.

People can mock the old school design trends and styles but at least there was some personality. There’s too many sites out there today that just look like stylized wireframes.


question Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

My name is Shane Mielke aka Pixelranger, Coach Mielke or MilkBeast. I am a Freelance Creative Director, Designer, Front-End Developer, Flash Developer, Animator, Photographer, Author, Speaker, Coach, Crossfitter and Cyberdyne Systems Model 101.

For 10 years I worked at a small studio called 2Advanced. I left in December 2012 and I am currently freelancing for agencies around the world and looking for awesome projects and clients that want to push the boundaries of creativity, design, development.

I live in beautiful Southern California with my amazing wife and two rebellious young daughters who are quickly turning my hair grey.

What do you do for inspiration?

I try to get away from the computer to just zone out while doing something athletic in order to free my mind of any limitations. Physical activities help push aside all of the internal and external noise that constantly bombards us all and hinders our creativity.

True inspiration though comes from breaking out of your comfort zones to experience new things in life, visiting new places, meeting new people with skill sets and perspectives different than my own.

Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

Google.com, StackOverflow.com, YouTube.com

What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

I think my biggest achievement is still loving my job 15 years after I started in this industry and being able to prioritize my family over potential job opportunities, projects and deadlines.

It's so easy to get burnt out or frustrated working impossible hours on a bad project because of client, boss or coworker pressure.

I see so many people making the mistake of prioritizing job above all while sacrificing time away from their families or personal hobbies. Don’t get me wrong, work is an important priority in life. It’s how you make money and support yourself and your family. But life is short and work is not the most important thing so keep life in perspective.

How many hours do you work each week?

I typically limit client work to 40 hours a week. My time with my family is more important than any client, project or deadline.

I always make sure to have the hours of 5-10 PM free so that I can workout, be with my wife and kids and give them the time that they deserve and that I need to be happy.

It doesn’t matter how much money you are making, how successful a project was or how happy the client is. If your friends, family, wife or kids haven’t seen you in weeks, your health is suffering from stress and you are unhappy because you work too much then you are failing at life.

How do you relax or unwind?

Anytime I get stressed out or too close to a project, I always head to the gym, go for a run, walk on the treadmill, play some racquetball or head to CrossFit for a brutal workout. Being physically active is by far the fastest way to get the toxins out of your body, mind and soul and get those voices out of your head.

The other thing I’ll do is drop a hint to my wife that we need to get away for the weekend. We pack up the car for a Mielke Family Trip and just get away for a few days. Typical family excursions are trips to Yosemite, Santa Cruz, San Francisco or Disneyland where we have season passes so that we can go anytime/anyday.

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

A Landscape Photographer or a CrossFit gym owner/coach.

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

The favorite part of my job is meeting and working with talented people who inspire and guide me personally, creatively and professionally. This typically leads me to the 2nd favorite thing about my job which is learning new techniques, technologies, styles and philosophies from those people.

The hardest part of my job is not allowing stress or longer work hours to creep into my life. Especially on projects that do not have immediate deadlines. It's so easy to get caught up by stressing about a bug, tweaking a design or staying up late for a project.

Work smarter not longer.

There is no shame in optimizing your workflow in order to only work 40 hours per week. There is no honor in being a keyboard warrior with no life outside of work who brags about working longer hours than necessary because of a lack of discipline or organization.

When I get stuck I workout, switch projects or take a nap.

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

56 Straight hours for the launch of 2Advanced V4 back in 2003. I finished up the Ford F150 project on a Wednesday afternoon and then stopped by Eric Jordan’s office to ask if there was anything I could do to help out on the site. Up until that time the 2Advanced sites had been done completely by Eric himself.

I assumed the site had been in production for weeks since there was a very public launch date and party in 3 days. To my surprise, I found out the only things started were a homepage comp and some early motion work because so much effort was going into the demo reel. So I called my wife, told her not to expect me home for a few days and jumped into the design, animation and development of the site. The rest is history.

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

I’ve always mentioned that the primary catalyst for my career was the moment I met my wife.  Once I realized that she was "the one", I knew I had to get serious and become more financially secure for the both of us.  So I transitioned my interest in graphic design and building websites into a career.

Another experience that proved pivotal in my growth as an Graphic Artist, Animator and Flash Developer was the first time I ever opened a Photoshop and a Flash file from Eric Jordan. My mind was immediately blown by the sheer amount of layers and love that had been poured into those files. I learned more about Photoshop, animation, tempo, keyframes and easing in 5 minutes than I had the previous year.

What software could you not live without?

Photoshop, Dreamweaver, Google, Instagram, Flash (Not as much these days)

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

I’ve always been used to juggling 3-4 medium to large sized projects at a time. Because my skillset is diverse, I’m never doing the same thing on any one project so things never get boring.

It’s pretty common to be designing in Photoshop, animating in After Effects, taking stock photography with my camera, rendering in Cinema 4D and coding HTML/CSS/JS in Dreamweaver all for different projects during the day.

I love the adrenaline rush and organized chaos of balancing multiple projects and skillsets as I hit creative walls, bugs or find inspiration.

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

Adobe Edge Inspect is an amazing tool I’ve been using a lot of lately. It allows you to wirelessly pair multiple iOS and Android devices to your computer. This lets you browse your project in Chrome, and all of your connected devices stay in sync so that you can make changes to your HTML, CSS and JavaScript and see how everything renders across devices.

The Google Chrome web developer console is another tool that has become invaluable in my development process. Element inspection, animation benchmarks, console logs and the ability to change HTML and CSS live in the browser saves tons of time when tracking down bugs and tweaking properties.

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

It's always changing but I think that North Kingdom, B-Reel & Google Creative Lab consistently do amazing work.

Who is your target audience?

For personal work, I enjoy creating things that anyone can see beauty in.  I’m not a very extreme person so I rarely do anything too eclectic that only certain people might enjoy.

Whether it is a website design, photography, personal artwork, an Instagram post, or how something is animated I strive to create things that hopefully men & women of all ages can look at and appreciate.

The most gratifying moments I have are when people outside of our industry look at something I’ve done and appreciate it.

For client projects, I have two main audiences. The first is obviously the end user that the site is targeting. The second is the client who is paying for the project. If either of those groups are not happy with your work there are going to be repercussions.

What area of web design lacks the most?

I think too many designers are using technology as a crutch to dictate designs.

I LOVE responsive web development. But when you’re designing against the basic grid of a framework by just modifying basic shapes, slapping in graphics, changing background colors and swapping fonts what are you really designing?

You’re really just painting by numbers or skinning a template at that point.

Too often I see people taking assets from clients and just dropping an image into the background without any extra effort or love. Don’t get me wrong I love minimalism. But I think if back in 2001 you would have told us all that site designs would have gotten simpler because of development trends we all would have laughed.

People can mock the old school design trends and styles but at least there was some personality. There’s too many sites out there today that just look like stylized wireframes.

I’m not saying I love overdesigned work either. But there just seems to be a rebellion against originality and detail as people develop more work off of frameworks.

I think designers are forgetting the power they have in dictating the structure, emotion and personality of a site. Especially as I see more designers just skinning themes and templates for their personal sites. Such a lost opportunity.

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

I love immersive and emotional sites. Those are the type of projects I love working on and appreciate the most.  

I loved experiential flash sites like http://www.wechoosethemoon.org/ and http://bear71.nfb.ca/.  

Chrome experiences like http://www.ro.me/ & http://www.chromeweblab.com  are pushing the non-flash boundaries.

Then there are sites like http://www.panpacificdefense.com/  which are pushing html to look like old school flash experiences to both desktop and mobile.

Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?

Having received FWA awards is one of the most important things that lifted my career past what I would have become through my own hard work.

I was lucky to be recognized early in my career when web design and Flash were new and fresh which has established me as a respected veteran in some circles. In addition to a great career, this has led to opportunities like speaking at SXSW, Book contributions, Magazine features and all of the awesome projects I've been blessed to work on over the years.

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

It might sound odd but the bigger the client the less stress I usually have over meeting the needs of the target audience. Major clients usually know exactly what they want, who their target audience is and have plenty of opinions about what you’re doing.

You’re typically not there to figure and establish who the target audience is. Your job is to meet deadlines, achieve their goals and creatively address the requirements of the project with the best combination of UX, style and development techniques.

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

The first version of my site was launched 11 years ago back in 2002. I’ve kept it archived for posterity as it was the site that really established me at the time and was the stepping stone to everything I’ve accomplished today.

http://www.shanemielke.com/archives/pr/


To this day I still get emails, tweets and comments about that site and how it emotionally or creatively influenced someone. It's really touching to know something I've done was the reason a person became a designer, animator or developer in our industry.

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

Over the years I’ve been very fortunate to have contributed to several books. Most notable are:  “The New Landscape of Mobile Learning” coming out this year, FWA’s “Guidelines to Online Success” in 2008 and “New Masters of Flash” Volume 3 in 2004.

Writing is definitely a lot more challenging than most people think and in a lot of ways just like design. You can get lost for hours tweaking words and sentences in order to perfectly articulate your thoughts. Those challenges are easily forgotten when you feel the rush of seeing what you’ve written in physical format.

In search of that rush, I’ve always wanted to create my own book but felt intimidated by the complete process since it wasn’t something I’ve had experience with from start to finish. In 2011 while I was on vacation in Santa Cruz, Ca. I went to a local bookstore to pick up the latest .net, Web Designer and Computer Arts magazines.

At the cashier a book titled “101 things I learned in Culinary School” caught my eye and suddenly things clicked for me. I realized that over the years I’d contributed a lot of advice to magazines, books, friends and people emailing me with questions. I didn’t have to write some huge thick book with chapters and lots of pages. I had a whole catalog of advice already prepared.

That combined with my natural instincts to help, mentor and instruct others as a Creative Director and American football coach for the past 20 years and I realized I had everything that I needed to start the process.

So for the past 2 years, in my free time in between projects, I’ve been writing, editing and tweaking the contents of a book I hope to make a reality this Winter.

A friend of mine Scott Cook said I should name it “WHY I ROCK AND SO CAN YOU!” but I’ve tentatively titled it “Launch It – Advice & Motivation For Digital Creatives”.

Inside it will include advice, thoughts and bits of wisdom from 15 years of experience creating on the web. Covering topics like: how to stand out, what work to show in your portfolio, staying motivated, knowing when to look for a new job and how to manage the work life balance that we all struggle with.

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?

Travel! Embrace places, interests and hobbies away from the computer. Back when I worked at a studio I made a point of never being afraid to use my vacation days. They are yours to use as part of your employment and if you don’t use them you lose them.

Don’t be pressured by managers or other co-workers who are afraid to take their own days off. Don’t let projects and deadlines stop you either. In the long run you’ll stay more refreshed throughout the year and have more life experiences to inspire your work.

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?

I’ve been very lucky to have designed and animated in-game graphics for 3 different video game titles. EA’s 007: From Russia with Love (2005), Warner Bros Lord of the Rings: War in the North (2011) and most recently Disney’s Epic Mickey: The Power of 2 (2012). Surprisingly, the LOTR game started out as potential website project to market the game in their early development stages.

While working on the initial pitch comps and motion tests, the game dev. teams took notice of the design & animation styles I was creating and asked for some of the website elements to be integrated into early game demos. I was later given the opportunity to design and animate all of the Main Menus and the HUD elements that would be seen while playing the game. The fact that the elements of the website designs I created stylistically influenced and then physically made their way into the game itself still boggles my mind. It was completely unplanned and unforeseen.

The reality is that the Tools, skills and process of designing and animating the menus of a console video game are almost exactly the same interactive websites. Everything I ever learned designing and animating immersive experiences on the web went into the design & animation of games like Epic Mickey 2.

You design in Photoshop and you animate elements in Flash and After Effects. It’s just the medium that changes.

Instead of worrying about Monitor resolutions and browser differences across Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome and Safari, you stress over TV resolutions and processor/graphics capabilities of the Wii, Xbox360 and PS4 consoles.

I am also very desensitized by seeing my website work on a monitor, so it’s a complete rush to see a game I helped create on a TV being played by my kids in the living room.

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

Websites are just places where digital information is stored. Websites used to originate from boring servers in cold sterile data centers and viewed only on desktop computers with browsers. Now we’re receiving and sending information from all sorts of devices everywhere around us.

When you think about it, the Mars Rover is a website and we’re viewing and receiving data located on another planet. That’s pretty awesome and just a glimpse of how far we can expand the notion of a website.

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

I’m proud of every project (the good & bad) all for different reasons. Everything I’ve designed, animated, coded, photographed has a small piece of me in it. Every project had both good and bad moments. Every project taught me something new about myself and my craft. I’m proud of everything.

Do you think Flash is here to stay?

Flash took center stage at a time when the only type of interaction that could be done in a site was simple JavaScript rollovers. Developers looked for ways to seamlessly integrate audio, video, fonts, transparency, motion and complex interaction into the rich experience the Internet was meant to be. At that time mobile devices weren’t surfing the internet, browser differences & lack of standards made consistent layout rendering impossible and you couldn’t send or receive data without a page refresh.

Flash was the blank canvas that made all of those limitations fade away. It was never intended for many of the things we used it for on standard websites, but it stepped up to fill the void at the time.

But of course things changed when mobile exploded and Apple selfishly blocked the Flash Player to protect its own goals & interests. New technologies & techniques using HTML5/Canvas/JS/CSS to do basic animations, fonts, videos and data interaction suddenly were pushed to the forefront. These are now great adaptations & solutions to old challenges in new devices and browsers. They have completely replaced Flash as the way we add these fundamental enhancements to the average website.

I still think that Flash as a development tool is still the most robust and powerful tool for creating & animating immersive content, applications, games, mobile apps, interactive websites and experiences. But sadly the Flash Player plug-in has finally jumped the shark.

When Adobe abandoned development of the Mobile Flash Player it delegated Flash to a “Desktop only” technology. Unfortunately the world has changed and most solutions should work and play universally.

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?

It’s really weird to see client’s expectations for projects getting lower and interfaces getting simpler. We spent so many years pushing the boundaries of interaction and creativity with flash.

Now clients get excited if a simple animation works on their ipad or if a site pulls in their Facebook feed. I feel like everyone has forgotten what really good design and experience mean. It’s like people are just happy seeing basic things work on multiple devices even if it’s boring and unemotional.

I understand why it’s happening and we've all had to do it, but I think we’ll look back at this trend and realize there were a lot of wasted opportunities to really engage with people.  If you look on the positive side I think there’s a huge opportunity for those with the old school mentality to take all of the lessons we learned in Flash and reapply them to the current landscape of web development.

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

Half of my friends have a design education and the other half are self-taught like me. Do I think art schools are a good thing? YES. I often wish I had formal education in design with training in color theory and typography.  I also feel that not knowing some things have helped me be more open to self-growth, experimentation and being curious to learn so many different skills.

Even art schools produce bad designers.  In the end, all that matters is if your work is any good or not and how hard you’re willing to work in or out of school to learn the skills you need to survive. Some people need the structure and guidance of a formal education.

Others are do-it yourself types who need to move at their own speed and figure things out through trial and error. Neither way is perfect; ultimately, success and beautiful work depends upon the individual and how they grow, learn and create the best.

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

Don't blend in. Stand out.

The only way to stay ahead of design trends is to create the trends.

Surround yourself with people who have the skills you want, have the same goals you do or are the type of people you want to be. Misery loves company and that goes for the good-hearted successful people who are at the top of their game, and the negative people who sit at the bottom wondering why they never accomplish anything significant.

Work harder than everyone around you, but try not to take work too seriously. The more fun you have the better your work will be. We’re just building websites not curing cancer.

Nothing we do is life & death. If a deadline is missed or a button isn’t perfect, no one dies.

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

With any technology the only way to stay current is to take on challenging projects and clients who want to push boundaries. Reading tutorials, help docs and forums only give you a general understanding of what is possible. Only when your back is against the wall and you’re standing there going “how the heck am I going to do this?” do you truly start exploring and understanding the capabilities of something. Search for projects that you might not immediately know how to execute.

You don’t learn, explore or know the boundaries of any software by doing the same type of projects over and over again. This forces you to experiment, prototype, collaborate, research and push the limits of your knowledge and experience.

What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?

I’ve worked from my home office for the past 6 years so I rarely drive anywhere other than to the gym. I don’t dream about cars like others might.  I just got back from a trip to Yosemite National Park and Bass Lake in California, so right now I’d love to have my own pontoon boat and a cabin on the lake to go with it.

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

Stand out by being the best at what you do. Find the style of work or niche you enjoy doing and then own it. Clients who want a part of that style of work will seek you out. Then treat your clients with respect, meet their goals, finish projects on time and on budget and it’s likely you’ll get more work.

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

Skills & knowledge come from hours of experimenting with your ideas, re-creating styles that might influence you, observing industry trends and learning from each success and mistakes you experience. There are really no shortcuts.

You have to find ways to squeeze in extra projects and self education in order to hone your craft. I can only advise you on the way that’s ultimately worked for me. The core of that way has been sacrificing sleep repeatedly for both work & personal projects. Unless you’re a savant, there's just no other way humanly possible to develop some of the skills necessary for success in this industry.

What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?

Is it me or does it seem like a lot of innovative & influential designers have come from Sweden? I’ve always wanted to travel there and drink some of their water and soak up their creativity.

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

I would love to collaborate on one of those crazy immersive HTML5/Canvas/WebGL chrome experiment projects for Google Creative Lab or do a project for Nike.

So If anyone at either place is listening I’d be more than happy to contribute a single pixel or design a button for your next project!

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

After working for the same company for 10 years I’m really happy to be on my own and in control of my own destiny.

These first six months solo have been truly blessed. I don’t have any current stress to change the situation unless a life changing opportunity comes up. I debate daily on whether or not I should create or join another studio.

For now I’m happy being agile and mobile but I’m definitely formulating a bigger plan for the near future. In a perfect world I would love to take on more international projects that would allow my family and I to travel and mix work and vacation.

My wife and I also talk about just moving someplace for the summer and working remote. I would love to rent a house in Switzerland where I worked after college and just work and travel for the summer.

We’ve also talked about places like Hawaii, or New Zealand where one of my best friends Eric Jordan currently lives. Other than that I just plan to keep my high standards for quality of work, be the best person I can be, keep my wife happy and raise the best kids I can.

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

Last year I was fortunate enough to design and animate the main menus and HUD for the Disney Epic Mickey 2 video game.  Because of that I just bought a hardcover collector’s edition gamers guide that had screenshots of some of my work and 2 custom controllers for the game as mementos of the project.

Oh and we just booked a vacation to Hawaii later this summer. Aloha!

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

T-shirt & shorts is about as flashy as I get. Sometimes I’ll upgrade to jeans if I have an important meeting. I've never been one to dress up or waste money on any sort of name brand clothing.

My best friend made fun of me while toasting at my wedding for purposely picking a job that didn’t require me to dress up every day. (He was right).

Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

Picture the life you want. Constantly dream and think about who you want to be and the things you want to accomplish. Set short term goals. Be relentless in fighting to achieve them amongst all of the noise in your life. There’s always someone/something out there trying to distract you from your goals.

Be a team player but don't get caught up in supporting other people's dreams at the cost of your own. You have to be a little selfish and fight for your own dreams because no one else will.

It has been a privilege, thanks very much

The thanks go to you for everything you do for the industry Rob. I’m not sure where a lot of us would be without having an FWA award as a goal to achieve. Your showcase has almost single handedly been responsible for the rise of many of the individuals and companies in our industry.  

I personally thank you for what you’ve meant to me and my career in terms of both self promotion and inspiration for the work you’ve showcased. I’m honored to have been interviewed again. [Rob Ford: Thanks Shane! :)]


Links

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Me and my girls.
Me and my girls.

Pixelranger.com - My portfolio site from 2002
Pixelranger.com - My portfolio site from 2002

My first SOTD, first MOTD and Two SOTM
My first SOTD, first MOTD and Two SOTM

My FWA collection 2002-2013
My FWA collection 2002-2013

New site Coming Soon
New site Coming Soon

Batman Arkham Origins announce site.
Batman Arkham Origins announce site.

Jack the Giant Slayer Movie Site
Jack the Giant Slayer Movie Site

Taylormade ATV Wedge Demo rockin the CSS3d
Taylormade ATV Wedge Demo rockin the CSS3d

Disney's Epic Mickey 2 Game Menus & HUD
Disney's Epic Mickey 2 Game Menus & HUD

Gmunk - A Final Homage to the .SWF
Gmunk - A Final Homage to the .SWF

Behr ColorSmartâ„¢ Mobile App
Behr ColorSmartâ„¢ Mobile App

Photographing Metallica live in concert
Photographing Metallica live in concert

The Legion of Oakley
The Legion of Oakley

Collab with Alvin Lee on the Legion of Oakley
Collab with Alvin Lee on the Legion of Oakley

Oakley - Peace in the Chaos
Oakley - Peace in the Chaos

2010 Ford Mustang Microsite
2010 Ford Mustang Microsite

Rapp Collins
Rapp Collins

Love & Hate - Personal Artwork
Love & Hate - Personal Artwork

FWA Wallpaper - 'Juxtaposition'
FWA Wallpaper - "Juxtaposition"

Lucky to make the front of Web Designer Magazine
Lucky to make the front of Web Designer Magazine

Yosemite National Park
Yosemite National Park

Visual Audio Sensory Theatre
Visual Audio Sensory Theatre

Some of my photography
Some of my photography

2005 Ford Mustang Microsite
2005 Ford Mustang Microsite

O'Neill Clothing
O'Neill Clothing

New Masters of Flash v3 Book
New Masters of Flash v3 Book

2Advanced V5
2Advanced V5

2Advanced Wallpaper
2Advanced Wallpaper

2Advanced v4
2Advanced v4

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