Join Grant Skinner for an in-depth discussion in this video The Creative Spark: Grant Skinner, Interactive Developer - Film, part of The Creative Spark: Grant Skinner, Interactive Developer.
My career has been defined by playing around with stuff. If you don't explore things that you're interested in, no one's ever going to pay you to do them. Right now, I'm messing around with a quadcopter and, and are doing those. I don't know if that's going to be something that our company focuses on, or what. But I think it's exciting to play with it and see where it goes. (SOUND). G Skinner, basically focuses on building, like really cutting edge interactive experiences.
Applications, games, those those types of things. We're based in Edmonton, which isn't really the first place you think of as like, a big technology hub. But we work with the newest APIs, we work with a lot of big tech companies. You know, we build up demos to show where technology is going. Partially, by building free things, building open source tools. This isn't necessarily the best way to get rich. But massive profit is not my goal. I would rather make less, and work on more interesting projects.
It's all about finding that new challenge and keeping yourself interested. There's always a new problem around the corner, there's always some new challenge to, to solve. And that's why I get up in the morning. (SOUND). I've been coding since I was like three or four years old. My mom went back for her education degree, and she used to take me into the, the university and plunk me in front of a terminal. And I would type in code from an old basic magazine, so that I could play the game.
In high school, actually sort of styled myself a bit of a hacker. Although, you know, coming out of high school, I started to realize I was much better at building pretty websites about hacking. Than I ever was about actually hacking anything. But I always had this dream to like build a game development company. Where like a very small team of people could build a really cool game and have a lot of ownership over each of the components. So coming out of high school and getting into comps, I, I started to look at how games were being built. I was also playing a lot with the Internet, and I was building sites. And I was starting to play with Flash, and I realized that, you know, it was this new frontier.
Where an individual or a few people could build really cool content, stuff that people hadn't seen before. And I got really drawn into that. And like trying to show the things I could build on that medium. Traditionally, Flash was focused on interactive and visual. You know, the really rich experiences were all done in Flash. But I got really interested in the idea of being able to build applications on top of it. And so, you know, I started building things like FlashOS, which was the set of UI components before there was components in flash. Some menu bars and windows, and I kept sort of trying to extend that idea, and add more richness and add more capability.
and try and stay ahead of Adobe as they (LAUGH) sort of built their own components and built their own frameworks. and sort of ultimately culminating with us starting to work with Adobe to build Adobe's frameworks and Adobe's components. Sort of a dark period for me was just a couple of years ago, the company was doing awesome. And the technology was doing awesome. And we were doing amazing work and it was really consistently great. And that's actually what the problem was. Was that I felt like I wasn't solving problems anymore. I was kind of bored of the technology that I was playing with. I was kind of bored of my own company, because it was just doing too well on its own.
I didn't really feel like I was really needed there. (SOUND). So later, we were approached by Microsoft to start working with HTML5. They asked us you know, can you guys apply all of this great stuff that you've been doing with flash in HTML5 world. Specifically they wanted to see you know, is it possible to build like a real game on top of HTML5. because you know, building games is sort of the ultimate test of any technology. We started out first project, Pirates of Daisies and I realized using HML5 had a ton of problems. A ton of challenges, and there's so much I could be doing and playing with, to make it better. Our first run at it, we dealt a very purpose built block of code, to build Pirates.
But later on Microsoft extended our project and let us add some more features and take a little bit more time with it. And I thought it was a perfect opportunity to go back and like evaluate the problems that we had run into. Find better ways of solving them in a more abstract sort of general purpose manner. And actually build an open source library, which wound up being EaselJS. So we could release that open source so that other people wouldn't have to solve those same issues again. (SOUND). Other people can build content faster and better, and so could we.
I don't think it's enough to just move forward and try and find the path yourself. You have to actually drag people with you. And you know for me, that was a lesson that I had to learn. You know, like, sharing an open source, and, teaching other people the things that you learn. I realized a couple of years ago, that, you know there's a very finite limit to how much I can create, personally. Where as, if I create things that facilitate other peoples creation then it basically blows up exponentially, right? So, building something like CreateJS, which makes it easier for other people to create really amazing content.
Means that I've indirectly facilitated the creation of that content, and I really like that idea. So once EaseUS was done, we wanted to do animation more easily. And so we built TweenJS which is simple tweening library. Then we wanted to do sound better, and so we built SoundJS. And with that done, we realized we need to get these sound files and these images and stuff like that loaded. And so we built PreloadJS, which let us manage our assets and manage preloading. But with all these pieces assembled, we realized we were really only working on half the story, right? We were really only facilitating our developers getting involved and to build the awesome experiences that we wanted to be able to build. We also needed to get our designers involved and so to do that, we needed tools.
And so actually on a holiday in, in Hawaii, I irritated my wife by sitting around and writing code. And I felt the first version of something called Toolkit for CreateJS. I took it into Adobe and showed it to them and they said wow, this is, this is awesome, how can we work with you on that? And so now, it's an official Adobe product and we're continuing to help them move it forward. So, I think that developers are craftsmen, and craftsmen basically combine artistry with technical knowledge.
And my grandfather was a craftsman. He was a carpenter and when he died we went and we checked out his workshop and you know to clean it all up. And one of the things that really amazed me about his workshop was how many custom tools he had built, right? He, he wasn't satisfied with the tools he could buy off the shelf, he built all kinds of little widgets and, you know, frame works and stuff like that. That he could use to make his job easier, be more effective as a, as a craftsman. And, that's something I've really kind of applied to what we do right. We build lots of tools we, you know we build little tools that help us with very specific purpose issues.
And we build these big tools, things like Tool Kit that solve much larger problems. (SOUND). If you're going to push the limits, you can't be held back by the first problem. You have to push your way through it. You have to build something that gets you around that problem. And once you solve that problem there's probably going to be a second problem, and I love that. I love the fact that you know a year from now I don't really know what I'm going to be doing. Will I be working with HTML 5? Probably, but who knows right? I mean it's just changing so fast and it's a lot of fun to try and keep up with it.
As the CEO of gskinner.com, a rich interactive design firm based in Alberta, Canada, he loves playing with technology in a research and development role. It was his passion for exploring new frontiers that led him to the Internet, where he began building content that no one had seen before.
Grant first rose to prominence as a notable Flash developer while his growing company delivered projects for agencies, startups, and corporate clients including Adobe, Microsoft, Google, and Facebook. He found the opportunity to challenge himself again with HTML5. Grant builds demos to show where the technology could go, and source tools such as CreateJS that enable others to push the boundaries of HTML5. By creating and sharing tools that empower the digital community, he facilitates the spread of creative content around the world.