I have spent the better part of this century working on digital experiences that range from boutique to behemoth. I have experience in all aspects of the digital world including social networking, CMS systems, SEO, information design, information architecture, user experience, advanced web typography and most every other web related acronym that exists. I ran my own design studio, ShuDesign for many years, and worked at numerous design agencies, from McCann Worldgroup and Publicis Modem to Eleven and Firewood, on countless websites, for clients such as Blue Shield, Verizon, HP, University of Phoenix and Microsoft.
I love typography and simply for the passion of it am currently vice president of the Society of Typographic Aficionados. We bring together typographers and designers, promulgating the importance of typography in the world of web media, advertising and design. We put on a typography conference every year called TypeCon. This year it is in LA.
As Interactive Creative Director at Pereira & O'Dell, I put my proficiency in interactive design to use, creating the next generation of the web.
What do you do for inspiration?
Inspiration can come from nearly anywhere, but I try to pull from every other media that I don't work in. If I am working on a large site driven by heavy information I may look to cartography or physical architecture. I listen to a lot of music and have been known to stare off into space for long periods of time.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
How many hours do you work each week?
How do you relax or unwind?
I am always pretty relaxed. I find that stress inhibits creativity. But, outside of work I do enjoy cooking, watching a great film or having a really good beer with friends.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
I love design so I would stay in the field, but it would be much more analog. Letterpressing, screen printing. I would like to find time to do some type design as well.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
There are so many things that have shaped the path of my career so far, most of them dumb luck, some strategic planning and maybe a couple favors. But, if there was one thing I could point to it would be way back in college when I made the decision to drop out of astrophysics engineering school (that's right, rocket science) and go to art school. Not the most popular decision I have made, but probably one of the best.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
I do sometimes look at these numbers and the increase in traffic on many of the sites I have done is up in the millions, but those numbers generally seem unreal.
What area of web design lacks the most?
Typography. And this has been the case for a while. However, we are on the verge of breaking through this year. With the WOFF web format just being accepted by the W3C and support from the big players we are not too far away from the new web typography.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
Getting recognized by the FWA is a true honor. The work and our team get exposure and assertion that we are players in truly cutting edge web design. It means a great deal to us to be featured.
When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?
Very difficult,. But doing good research and approaching a project the right way with the right priorities this becomes much easier. All the pieces have to be in a place for a big website to be successful.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
Oh god. Eh, probably the first site I did was a personal web portal for engineering school. Horrible, ugly image / type navigation over big pixelated images. Giving me some flashbacks as I type. Whew, it is definitely no longer up.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
Not yet. But, yes that is another avenue I would like to explore. Not giving away any ideas though!
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?
There are lots of sites that are leveraging social media well, although most are not. But, I have to get a shout out to a little site called legoclick.com that we worked on early this year. It has some real fun with 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?
I believe that any problem should not be approached in any one medium from the outset. The solution to any given problem should be considered very broadly. Luckily, I have the privilege to work in a place where we dabble in all types. Yes, digital tends to always be an important component, but certainly not the only one.
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
I don't think website as we know them will really exist in 10 years. A website is just a portal of information. They way people assimilate information is changing very rapidly. Mobile. Push notifications. Apps versus sites. Everything will become even more and more connected in a "web", but websites? Not so much.
Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?
Shockingly, some of the coolest stuff I have made had never been pushed live. I created a live visualization of Microsoft's new search engine would showed a filterable search in real time through a series of rich infographics. Maybe some day.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
I don't anything is here to stay. Around for a while? Yes.
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?
The decline of experiential flash sites is happening, but it is natural. Flash used to fill a creative void that no other web technology could touch. But, now as other tech gets more and more sophisticated there are so many other avenues that we can explore to solve problems and create richer experiences. I think Flash still has a place in that ecosystem.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
Design school taught me a lot, but more importantly garnered me connections. It is possible to break into design without design school? Absolutely. Will it be harder for most without that backdrop? Probably.
How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?
It is very hard to find good people. The key is to have the right blend of people. Digital design is such a complex beast, having a team with multiple backgrounds will almost always be better than having a crack team with the same skill set.
How do you keep up with the latest capabilities of Flash or do you rely on other members of you team to do this?
As with all technology I try to keep on what it can accomplish, but rely on other specialists to help me create.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
Depends on where I am going. Probably an ion fueled rocket.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
Publicizing the work that we do.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
Feeds and friends.
What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?
As a growing company with a fledgling yet powerful digital arm I have the opportunity to help build it up. I want to bring in mobile, software development and a pure Ideas Lab into the mix. Innovation starts with the right people.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
I just bought a house and installed a furnace. It was expensive.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Have fun. Don't get upset if a client kills your idea.
It has been a privilege, thanks very much