Sam Brown: Interface Designer

Sam Brown at at dConstruct

Sam Brown was born in Edinburgh, Scotland and moved to Sydney, Australia to finish his early education at a Technology High School, then continued studying Multimedia Design at the Computer Graphics College Sydney and the Private SAE Institute before spending a year working at a boutique design house. Now, under the name Massive Blue, Brown runs an accomplished web design and development company from his hometown of Edinburgh, which serves clients from around the world. Sam also runs a popular blog on all things geek and technological.

How did you get into design and computers in the first place?
From an early age my father was my biggest influence. It was the other way around for me though, as a kid I was around computers all the time due to his line of work and one day he came home with a book on HTML – that really set of my passion for the web and building things for it. Later in school I realized I was just as interested in how things looked from both a visual and user experience viewpoint and have since been doing both designing and building for the web.

You recently redesigned your portfolio site, will you share this design with us?

What’s the thinking behind this interface, this design?
This is my portfolio, it’s also my little playground on the web where I like to experiment with new techniques and push the boundaries a little bit. Almost all of my clients are referred to me from happy past clients or colleagues so I wasn’t afraid to try something different and used a 1080px grid for design that is fairly wide compared to the norm.

The design and build utilises a lot of the emerging technologies such as the latest and greatest new CSS3 techniques. I’m essentially creating a barrier for entry, if you like pushing the boundaries and using the latest technology and don’t care about old browsers that should have died a slow painful death a long time ago? You are my perfect client.

What’s the best part about being a freelancer?
Having the freedom and flexibility to work with who I want, when I want and where I want are definitely the best parts. I’m in complete control of my own success and really appreciate the position I am in today, albeit it was down to a lot of hard work initially.

The worst?
Working on my own. Definitely. I have a great home office setup that I love, it’s perfect for me in every way except that I sit here on my own, every day. That’s a real bummer and there is a lot to be said for some human contact every day and the ability to bounce ideas and designs off other people.

What inspires you?
Everything and anything, it’s an oft asked question and I am unable to give an answer that is going to be right for someone else. It might be a magazine layout, a book I’m reading or the way the wind is blowing the trees… it’s really personal and I am often inspired by the most unusual and mundane things.

Do you consider yourself more of an artist or engineer?
I’m not an artist, certainly not the traditional form anyway. Interface design for screen is my passion and a lot of that isn’t just designing in Photoshop but building in front-end code HTML & CSS. Engineer it is then.

What are your thoughts on the iPad? Is it really that revolutionary?
You have to sit down and use one to appreciate the market Apple are targeting. For me it’s a fantastic consumption device, I can shut down my computer and leave my office at the end of the day but still have the ability to access the web and consume, be it news, emails from friends, Facebook or chatting with friends. Working on a computer all day has meant I miss a lot of that as I’m in work-mode, and sitting down in my office in the evenings is the last thing I want to do. Having an iPad that gives me access to the full web and ever smarter and amazing applications is a real delight.

Truth be told, I wrote the answers to this interview entirely on my iPad.

Would you say most websites on the Internet right now are, um, ugly?
I certainly wouldn’t disagree with that, the web is such a fast paced and ever changing environment. No-one can sit still and sites must continue to evolve. Now with the vast array of devices connecting to the internet there are a lot of design decisions that need to be made quickly to make sure that sites keep up and work well with the end users device of choice.

What’s one of the most beautiful websites on the net?
That is a really tough question, I am consistently coming across beautiful websites both from a visual and technological stand point. I’d be hard pressed to nail down my decision to just one website. I think just looking at some of the work being done on http://dribbble.com shows that we are certainly in for a treat and that elusive one beautiful website is myth.

What’s the best part about living in Edinburgh?
It’s certainly not the weather. Edinburgh is such a beautiful city that marries the old with the new in such a wonderful way. The people here are great, there is a good community of industry professionals and we are a stone’s throw away from other hubs in London, Europe and New York is just a quick hop across the pond. It’s a great place to be living and working.

Do you have a motto?
“Do. More. Awesome. Shit.” – If I have a motto, that’s it. A lot of young people ask how to get involved, get started, get clients. That’s my advice, stop talking about doing stuff and actually get out there and do stuff. You learn so much more by actually doing things than reading or learning about how to do them. Go do more awesome shit right now. TC mark

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