When I started as a coder I hated to talk to people or meet people, it was email all the way. Now I really see the value of getting face time with people, I love being in meetings, bouncing round ideas and coming up with cool solutions.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
I used to make things as a designer, then a coder then a UX-er, with a bit of experiential thrown in. Now as Head of Production at Less Rain I make things happen.
What do you do for inspiration?
Primarily I go and meet interesting people. brainmail.nowandnext.com is also very good.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
For content: IGN, BBC Football and Wikipedia.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
I'm just about to have my first child. My wife and I were both told we couldn't have children. Nothing else can come close to that achievement.
How many hours do you work each week?
I am in the office for 40-50 hours but a lot of my brain time out of work is spent thinking about how to solve challenges on projects. If I really get into a project my work-life balance can get quite blurred, but then I'd be doing this kind of work as a hobby anyway so its no problem.
How do you relax or unwind?
I like to travel and explore new places. Usually every 3 months I try to get away to somewhere where there are no people. Recently I've walked along a deserted beach in Mexico where a wild dog adopted me as his owner, climbed mountains of fossilised coral in Egypt where a bird of prey flew alongside me (probably waiting so it could eat me) and snorkelled at sunset in the Maldives watching sharks feed on the reef life - on the same snorkel a turtle swam alongside me for ten minutes (probably waiting for the sharks to eat me). Seems whenever I go away I become Dr Doolittle. I enjoy RPG games like Mass Effect, Oblivion, KOTOR - anything that takes my brain to another world is good.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
I always wanted to be a palaeontologist. I like dinosaurs. Maybe I would be a writer or an artist. Or even charity work. I like doing creative things and helping people.
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
My favourite part of the job is coming up with a cool concept and then seeing the talented guys I work with turn it into something better than I thought possible. I like it when clients are really happy with the work. And winning awards from your peers is always nice too. I think the hardest part is when things go horribly wrong and you need to quickly think on your feet and work as a team and come up with solutions - that is one of my favourite parts of the job though.
What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?
I've done a few 4am shifts in my time.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
When I started as a coder I hated to talk to people or meet people, it was email all the way. Now I really see the value of getting face time with people, I love being in meetings, bouncing round ideas and coming up with cool solutions. Also when I started to treat myself as a brand, and thought about how I wanted to position myself and define clearly what I was offering, I found my career really started taking off.
What software could you not live without?
Photoshop. Although I am using Microsoft Paint a lot more these days... Axure is cool for quickly prototyping ideas. Also web browsers count as software right? Google Chrome is awesome.
How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?
Usually three or four big ones every quarter. I like to focus on doing a few projects really well rather than swamping our team with volume work. At Less Rain we also have a few direct clients that we are always working with on and off.
In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?
The Away 3D and Minko frameworks are awesome.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
I like the aesthetic of North Kingdom and Fi. AKQA have a really tight style also. The work coming out of Brazil and Mexico has a really cool feel also, very colourful and bold.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
I think they have more of an effect on dwell time, and I think that's more important.
Who is your target audience?
At Less Rain we like to build online destinations for creative audiences to create and share.
What area of web design lacks the most?
Banking! And that's more on the UX side. Some banking sites are painful and scary to use, they really shouldn't be.
Are there any websites that have shone through as being pioneering in the last 5 years or so?
In no particular order; The Museum of Me, Ro.Me, Monet, OK Go (All Is Not Lost) and the VW GTI site (the one with Helga that CP+B produced) have impressed me.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
For sure. Its a badge of honour, I'm very proud every time I get one!
When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?
Generally I work on experiential campaigns where the target market is well defined. On the projects which did have wider audiences I strive to make the sites a place where people can have fun, be creative and share their work.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
Thankfully its not online. It was a bizarre Shockwave site done as a university project. I build an AI system with some basic text recognition, if you wrote the right thing on the site the AI system would let you into different areas. It also had some really annoying features like launching a fullscreen browser window with no scrollbars and a blue screen of death message so it looked like your machine had crashed. Also I created a popup window which opened itself when it loaded, which meant it opened itself again, and again, and again etc. That completely locked down your computer so you had to reboot. Not the best user experience I grant you.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
Not yet, I have a few unfinished ideas for graphic novels on my iPhone though :)
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?
I defragment my brain by talking through issues with my wife - I put her under an NDA when I married her! Outside of work I also send myself reminder emails when stuff is on my mind so I don't have to think about it, I prefer to go to sleep with a clear head. I keep a healthy body by kickboxing, running and cycling. There is nothing better than legally punching someone in the head after a hard day at the office.
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?
The 2008 Barack Obama election campaign because it helped make a man President.
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 I used to work at an experiential company so I'd make games where you could get to a certain level online and then you could go to a museum and unlock extra levels. Very sneaky I know - but the kids loved it!
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?
With any brief that comes in I think of how we can make it a products which could be sold online, in a shop, on TV etc. Its very liberating and exciting to think your work could end up anywhere. I recommend reading 'Baked In' which has more on this subject.
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
In ten years time we will have pure information downloaded into our brains, or we will swallow it in pill form. Or we might be building websites in pure C++. Either way I think the lines between entertainment, gaming and information will become inexorably linked.
Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?
I thought Being Henry was an excellent achievement both technically and in terms of storytelling. I am also really proud of the Land of Me - a project which was made to make people's lives better.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
I worked for a year on a museum project in the Middle East. All the interactives had to work in English and Arabic. It was challenging technically but also in terms of QA. I actually had to learn some Arabic so I could test things properly.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Yes, for sure. I think as it matures it will morph slightly from a tool for making cool online sites to something which you see permeate the interfaces you see in every day life, from reading digital magazines (in fact its already doing this), to the HUD on your car, to the GUI on your TV.
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?
Good question. At Less Rain the move towards tools and services has been because building something in HTML is sometimes seen as a cheaper 'build once and deploy everywhere' solution. However you can do this with Flash now (an online site in Flash with App content for mobiles). The question now is will your customers want to interact with your product on service in the same flat way as everyone is doing, or will they want a richer immersive experience to really feel and enjoy your brand? Don't get me wrong, there are some fantastic HTML sites out there, but as yet for me they haven't triggered a strong emotional effect or given me that 'wow' factor as many Flash sites have done. As a caveat Ro.Me was cool but I don't think it was really selling a service, although it sold Chrome very well.
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 think schools like Hyper Island or Tietgen Skolen have the right idea. They hook up students with clients and make projects in the real world. There is no better educator than actually making something for someone.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
The projects I see that win awards are the ones that have been made with a lot of love and hard work. If you find yourself working on a project and you are getting pissed off with the work or the client I think its safe to say you shouldn't expect awards at the end of the process. For students there are 3 key things: get on LinkedIn, get a decent portfolio on somewhere like projeqt, and research the company you are interested applying for. I get way too many vanilla CV's with no thought on how they might fit into the culture here.
How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?
You can tell a lot from a person's portfolio. I'm a real stickler for details so if on a portfolio I spot a spelling mistake or a transition that is not quite right I think to myself - would I want this person designing a site for my client?
How do you keep up with the latest capabilities of Flash or do you rely on other members of you team to do this?
At Less Rain we're on the Adobe partner program which helps, they send lots of updates and are always there to give advice and help out. The Adobe UK marketing and evangelist teams are really good people to know, they really want to help the industry produce great work with Flash. Flash on the Beach and Adobe MAX are great events to get to if you can.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
I would like to commute on a trained Lion.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
I wasn't here from the early years of Less Rain, but I know they worked on many self-initiated projects which were well awarded and so got them front of mind with clients and agencies.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
Get yourself in a company where people are passionate about their craft and want to do the best possible work they can everyday.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?
Sweden always produces consistently high quality work.
There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
I'd like to work on a project that would win a Nobel Peace prize. I have a few ideas as to how I could do this, now its just a case of meeting the right people and connecting the dots to make things happen. There is a lot of good to be done in the world so I'd like to (as I'm sure every human does) leave a legacy behind that makes a difference to people's lives.
What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?
I remember a quote from Alex Bogusky (one of my heroes) who said don't become one of those people who make a few cool projects, then gets hired into a more senior role on a bigger salary but then produces mediocre work that no-one cares about for the rest of their life. So far in my career I have kept true to my values and beliefs so as long as I can keep doing that I'll be happy.
What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?
Outside of work I'm really looking forward to becoming a father. Inside of work I'd really like to win a few Cannes Lions, that's always been an inspiration for me.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
I just bought my wife a nice Christmas present, I can't say how much as she'll be reading this :)
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
I do like Paul Smith.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Get your LinkedIn profile up to date. Go out and meet people. Grow your networks. Make sure you're doing a job you love. Don't work to try and make money, work to create cool stuff and help people out - then you'll find the great opportunities then come to you.
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
It's been an honour!