Join James Williamson for an in-depth discussion in this video Remaining flexible: Chris Georgenes, part of Introduction to Web Design and Development.
- Hey everybody, I'm here with my good friend Chris Georgenes, Chris, it's fantastic to see you buddy. - It's nice to see you as always. - Chris is, he's one of my heroes. He is a real honest-to-God animator, a really talented guy. He's a specialist in the field of motion graphics. He's written numerous books on Flash and spoken at a million conferences, which is where we met, speaking at conferences, and he's just one of the most talented people I've run into.
Chris, with that kind of lead-up... - You need to get out more, man! - I know, with that kind of lead-in, I'd love for you to kind of talk a little bit about how you got from where you started out to where you are now. If you could give us a little bit of background. - Well, I'll tell you this, if I had to do it all over again it would never be the same path twice, because it was the twistiest road I've ever taken. If you go way back briefly I majored in, I got a BFA in fine arts back in the late 80's and I didn't have a computer and most of this stuff hadn't even been invented yet.
So I kind of fell into it by getting hired as an animator, but really based on my illustration skills, I suppose. I was working for a company that was doing animated TV shows and I kind of cut my teeth at this company for six years and it was kind of a blessing where I was able to learn the tricks of the trade in terms of animation and even when it came to video editing and telling a story visually I just kind of fell in love with the whole thing.
It kept my mind open, especially to those around me, all the other artists and animators. There were some that were 10 times better than me and 10 light-years ahead of me, but that was awesome because I learned from them and I saw what they were doing and how they were using tools and so I think by the process of just rolling up my sleeves and doing it, just having my hands in it I kind of just learned on the fly and so I was able to ramp up with technology in that sense where we were using an old DOS-based program called Animator Pro back in the day and Flash three or four came out when I discovered it and so I just kind of used my knowledge of fine arts and drawing and applied it to the computer, this medium, and again the computer is just like a pencil, it's just a tool, it's just how you use it.
- When did you first start transitioning into the web from traditional animation? - As far as putting stuff online? - Yeah - Like that? Actually it was probably around the Flash four days, so that would bring me back to about the year 2000. Before that all I was ever doing was fixed frame format mediums where we were just outputting for television. And the idea and the concept of having non-linear interactivity was totally new and it was exciting and in one of my jobs for work we got an order from Shockwave.com do to a whole animated web series, which required, in that day and age, 56k modems required preloaders and they wanted a game preloader and things like that, so that required, that was my first baby step into the web and so for many years I was using Flash, which is a great tool for an artist to finally find, to give me a way to get my work out there which was always sort of a problem.
Because I could never, at the time I didn't have the skills to just build an HTML-based website. - Sure - At least not one anyone would ever want to go back to more than once - Right - But Flash allowed me to sort of get that out there visually and just express myself and put something out online you could create something very quickly and upload a .swf and get it out there, so it was really cool, I like that instant gratification. - Sure, sure. - That Flash allowed. - Yeah, now, obviously you've worked a lot with Flash because as an animator it really is the number one tool for doing that online, but the landscape around Flash has changed.
So talk a little bit about how your workflow has modified and changed over say, the last three years. - Yeah, a few years ago, up until then I was uploading .swf files, but obviously with Apple devices and the like that don't support the Flash Player anymore we've had to sort of alter how we get our work out there. It doesn't mean that I don't use Flash anymore, I mean, the Flash player might be dying, but the Flash tool itself isn't, it's still a valid tool for me as a designer to actually design work, but it's just how I publish it, my output has varied, so if you want to reach a broader audience there are several ways you can do it.
So I've always found a workaround. If anyone ever asks me, "Can you do that in Flash?" I've made the mistake once of saying, "No, I don't think so" and immediately you get proven wrong. So someone always finds a way - Sure. - And I like being that person who can find that way sometimes, if I can, so yeah. - Let's say somebody is a new web designer and they want to specialize in one area. Now maybe it's something like motion graphics, maybe it's something like content strategy or something like that. Let's say that there's a dominant tool on the market, because obviously when you got into motion graphics Flash was and still remains to a large part the dominant tool. - Right.
- But that's starting to change, so what would you recommend for those individuals to prepare them for working in that narrow focus? - I would recommend just keeping your options open don't get too comfortable with any one program, always look for other like programs that might have a different feature set that allows you to do something else with the tool. You know, Flash is just another hammer in your arsenal, a tool, so I find if I'm browsing through a graphics magazine and there's a cool tutorial on how to draw something in say, Illustrator, I'm going to probably follow it along even if it's 101 Illustrator stuff I'm going to follow along and I'm going to probably learn something new, but I just noticed every couple of years there's always sort of new tool/platform that the web design team or the dev team is using and one of them happens to be Unity, which is more of a development platform...
- Yeah. - As opposed to just a graphics tool, but it almost doesn't matter where the graphics come from, I mean, if you're comfortable in Illustrator, great! If you're comfortable in Flash, great. Photoshop, great, but I would never say, corner myself by just being really good at just one thing - Yeah - You should feel pretty comfortable using any of them. And just in the event that you wake up tomorrow and Flash is gone, or whatever your favorite tool is gone, at least you won't be stuck on an island somewhere by yourself. - Right.
- You've got to be able to quickly adapt, and so the transition will be a lot easier if you're always dabbling in other programs as opposed to just staying on that one island the whole time - Gotcha, that's great advice. Now speaking of advice, do you have any advice for people that are just starting to learn web design, that are just coming into it now with the current state of it, do you have any general advice for those folks in terms of things that can help make their journey a little easier? - I have found, sometimes it can be the most difficult, but if you can keep things as simple as possible it's almost like they can't be too simple.
I've always found that people just love clean design. I mean, that's partly the huge success of Apple. Everyone just loves it, I mean, you can buy an iPhone now and it doesn't come with an instruction manual because the whole device itself is pretty intuitive. So when I'm designing, if I'm doing UI for a game or an app or something like that, I always try to think what would I expect if I were using this for the first time? So you need to almost always have that fresh look at something, even as you're designing it, even if you're a month into the design process, to be able to step away and approach it as if you were using it for the very first time, or maybe pretend that you're your mom or dad - Yeah. - Using it for the first time.
I mean, that's kind of like the lowest common denominator in terms of, just that mental approach to something digital. I've found that just trying to keep things as simple as possible works, it doesn't mean it's easy. Sometimes you have to do the most complicated thing to get back to the simplest thing. I don't know, it's hard to explain, but more often than not I've seen projects get reworked and reworked and things get too cluttered and too busy and what ends up working the best is when everything is kept as simple as possible, because even the simplest games I have found out, I have learned, you'll try to develop the simplest game in the world and it still - Yeah. - Gets complicated very quickly and all of a sudden you have people QA-ing it and realizing that there are bugs and this and that, but you just can't be too simple.
And for me, being subtle can be way more powerful in the end - Yeah, I think that's great advice. I mean, it's certainly helpful for people who are trying to master something. - Right. - As long as you keep it simple and keep doing it, eventually you're going to get to a point where you're very competent with it and then you can start branching out in other areas. - Right, exactly. - Fantastic advice Chris, I want to thank you again for being with us, I know everyone appreciates it. I certainly appreciate it, it was great talking with you. - Well, I loved being here, thank you. - All right, ciao. - Cool man, bye.
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- What is web design?
- What is a web designer?
- Learning to code
- Choosing a web host
- Working with a CMS
- Exploring how websites are structured
- Choosing your framework or software
- Designing with standards and accessibility in mind