Paul: 1. How did you get into design? Did you go to school or are you self taught?
Stephen: In one form or another, I have always been interested in art and design. The common question you're always asked growing up "What do you want to be?" was typically always answered with "An Artist". Although at that time, my plans were much different being registered in a number of drawing and painting classes.
I bought my first computer about the same time I had to make the decision on what to do after high school. My new found obsession with computers paved a path to a programming course under a Business Information Technology program primarily focused around C++ and Visual Basic. During these two years, I became self taught in web design on the side through many personal design projects and after graduation, I was hired for programming work. Two years later, I joined silverorange as a full time web designer.
2. Do you still paint and/or sketch?
I attended a one day painting workshop last year but in general my art supplies are collecting dust. At the moment, my day is completely consumed with web design and photography.
3. Do you still do a sketch though when you are designing a new web site?
Very little. In the early stages, there will be some group planning with a whiteboard but we move fairly quickly to photoshop. Theses sketches are extremely rough and resemble only where page items may live. You may find the odd sketch on my desk but nothing that took longer then a few minutes.
4. Do you listen to music while you work? If so, who are you listening to?
Occasionally but I'm not much of a music person. I never play music at home and the majority of what I play through iTunes are podcasts. That all being said, I do have a bit of an obsession for Weird Al Yankovic and although I like most types of music, my interests tend to favor rap. Also, over the past five years, I may have only bought or downloaded one or two albums at most. I'm one of those rare people that could live without music.
5. Can you play any musical instruments? Have you ever been in a band?
No. I took piano lessons for a few years so I know the basics and can read sheet music but that's about it. Maybe I'll buy a piano some day and get back into it. It's probably worth mentioning that I was one of only five in my class that did not try out for the school band. The interest is just not there.
6. Not a lot of people know this (or maybe they do) but you where involved in the redesign of the Firefox logo. Have you ever used this fact to impress anyone? I mean it IS pretty impressive!
Not really as I believe Jon Hicks deserves the credit. I mention the Firefox website more often but only when I'm trying to explain what I do at work. Firefox is becoming one of the more recognized clients we work for.
7. You're also an amazing photographer and you've posted some spectacular photos on your site www.focusedonlight.com. Do you photoshop any of these after they are taken are are these all done in/with the camera?
I rarely post any photos right from the camera. I don't always process them too much but I shoot RAW and everything is sent through Lightroom and Photoshop before sharing. I can easily spend hours work on a single photo trying to get the results I'm looking for. I'm backwards because learning Photoshop was one of the reasons I became interested in Photography to begin with. I have never shot film. The artist in me is stronger then the journalistic photographer
8. Personally, what is the most memorable photo you've ever taken?
I have a few but the first one that comes to mind is not necessarily my best but it comes with a pretty funny story. I was standing in Times Square in New York when a taxi pulled up behind me and started yelling at me to "Take My Picture, Take My Picture." When I turned around, the driver flashed me a handful of bills, gave me thumbs up and then drove away laughing. I just happened to be in the right place at the right time and this candid photo was the highlight of my two week stay in NY.
A few of my more popular photos (in recent comments, emails and sales) have been: Brooklyn Bridge, Fearless, Yellow Frog, Gorilla Portrait, Notre-Dame Basilica, Mans Best Friend and Planet San Francisco.
9. Opportunity knocks and you're magically a professional paid photographer. Would you leave web design?
You're testing me now with a complicated question. It's hard to say if photography would still be fun so the type of photography would be a huge factor in the same way not all design projects are fun. It would be an interesting situation to be making photos for a living and creating websites for fun. If you offered me a job to travel around the world taking photos, it might be hard to pass up on but who knows how long I could keep that up.
A tough question but not something I currently need to worry about.
10. Back to web design, do you keep a log of other sites you like that you can reference or do you just go to it and avoid looking at other people work?
I do look at other designers (and photographers) work all the time. I don't bookmark them but I do take notice. I also subscribe to a few rss feeds that constantly send me a stream of new site designs being created on a daily basis.
11. A lot of new designers are always trying to impose their own style or what they think is cool on their clients - even though a client may have a very specific target audience in mind. Do you think one should design for the client's audience or for the sake of design?
Audience. I'm sure this could be debated and I'm not sure which is better but I don't try to create something just to be pretty. Simple is good and being usable is more important.
12. Do you think working in an office with other designers is a help/enjoyable or not?
It definitely helps to have multiple opinions. It's useful to be told your ideas are bad ones.
13. Are you the life of the party? Or are you the quiet guy in the corner.
I'd be the quiet guy in the corner.
14. Will you still be designing websites when you're 60? Will you ever retire?
Another tough question and not something I can answer with any certainty. I would like to think that yes I will be interested in web development in some form or another but I really don't know. I have a few side projects that are web based and I would love to see them still alive 30 years from now but you never know, I could be a farmer by then.
Interview By: Paul Lopes