Networking is key. You'll never know when you need to ask for a favor.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
MIKE BLAIN - I graduated from Conestoga College in 2005 and have been working in the ad industry ever since. I started at Ogilvy, moved to Henderson Bas, made a quick stop at MacLaren McCann and am currently Digital Art Director at Taxi 2.
MIKE BLACKMORE - I started my career in advertising working in a bar and serving drinks to bitter creatives all around the city. About 11 years ago I made the move to copywriting full time and haven't served a drink since. I've worked at TBWA, Grip Ltd, Bensimon Byrne and Taxi 2.
MIKE BALDERS – Straight out of Sheridan College in 2006, I was fortunate enough to land a full-time gig as a lowly Junior Flash Developer at DRAFTFCB. Just over 3 years ago I joined the team at TAXI and I now hold the prestigious - not to mention incredibly long - title of Associate Technology Director, Graphics & Animation.
CARSON SHOLD – I graduated from a collaborative program between The University of Western Ontario and Fanshawe College in 2010. Taxi is my first job in advertising and has already given me a huge insight into industry aspects beyond code and design.
What do you do for inspiration?
MIKE BLAIN - I try to talk to people in other fields to get new perspectives. I find it helps stop me from focusing too much on what I do every day.
MIKE BLACKMORE - I like to people watch and see what everyone around me is doing (especially the smart ones).
MIKE BALDERS – I look at what I’ve done in the past and what my peers are doing now, and then I try to blow it all out of the water.
CARSON SHOLD – I get a lot of inspiration from design websites like Dribbble, even though I try and stick to coding. When I’m away from my computer I surround myself with hockey and golf to keep my mind clear.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
MIKE BLAIN – At the moment the last 3 outstanding sites I’ve played around with longer then 3 minutes would have to be, Bear71 by Jam3 – What a visually stunning and unique way to present a documentary. Spent by McKinney was gorgeous and equally smart in the way pulled you into the experience. And last the new Soleil Noir redesign is great. The clever use of animated gif’s which elevated the visual playfulness of their site. Stunning.
MIKE BLACKMORE – I would have to say Google maps Cube - was a fun game that kept me from doing work for a while. The Game of Life with Prius c car configurator by Saatchi LA was fun and smart way to build something outside of the typical microsite and use YouTube. And last was the Google Re:Brief campaign which if you haven’t seen it you must. What a great exploration of taking classic ad campaigns and bringing them into the digital area.
CARSON SHOLD – thefancy.com, dribbbleboard.com, tsn.ca
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
MIKE BLAIN - Being able to do what I love every day (and on weekends too).
MIKE BLACKMORE - Just getting into the business was pretty hard, so I would say that, so far, that was a pretty big one.
MIKE BALDERS – Winning an FWA for The Castor Gigashelf of course! Honestly, being able to work in an industry with so many incredibly talented people is amazing.
CARSON SHOLD – Getting a job at Taxi at 23 and learning from some amazing developers. Having my name associated with projects like this is surreal.
How many hours do you work each week?
MIKE BLAIN - On average about 60.
MIKE BLAIN - On average about 60.
MIKE BLACKMORE - It depends on the week, but 50 to 60 is a pretty good estimate.
MIKE BALDERS – 45+ Thankfully, now days I can do a lot of it from my phone.
CARSON SHOLD – I try very hard to limit myself to no more than 50 hours a week.
How do you relax or unwind?
MIKE BLAIN - I like to get outdoors as much as I can. Mountain biking and hang out with my dog are two of my favorite things.
MIKE BLACKMORE - I like running. I'm also a pretty big poker fan and like watching basketball and hockey.
MIKE BALDERS – Running and golf in the summer, television and hibernating in the winter, with my dog and electronics being constants throughout both.
CARSON SHOLD – Playing a round of golf or going for a long rollerblade clears your head better than anything else.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
MIKE BLAIN - I'd be a plumber. Then when I tell people I had a shitty day, it would always be the truth.
MIKE BLACKMORE - If I didn't have to make a living I would be playing poker. If I had to make money I'd have to give it more thought.
MIKE BALDERS – I’d be a landscape architect - at least in the summer; in the winter I’d probably hibernate still.
CARSON SHOLD – If I had to give up the internet I’d set my sights on working PR for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
MIKE BLAIN - Favorite - discovering something new that's never been done before. Hardest - coming up with something new that's never been done before. When stuck - Usually just take a break or switch projects for a little while. A fresh perspective usually helps.
MIKE BLACKMORE - Favorite - I like the production process. It's pretty fun seeing your ideas actually come to life. Hardest - Coming up with new ideas after all of the ones I thought were good have died. When Stuck - If I have time I'll take a break and come back to it. If I don't have time I'll just keep going and hammer through it until time runs out.
MIKE BALDERS – I get stuck when I’m too close to a lengthy project and start resenting it. The hardest part is pushing past those feelings and getting everything back on track. My favorite part is solving that last little bug that’s been driving you nuts throughout the whole project.
CARSON SHOLD – Favourite – Putting my headphones on and being so immersed in code that I start drumming on my desk. Hardest – Having to deal with some of the tedious work that goes with being a developer. When Stuck – play a game of mini-basketball with some co-workers. Some casual spit-balling usually sparks an idea.
What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?
MIKE BLAIN - There's been quite a few all nighters so far. No double all nighters yet though.
MIKE BLACKMORE - I've had some all nighters as well. Sometimes it's 3 nights with just a few hours to sleep in between.
MIKE BALDERS – The worst is pulling an all nighter AND having to put in a full day after that.
CARSON SHOLD – I have only done one full all-nighter for a project in university. It made me realize I never want to do that again.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
CARSON SHOLD – After graduation I accepted a job in London, Ontario. It was a good job, but no room for me to evolve. I escaped to Europe for two months and by the time I was back had realized I needed to be in Toronto to be successful. Made the move a few weeks later.
What software could you not live without?
MIKE BALDERS – Spotlight Search in OSX, my desktop is always a disaster.
How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?
MIKE BLACKMORE - We usually work on around 3 to 4 at a time. Sometimes it's more and sometimes it's less, but 3 to 4 is average.
MIKE BALDERS – From a development perspective, about 20 at a time, all at various stages of development.
In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?
MIKE BLAIN - I've been playing around with Glyphs Font Editor a lot lately. It makes designing fonts a whole lot easier.
MIKE BALDERS – I’ve just started messing around with Pixel Bender - amazingly powerful.
Are there any websites that have shone through as being pioneering in the last 5 years or so?
MIKE BLAIN - I would say "Get the Glass" is a classic which pushed the quality of animation on a site. The Google Arcade Fire experience was pretty amazing for showcasing the power of HTML5 and Nike Better World which introduced parallaxing to the mainstream was impressive as well.
MIKE BLACKMORE - Although not a website the Old Spice Response campaign was amazing. And I always loved Boone Oakely's youtube website.
MIKE BALDERS – I loved the “Museum of Me.” It is such a simple idea, with an incredible execution. The Google Chrome Experiments are always awesome too. It’s amazing to see what’s possible at the bleeding edge of browser technology.
CARSON SHOLD – Nike Better World launched the industry into a parallaxing frenzy and The Boston Globe pushed the world to realize responsive design was an achievable goal for any sized project.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
MIKE BLAIN So far so good. We’ve been getting a ton of traffic. At the very least we got an interview with FWA.
CARSON SHOLD – It’s the first time I’ve been a part of an award-winning project of this scale. I hope it’s just a hint of things to come.
When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?
CARSON SHOLD – This is one of the hardest parts about advertising. From a development standpoint, you sometimes have to rule out amazing new web technologies simply because dated versions of browsers must be supported.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
MIKE BLAIN - It had animated flaming skulls (not joking) and blood dripping from the edges. I was 14 and flaming blood dripping skulls were cool. As for still being online, I only wish.
MIKE BALDERS – My GeoCities hosted, Quake clan homepage? I’m pretty sure it’s gone… probably for the best.
CARSON SHOLD – I made a portfolio in Fireworks that looked like a manila folder with graffiti all over it. It still lives on a CD but has long left the internet.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
MIKE BLACKMORE - I would love to write a book, but I haven't started it yet. Hopefully that's not a bad sign.
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?
MIKE BLAIN – I love seeing creative which hacks the way social platforms are usually used to present the idea in a unique way. For example the Smart Car twitter animation by BBDO Argentina. It utilized the short-cut key to scroll through tweets and created an ASCII art animation. It was so simple and clever. It was of those things you see that you wish you had thought of it and I feel those concepts become very talk-worthy and sharable.
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?
MIKE BLACKMORE - Generally we try to brainstorm first without thinking about what the medium is. Then when we come up with the idea we choose the medium that fits it best.
MIKE BLAIN – As for the web getting out of the web, I think this is a great evolution of what we consider the web. We’re no longer tied to the personal computer for creating rich interactive experiences. Now we can build experiences anywhere we can think makes sense for someone to access them whether it be a in store display, on their phone, or a outdoor installation.
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
MIKE BLAIN - I think in the future we'll see a lot more personalized experiences based on your social habits and your DNA within the internet. There’s so much information about a person on the internet it’s exciting and scary at the same time.
Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?.
CARSON SHOLD – From a personal standpoint I am most proud of this Castor site because I had little help from other developers. I’ve learned a lot in my first year at Taxi and am extremely proud to have my name associated with this site.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
MIKE BLAIN - I think the toughest thing I've worked on was Castor GigaShelf. Taking a 10 gigabyte photo and making it work online was pretty tough. But the end result was very satisfying.
MIKE BALDERS – The Gigashelf is definitely up there. The project lasted few months and was definitely a labour of love.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
MIKE BALDERS – There are definitely situations where flash is a great technology to implement, but there are more options these days. I see that as a good thing; it encourages us to push the boundaries. Flash isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, but nothing is forever.
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?
MIKE BALDERS – We are definitely seeing the end of the microsite era and a move into a consumer benefit-focused world. Whatever the Internet becomes in ten years, you know brands will be there. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see some incredible combinations of the two.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
MIKE BLAIN - I think there are some designers who have natural talent, but I think some kind of schooling is necessary.
CARSON SHOLD – I see schooling as giving you the building blocks of a career. If you want to succeed you have to teach yourself above and beyond what school can offer. No school can keep up with how fast the industry moves.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
MIKE BLACKMORE - You have to love what you do because if you don't it can be a very hard job. But if you love it, it's pretty amazing.
How do you keep up with the latest capabilities of Flash or do you rely on other members of you team to do this?
MIKE BALDERS – I always keep an eye on the recent developments, but I don’t really dive into new features until a project calls for them. For example, the pixel grid on the Gigashelf is written in Pixel Bender.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
MIKE BLAIN - A 1971 porsche 911. It's a classic.
MIKE BALDERS – Nissan GT-R, no question.
CARSON SHOLD – Aston Martin DB9. Pure beauty and class.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
MIKE BLACKMORE - During pitches pay attention to what they are asking and help them solve their problems. If you really care about what they are going through they can tell.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
MIKE BLAIN - Twitter is a great source for this, and it's updated to the second. Can't really beat it.
MIKE BALDERS – I follow @mikeblain on twitter.
What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?
MIKE BLAIN - Right now I think Brazil is doing some pretty amazing things.
There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
MIKE BLACKMORE - I find that when you think a project is a dream project it usually isn't. They seem to come when you are least expecting it and don't have super high expectations.
What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?
MIKE BLAIN - Hopefully many more FWAs
MIKE BLACKMORE - I concur.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
MIKE BLAIN - A burrito.
MIKE BLACKMORE - A burrito with extra cheese ($1 more than Blain).
MIKE BALDERS – I booked a friend’s bachelor party trip to Vegas!
CARSON SHOLD – New desk for a home office.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
MIKE BLAIN - Networking is key. You'll never know when you need to ask for a favor.
MIKE BLACKMORE - ideas are easy, it's executing them that's tough. So never give up and don't take no for an answer.
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
MIKE BLAIN – Thank you, and thanks for the FWA.