|Snow Dowd is co-principal along
with partner Robert Reinhardt at [theMAKERS]
where they develop interactive content, print
graphics, and training materials for leading companies.
Snow is also the co-author of the Macromedia Flash
is your location?
|Portland, OR (via Victoria, BC,
Toronto, ON, Los Angeles, CA...it's been a long
journey but I feel really at home in Portland
after only a few months here.)
are the details of your education? Do you have
any formal design/programming education?
|My parents were kind of extreme
so I grew up in the interior of British Columbia
with lots of horses and nature around but no running
water or electricity. I didn't start school until
I was 11, but I was able to catch up to my age
group and get good grades after my first year
of getting up to speed with math and handwriting...and
learning to tell time! I completed my elementary
and high school education with only four years
in "regular" classrooms. I was lucky
enough to win a full scholarship after grade 11
to a wonderful college where I did a two-year
program to earn my IB (International Baccalaureate)
diploma. If anyone has children of their own or
friends or relatives that are in high-school now
and looking for an amazing experience and a great
foundation for further study in any field please
check out United World Colleges (http://www.uwc.org).
After a year of traveling and working I decided
to go to Ryerson University's School of Image
Arts in Toronto (http://imagearts.ryerson.ca)
because they had the only new media program
I could find at that time that offered an undergraduate
degree. It was a great school with amazing facilities
and I learned a lot but I think I learned most
from some wonderful, generous mentors that I
was able to work with outside of school. I worked
in the school's Study Center helping to organize
and maintain a massive archive of prints and
slides then I got a job assisting one of Canada's
top architectural photographers. I worked with
Robert Burley at Design Archive for nearly four
years and it gave me the skills and confidence
to start my own business. Although my first
love was photography, all the time in the darkroom
with color printing chemicals took it's toll
and I eventually found that the computer was
really the best way for me to combine all the
things I enjoyed...images, text, information,
stories...and it just keeps getting better...how
amazing is that?
did you get started using Flash?
|I got my first taste of programming
animation with clunky old Turbo Pascal...the motto
for our class was "xorpix is cool!"
(I even have a friend who still calls his company
XORPIX). I actually enjoyed getting my head around
the whole logic of nesting and looping routines...it
was a crude but effective introduction to the
power of scripting. I moved on to using HTML and
Director to do simple projects but in my final
year at Ryerson I was living with Robert Reinhardt
while he worked on the Flash 4 Bible. Lucky me!
After seeing what it could do and how friendly
the Flash environment was for visual people I
do you like most about Flash?
|I think the main thing I loved at
first was that I could do anything I wanted with
fonts and it would actually show up that way on
someone else's computer...that still makes me
happy. Although, over time, the advantages of
dynamic text have drawn me away from really intensive
typographic presentations and more toward minimal
and legible treatments. I love that I can quickly
lay out a whole sequence of screens and play with
and compare them to see how a flow will work without
even having to do a bunch of scripting. I use
Flash to make comps even for HTML sites and I
sometimes prefer the drawing and text tools in
Flash to the ones in Illustrator...so I'll even
use it to design logos. I also love that Flash
has empowered a whole generation of creative people
to earn a living doing what they love...and so
many of us work for ourselves or with people that
we appreciate and share mutual respect with. Geography
is not a barrier for most of us and commuting
is less of a necessity. I feel incredibly lucky
to have these opportunities and it is always inspiring
to hear the diverse backgrounds that people have
used to fuel their Flash-powered careers and creative
are your other interests and hobbies?
|Photography (of course), painting
(not as much as I should...but the tactile experience
of mixing up color and smoothing it onto a surface
can be a wonderful balance for too many mouse
miles). I was lucky enough to take some ikebana
(Japanese flower-arranging) classes at UCLA with
an amazing Japanese woman who had the highest
teaching degree you could get...she would never
teach intro classes in Japan but she said she
enjoyed the individualistic tendencies of North
American students and she taught us with patience
and humor. The discipline of creating balanced
designs while respecting the organic and unique
qualities of natural materials (branches, leaves,
flowers, stones) was a wonderful way to exercise
my senses. I would like to have more hobbies but
mostly my free time goes into dog walks, eating
out and seeing art when I get the chance. I also
became a homeowner for the first time this year
and I suddenly have a whole new appreciation for
really mundane things like gutters and grout...a
whole new vocabulary and a steep learning curve!
tell us about some of your favorite sites.
|This is a hard question and it made
me think about how I use the web on a daily basis.
I realized that there are very few sites that
I visit often and my favorites list tends to be
shaped by whatever project I'm working on at the
time or what I've been exposed to recently (at
a conference or in a book or magazine or in a
conversation...) With that said, I always love
the chance to share some of the urls that DO keep
me coming back (aside from craigslist and google,
When I feel like reading
something that tickles my brain:
The launch page for the many projects and essays
by an incredibly talented, opinionated and articulate
collaborative couple. I discovered Jessica Helfand
and William Drenttel when they presented at
an AIGA conference. They inspire me because
they do work they believe in and they don't
bother to dumb things down.
This site has grown and grown but the level
of discussion has remained unusually consistent.
It rekindles my appreciation for theory and
debate and after a visit I often think I should
seriously consider going back to school to get
more of that...
Inconsistent updates from a self-described recovering
graphic designer who now lives in the south
of France. He also created some software to
help people with online publishing. Most women
I know who visit this site have a small crush
on Dean...he wins you over with his wit and
irreverence and the daily pictures of his adorable
dogs aren't bad either. Fortunately for him,
he is already taken by the equally articulate
Gail Armstrong whose site http://www.openbrackets.com
is also wonderful if you feel like reading.
When I want to see something beautiful
(on the web):
Yugo Nakamura is a true master of Flash and
he is an icon for good reason....the main thing
that I love about him is that he keeps pushing
and exploring without limits while also finding
practical applications for his ideas.
Rose is definitely a Flash Goddess and she just
keeps doing more wonderful work. Every site
she does has whimsy but also focus and a great
integration of elements: sound/motion/ navigation/information.
When I need backup:
Kelly Goto and Emily Cotler have done a beautiful
job of making the planning and execution of
logical phases in web design very easy to follow.
This book is great backup when I need to validate
my process for impatient or inexperienced clients.
I saw Keith Yamashita at an AIGA event and he
was able to get the whole room laughing about
the very serious challenges we all face in trying
to do good work in different environments. This
book is entertaining and useful and the PDF
mini-book is another thing I've found can be
helpful in getting buy-in from a client.
music you like to listen to when you are creating
|I like to have music playing in
my studio to help drown out the sound of fans
and printers and air cleaners...but I don't like
playing DJ so I tend to listen either to random
MP3 lists or online radio (like radioParadise).
Like my favorite websites, my favorite music at
any time is influenced by what I'm doing and where
I've been lately. I'm not a loyal fan of any one
artist but if I DO like an artist or band I like
to hear as much as possible of what they've done...not
just one or two songs that might be overplayed.
If you haven't already heard them I would encourage
you to check out: Daniel Lanois, Lhasa, Sister
Rosetta Tharp, Omara Portuondo, Shivaree.
and/or what has influenced and inspired you to
|The technology inspires me. My peers
inspire me. The whole visual world inspires me...new
and old fonts, color, texture, photographs. I
love line art and I'm in awe of good illustrators.
I have shelves full of design books and type books
and old clip art books and photo books and art
books. I try to get out and see gallery shows
and installation work as often as I can. Nature
is continually amazing.
Some specific names/urls: Marc Chagall (I have
his autobiography "My Life" by my
bed), Bill Viola (his installation at the Getty
was one of the most thrilling things I've seen...and
rooms full of all different types of people
were completely absorbed by the work...he is
also very articulate about his process and I
recommend any of his writing), Second Story
the work speaks for itself and is a benchmark
for truly interactive and informative web design),
my partner, Robert Reinhardt inspires me daily
with his work ethic and the joy he has in continually
learning new stuff...he reminds me that it isn't
a chore but a privilege.
you feel there is a difference between male and
female Flash creations?
|I would guess that fewer women followed
the grey/orange trend and maybe more men jumped
on the broken shard/vector graphic bandwagon...but
there are always exceptions on both sides. The
current trend (or perhaps growing convention?)
of using organic forms and images from nature
combined with decorative type is appealing to
me no matter who is doing it. One of the things
I like best about multimedia is that it gives
us the chance to "smoosh" things together
under one seamless surface...somehow even things
that don't normally fit together seem to make
sense. The more we push at the edges of things,
the more interesting the work becomes. One thing
I have noticed is that men are more likely to
be comfortable sharing very personal, experimental
work in a professional context (like at a conference)...I
wish more women would do that because it inspires
everyone and I know that women are just as "cutting
edge" as men are...they are sometimes just
quieter about it.
do you suppose can account for the lack of female
|I do think there is an imbalance
but I don't think it is because there is a dearth
of female talent or that women are afraid of math
or technology....I know plenty of guys who weren't
too hot at math either who've managed to use Flash
as a learning tool that has helped them gain new
appreciation for the creative potential of code.
There are many great books written by women and
I've seen some fantastic presentations by women....but
not enough. Unfortunately, I know a lot of smart,
accomplished women myself who just don't feel
comfortable putting themselves out there as "experts"...I'm
guilty of this too. I've spent a lot of time thinking
about this issue and the only consistent factor
I've found is that men (in general) are better
at stepping up and saying "I'm an expert"
(even if they are still learning, as we all are...)
while women tend to say "Well, there are
a lot of smart people out there and I don't know
everything so I don't know if I'm at the level
to tell other people how to do things..."
This might not be a popular opinion and I'm sure
it is debatable (I hope it is!) but I know plenty
of conference organizers and publishers who struggle
to find women to participate...and this is not
because there aren't talented women out there.
That is the myth we have to work against and we
can only do that by putting ourselves out there
and sharing our work and our talent. (At least
that's what I keep telling myself and anyone else
who will listen!)
Thank you Snow for sharing your thoughts!
by Camille Pietralunga
Camille Pietralunga (www.camillepietralunga.com) has over eight years experience as an Interactive Designer and writer. Camille is fascinated with Flash and its amazing capabilities. She is excited and honored to be able to speak with so many talented female Flash designers and developers.
To contact Camille, email Camille@camillepietralunga.com.