8 Random Questions for Dan Rubin

Dan Rubin speaking at ADCMWDan Rubin cares about helping designers bridge the gap from print to web, and in a conversation I had with him via a phone call a few months ago, his passion on the subject matter was abundantly clear. Last month Dan spoke at the Art Directors Club of Metro Washington DC’s event ” From Print to Web: its easier than you think” which was the first  web related programing of it’s kind for the Club. With an audience that consisted of mostly print designers (proven by a show of hands) he aimed to be inspire and comfort those who are about to venture down that path.

On the web, Dan does a little bit of just about everything. He maintains his popular blog http://superfluousbanter.org where he writes about everything from Regex Patterns for Single Line CSS to logo design. Since he is a super friendly and knowledgeable guy, I decided to make his interview the kickoff  for my “8 Random Questions”  series that will feature conversations with  designers and web folks. I am hoping to feature them bi-monthly. So without further ado, here are some random questions for Mr. Rubin:

Where do you turn for inspiration, online and off?

I think it’s a constant search for every creative person, no matter the medium, and it’s no different for me  often the inspiration comes when I least expect it, and from the most unlikely sources. For that reason, I tend not to look so hard anymore, and rather just let my subconscious take in as much input from many different sources: photography, books, nature, people, cars, even patterns on the top of a latte :) Being open to the inspiration is the most important thing.

If you had to design from a deserted island what 3 typefaces would you want to have?

Someone may kill me for the first one, but here you go, in no particular order:
Helvetica Neue, Mrs. Eaves, and Avenir
It’s worth noting that these change depending on my mood, the position of the sun, and the alignment of planets.

In your presentation you talk about how you made a transition from print to web. What type of print work did you do before becoming a web designer?

Some branding, page layout, collateral — it was early in my career as a designer, so I did whatever I could get my hands on. During the transition to mostly web/screen projects, I did lots of hybrid work (printed flyer or brochure plus web site, etc.). *Lots* of business cards.

Was there a specific benchmark in your career that made you decide to take your work online, and when was it?

I was doing a bunch of consulting for the Seminole Tribe of Florida around 1996, specifically for their (at that time) yet-to-open museum. The work spanned a wide range, from model making to print design to artifact cataloging to interactive exhibit design and video production. The interactive work introduced me to the concept of designing for the screen (though I’d played around with the web earlier, there wasn’t much “design” to speak of online), and in my research to learn Macromedia Director (remember Shockwave? no one else does either ;) I started learning about interface design, and it led directly to the then-emerging practice of designing for the web. From there it was just a matter of finding projects to experiment on, and eventually convincing a client to do a web project.

Can you list 3 quick tips for someone who is interested in making the transition from print to web.

Though not a definitive sure-fire list by any means, these should help navigate the transition:

1) Don’t change your style of design — this is the biggest mistake I see people making all the time. There is no good reason to change the way you design just because you’ve switched mediums; just be aware of the constraints and approach the process the way you always have, and you’ll be better off for it.

2) Learn about the interaction layer and how to incorporate it — giving users visual feedback for certain actions is an important difference between print and screen design; look at how other sites add this layer, and over time you will evolve your own approach that fits your design style. If you read one book about interaction, make it “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug.

3) Ask a lot of questions — find people you can use as resources for technical and implementation questions. They may already work with you, or you might find them at a local meeting such as Refresh [link to RefreshingCities.org?], but find them and use them whenever you reach a stumbling block.

In addition to designing you have a passion for music, what similarities are there between the two disciplines?

There are *many* similarities, though the same can be said for many creative arts. The concepts of rhythm, proportion, balance, contrast, dissonance, harmony, and even color (aka timbre) all have parallels — even when they aren’t directly related, there is much to be learned and inspiration to be gained from comparisons. One of my favorite things to do is change the music I’m listening to while designing, to see how it affects my style (and it certainly does).

Are there any designers who you look up to for their work, print & web?

Many of my favorites are classics: Jan Tschichold, Paul Rand, Saul Bass. I tend to keep myself ignorant of a lot of current work on the web, though I still love to look at anything designed by Ryan Simms, Jason Santa Maria, Bryan Veloso and Dan Cederholm. There are of course many others whose work I admire today; I could continue writing lists for hours.

Is there a project that you would consider your dream project, and what would it be?

It may sound strange, but I *do* have a dream project to “improve the world through design” — I hope to one day find a generous benefactor who is willing to pay the expenses of a few talented designers (online and offline) for a few years, to work solely on projects for companies and organizations who could not afford great design otherwise. Mom and pop stores, the local coffee shop, small non-profits, community groups, you name it. A yearly, recurring grant would be ideal, or perhaps a 5 to 10 year plan to spread good will through design.

Photo of Dan By Jason Garber

One Comment

  1. — February 23, 2009