Web International Awards

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6

JUL 2006 0

Interview with Paul Lewis, owner of anygivenfriday.com

Who are you and what do you do? Tell us something about yourself.

My name is Paul Lewis, I'm 25 and I live in Newcastle upon Tyne in the north east of England. My Dad bought the first family PC when I was 13 and was hooked instantly. At 18, I moved up here to Newcastle from my home town (a small place called Nelson) to go to University where I studied Computing Science.

University was great as it gave me a scientist background, not a graphic design background. I loved surfing the web and I remember the first time I saw Flash work that made me hit refresh tens, if not hundreds, of times. That was when I knew I wanted to be in web as a career! But I was trained to be a programmer, not a designer, so I've had to learn design skills as a hobby.

Thankfully the guys I work with at The Roundhouse, particularly Tom Knowles have been amazing and I've come on really well there.

What designs do you like the most and why? Describe your design style.

I love anything that is executed well. I've always liked the execution of 2Advanced, since the motion of their work is superb. I really like Fantasy Interactive's work, too, as they combine gorgeous design with really great implementation.

My own style is really difficult for me to pin down; in fact, I try not to. I think there's something to be said for having no style. For my own site, I've adopted a vector look and feel. It comes back to execution: so long as it's done well, it shouldn't matter. It should match the required look and feel of the site and, as a designer, you should be gutsy enough to force yourself to design for the occasion. I'm not a fan of designers who always put the same spin on all their work just because they don't know how to do something different. I'd always try to view that as an occasion to learn!

Of your favorite hobbies, which one has a chance of eclipsing your web design career and why?

Oh heck, this is embarrassing. I'll be honest, I'm one of those guys who live and breathe nerdy things, so if I've not been near a PC for a while I'll start getting twitchy! In actual fact, the hobby that is most likely to drain my time is hanging out with my wife and watching movies. Mainly action movies, since I can put my brain in neutral and let it coast along enjoying explosions, guns and vacuous plot-lines!

What is your specialization (Flash / XHTML / PHP etc)? Why have you chosen this particular domain.

Again, I try to execute anything I do as well as possible. I am not built to say "I did that poorly because I'm no good at that". I've got a Computing Science background and that means by rights the straight forward (and probably normal) answer to that question would be PHP (or Java or whatever coding language you like), since it's web development, but I've made it my business to learn Flash, Photoshop, 3D (Blender, since it's free!), Fireworks, PHP, Java, XHTML, CSS, JavaScript, Premiere and After Effects. I've done this partly because I live and breathe nerdy things, but partly out of pride; I want to be the best that I can be. On a personal note, I'm a Christian. For me, God has given me the talents that he has - I want to use them, grow them and give them back to Him. I'm not as good a designer as I am a developer, but I'm improving, trying and working as hard as possible to get there!

Don`t you think flash is disadvantaged because in most cases it requires high speed internet?

Not if Flash is used properly. (Paul pops away for a second). I'm back! I've just checked the size of my Flash image viewer (the one which shows the banner images on Any Given Friday) - it's 3.1Kb. That's teeny!

I take your point, though, that large, sound-heavy, video-heavy sites require a fast connection. I'd have to take a step back and ask why they have been built that way and ask who the audience is. If there's a good reason for it then I think it's right to make the site in Flash. The alternative, of course, is to provide Flash and non-Flash versions of sites.

We did that at The Roundhouse for Chromazone Imaging. That always works well! So the people who *do* have the fast connections get the showbiz and the people who don't still get the information.

What is more crucial in design - professional look or usability?

What a sneaky, trick question! [laughs] Hopefully designs will do both. In fact, they are equally important to me. A site is inherently more usable if the design supports the usability.

What are the three things any web designer (freelancer) should know?

  • 1. Charge for your time properly. Set a rate that is decent after you've paid tax and then multiply it by the hours it will take to complete the task. Always factor in that the client is unlikely to be happy first time, unless you're, like, some intergalactic super genius.
  • 2. Don't promise what you can't do! Worst thing ever is promising either work you have no time to do, or lack the skills to complete. The client may never come back to you again and bad publicity spreads very fast!
  • 3. Don't cut corners. Always plan to do it right first time. The science part of my head tells me it's best to plan and get structures in place that I can let the creative part of my head fill out.
  • What sort of attention has your online portfolio brought you? Would you say it's profitable to have one if you're a web designer?

    Loads. I used to be one of those guys who was permanently "Under Construction". I was never happy. I'd design my site and it wouldn't be what was in my head or I'd get bored of the concept and go back to the drawing board. Be tough on yourself, get the site designed before you start. Don't start building until you're sure you like it and then, if you do, take it to completion. Even if you feel like you could do better when you get to the end you can always go back and start again.

    In my case, I had to get my site finished in order to get job interviews. Amazing what a potential lack of employment can do to concentrate your mind! Once I started working at The Roundhouse I was working with people who didn't fail to complete their work and I learnt to complete my work to the best of my ability - it took discipline. And is it profitable? Absolutely!

    I've had offers of all types since I completed the latest and the last version of AnyGivenFriday. It's a space I can put my experiments up on, my thoughts on life and, perhaps most importantly, my personal perspective on the work I've done. That pre-supposes that my life is, in any way, interesting to other people.

    What is your favorite software? What would be the ideal web graphic design software? What software couldn't you live without?

    Oh heck, another one. I'm going to cheat and say the Adobe Studio 8. All right, all right. It would have to be Flash. But I had to really think about that and now my head hurts. Flash is the environment that allows me to combine design and development, and I've had some of the most satisfying results in my career from working with Flash.

    What do you think about web 2.0?

    To me I think it means tighter integration of web-based applications and technologies and community-driven content. They are good things, I guess. Although calling it 2.0 is some kind of implication that it's better than the "current" Web 1.0, which it isn't. It's just different. What I mean is that I wouldn't want to do my online shopping in some kind of community-driven site. I quite like Amazon, Play.com and the other sites I use. They do the job perfectly well, and if it ain't broke don't fix it.

    Mainly, though, as Dan Richard (of Pixel 2 Life) said, it's a buzzword and we're all better off thinking of the web as an evolution.

    What is the first graphic software you ever used?

    Erk. It was, brilliantly, Deluxe Paint 3 on the Amiga 500. That beauty had a picture of a Pharoah on the box. It always infuriated me because I want to recreate it, but I just couldn't. That's brought back a *lot* of memories! Ha ha! The Amiga 500, Speedball Deluxe 2, Magic Pockets, James Pond. Now you've put me in a nostalgic mood and I'm thinking about my SNES, Street Fighter 2 and Mario Kart. Happy days.

    How did your very first project look like?

    I remember the first thing I did in Flash. It was a red circle and I got it to move across the stage at, like, 12 frames per second. It was all downhill from there. To be fair, I've only been slightly happy with my design work in the last 2 years, and I know I've still got a long way to go!

    Do you have any information or career advice to offer to our reading audience?

    Take your time, work on your style, work hard, take time out for family and friends, don't be afraid to try something new!

    Thank you for your time. It was a great pleasure to talk to you. This was Paul Lewis, currently working with The Roundhouse, owner of Any Given Friday.

    Published on Thursday, July 6th, 2006 at 1:34 am in 2006.

    About Bogdan Pop

    Bogdan Pop is a young Romanian entrepreneur who runs WebRaptor. He is a web developer with awesome design skills, who enjoys writing about everyday's work and usability. He relaxes by taking photos every once in a while and by mixing french electronic music. Connect with him via Twitter.
     

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