Sam Brown: massiveblue.com

sambrownHow or where do you find inspiration?
That is a tricky one, personally, anywhere and everywhere. That sounds vague and uninteresting but there is so much I find inspiration from, from flipping through a random magazine at the Dentist to the ornamental details on a rusty old gate. I’m forever taking pictures, saving images or capturing screens of things I find inspiring and cataloguing them. My LittleSnapper library has grown to over 5GB in the year and a half I have been using it!

Who is the biggest influence on your work right now?
Probably the people I follow on Dribbble as I’m not sure their is one single person. There are a lot of super talented people on Dribbble and I am forever checking out snippets of their work and feel constantly inspired to make my work better and up to a similar standard as theirs.

Where are your “design roots”? Print or Web?
My roots are Web for sure, I built my first websites with hand-written HTML in Notepad on Windows 3.1. For the most part I am self-taught but did attend Computer Graphics College in Sydney Australia for several years where we only dealt with design for screen. I have rarely dabbled in print design but it is something I really enjoyed and I would love to experiment with more in the future. I found it quite a bit more satisfying designing something then receiving a physical and tangible copy of that designed item as opposed to a virtual web site.

How important is it to know the history of design?
I’m positive it has its benefits, whether it is important and a must learn is another question. I feel like I have managed to continue to learn the history of design throughout my career, does one need to study the history of design before being able to work in our industry? Absolutely not. Will it help? Absolutely.

Serif or Sans?
I’m personally a fan of sans-serif, I use it almost religiously on screen, be it writing or reading. Using it in design is completely different and project dependant obviously, but I am definitely of the ilk of clean simple sans.

Do you code and design? Are you a “Hybrid”?
Absolutely, I think it’s imperative that at some level all designers are hybrids. You need to know the medium and be able to design for that. I’ve worked as a front-end developer on several projects and been handed static mockups of websites created by super talented designers but sadly ones who have little understanding of designing for the web, this causes problems. I learnt to code first which then lead me onto wanting to make what I built look good, I think all designers need to know both.

What’s your favorite part of the creative process?
Bringing a design to life in HTML and CSS is my favourite part without a doubt. It’s the user interaction challenges that fascinate me the most and you can’t easily convey that in a static mockup. Hover and active styles, subtle animation and delighters are the icing on the cake and I love icing.

What makes your creative process different from everybody else?
As Luke Wroblewski says “designing without real data or content is art at best. Decoration at worst.” – A critical requirement before I start any client project is getting the content up-front. No content, no deal. It’s simply the best way to work, there is no point in trying to design something for fake content that you are later trying to retrofit into your work. I know this isn’t possible for everybody on every project, but it’s certainly part of my process that is fundamentally different from most everybody else I imagine.

I will also often start off in HTML & CSS before I ever open Photoshop, I think designing in code is just as important and much more efficient than spending hours in Photoshop trying to replicate something that can be done in a few minutes in code.

What do you see as the single biggest shift in the evolution of design over the past 5 years?
Most likely the number of devices you have to optimise your designs for. 5 years ago you would design a site for the desktop, now there are a myriad of different devices from 30″ Cinema Displays, to 10″ Netbooks, iPads, iPhones and other mobile devices that all want to consume the same content. Being able to create robust designs that cater for all of these devices yet still give the user the same visual experience is becoming a greater challenge every year.

What’s the difference between User Experience and User Interface design?
That’s like asking what the differences between a CSS Ninja and CSS Rockstar are, isn’t it? I think I’d struggle to try and define either with much success. Each to their own.

What makes one a web design professional?
Experience, talent and the ability to get paid for doing what you love to do, building awesome websites. Fresh out of high-school or university you are not a professional, it takes time and practise, experience is key here but there is no set time one becomes professional, it’s a natural progression.

What are designers/developers doing right (or wrong) in the web 2.0 world?
I think the prevalence of CSS3 at the moment is having an adverse affect on the web world. Web designers traditionally come from a rather more static side of the web whereas Flash designers have been working with animated interactive for quite some time. I feel there are a lot of Web designers trying to emulate animation on their sites and products with little real understanding and experience for how it affects the end user.

What’s your favorite flavor of design or development programs/languages?
HTML & CSS in Coda for development. Photoshop for design.

What is your favorite book?
Most recently my copy of A Book Apart’s HTML5 for Web Designers by Jeremy Keith, it was a fantastic read and I already can’t wait for their next book.

What is your favorite movie?
Probably The Rock with Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage it’s just a great action-packed thrill ride.

Who is your favorite musical artist (or What musical artist are you listening to the most right now?)
According to Last.fm Pendulum. I loved their Live At Brixton Academy album and the new Immersion album is a real audible treat.

About Sam Brown

Sam Brown is an experienced freelance interface designer and web standards developer from Edinburgh Scotland. Sam writes regularly on his personal website sam.brown.tc when not working on an array of side-projects in his spare time such as Eat.ly and Endorse.

Sam’s portfolio can be seen at Massive Blue where he works with individuals, small businesses and startups on bringing their ideas and visions to life on the web. Massive Blue displays some of Sam’s latest creations for his clients Carbonmade, Foursquare, WooThemes and more.

Author

Gene Crawford

With over a decade of experience in the industry he has overseen the design and architecture of hundreds of web sites and applications. An active member in the design community, he's the editor & producer of unmatchedstyle.com, the ConvergeSE, ConvergeFL, ConvergeRVA and the Breaking Development conference series.