to agency life here and there, all while growing a stronger and stronger affinity for the web. When I stumbled across The FWA back in the early 2000's, I got hooked on flash and taught myself actionscript long before I learned to code HTML and CSS.
Now most of my days consist of designing iPhone and iPad design projects sprinkled with the occasional website here and there. I also collaborate on a lot of 360º projects with Daniel Lim, my partner in Singapore.
What do you do for inspiration?
I usually draw inspiration from anything if I stare at it long enough. The texture on a weathered piece of wood, the majestic gradients in the sky, or the tiny details on a small insect are all incredible places to start.
I used to think there was some magical bucket of inspiration and creativity I could summon on demand. I would get depressed and anxious at the start of new projects, staring at a blank canvas, thinking my 'bucket' had been tapped. I think most creativity for me now just happens by way of constraints and hard work. Over time you develop your own sense of style and apply that in some way to every project.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
I'm sure most people like to see links to projects here but my biggest achievement by far has got to be my family. I've got a wonderful and beautiful wife who provides unlimited love and support. We have 3 absolutely amazing kids Noah, Justice, and Isabel who are like little pieces of my heart walking around in the wild.
How many hours do you work each week?
I typically work between 30-40 hours at my office each week. My mind never really stops thinking about work but I try to shut down as much as possible when I get home to spend some quality time and attention with the family.
How do you relax or unwind?
Dinner or a movie with my wife. A tasty brew is always a welcomed addition.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
When I was 15 my dad taught me how to install a cd player and new speakers in my '79 Mazda RX7. I was amazed at how the dashboard could come unsnapped and panels could be removed, etc. I did the same thing for my friends' vehicles all throughout high school. I was convinced that someday I would own and run a small independent custom audio shop.
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
Having a clean slate for design is always a super fun time. I think the hardest part of they job is keeping morale up during long projects. Going for runs and drinking lots and lots of coffee seem to help during the 'stuck' times.
What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?
Probably 48 hours. Sometimes it happens because of a deadline and other times the creativity and excitement is so strong you can't possibly walk away.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
My move to the agency world was definitely a huge step in the right direction for me. There's a lot of things you can learn as an in-house designer but you're always solving the same problem. At agencies you're faced with all kinds of different scenarios for different clients with different objectives. It's like a creative microwave.
What software could you not live without?
Photoshop, Coda, xScope, Twitter, Mail, Pandora. Probably more. I've been watching a lot of Walking Dead recently so I could definitely see myself trading Photoshop in for a crossbow and a machete in the event of a Zombie Apocalypse.
How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?
Usually just 3 or 4 at a time. I'm still at the point where my hand is on every project and I can't mentally handle much more than that at once.
What area of web design lacks the most?
Probably copywriting and communication. Whether it's apps or websites, one of the most challenging things to do is to communicate to the user in the clearest way possible.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
My very first site was a personal site for my incredibly general portfolio. You can still see part of it here: http://web.archive.org/web/20041018113130/http://www.mattdsmith.com/
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?
Absolutely. As I mentioned before my family is a vital part of my well-being. They are my first priority so I'm always making sure things are good with them before moving on to my work.
Although I'm terrible at keeping a good consistent routine, exercise is a really good tool as well to keep me sharp and on top of my game.
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
I'm sure that soon we'll have more and more invisible interfaces. Meaning that content will just be served up within the context of wherever you are. Hopefully that happens without a microchip implanted in your skin.
Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?
We had lots of fun working on the Singapore HeritageFest 360º tour for the Singapore National Heritage Board. I'm also really proud of our new studiomds.co website, which was long overdue and got some nice press.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Flash's days are numbered. There's such a massive surge of energy towards HTML5 and natively built apps. I think it's only a matter of time that Flash is reduced to nothing but banner ads and video players. Perhaps Flash (the software) will stay around as a way to make apps, etc. but I think the .swf is in a downward spiral.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
Like any trade the fundamentals are really important. I think design school helps cement those core principals for good design and stresses the "why." With that said, I don't think it's absolutely necessary to go through design school to get into the field. No one hiring a designer really cares what school they went to or what their resume says. It's the work that matters.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
I'm still waiting for teleportation to become a thing.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
By following lots of designers and developers on Twitter. Things get spread incredibly fast there. It's like word of mouth on steroids.
What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?
I'm moving more and more into the iPhone and iPad app direction. I still love designing for the web and creative responsive websites is a fun task, but there's something very appealing about apps that serve as little digital tools that enhance your life someway.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
A tank of gas for the swagger wagon.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Do meaningful work as much as you can. Do what you can be proud of. There will always be times when work has to be done just to make a buck, but never lose sight of what's really valuable.
It has been a privilege, thanks very much