Wow we were stoked to get an interview in the latest edition of FOCUS. Below is the article.
Returning back to his home town, Chris O’Brien is the newest ‘kid on the block’ with website and design hub, Coast Studios. He’s an entrepreneur, creative at heart and knows his stuff! I sat down with him recently to find out a little bit more about the big bad world of web design.
You’re a born and bred local who’s returned to Coffs for the love of life and the great opportunities – tell us a little bit about this move?
Yes it’s true I was born and bred on the Coffs Coast and I moved to Sydney once I finished school. I studied and worked as a designer in Sydney for a large, fast paced publishing company and then shifted to Brisbane, where it was a very similar situation, pushed by extremely tight deadlines and a hectic lifestyle pace, which I did enjoy as it made me better at my craft.
However it took its toll and so after scoping out the potential of working and living in Coffs, my wife, Anna and I decided to make the move back to this beautiful spot. We bought an old run down beach shack and I couldn’t dream of working in a better place. Hearing the ocean while I design, and so began my latest project, Coast Studios.
Kick starting your career at ACP magazines, you’ve experienced quite a broad range of design in your career – what has stood out as being the most exciting?
I was lucky enough to combine two passions of mine, design and music when I was contracted by a large music company to design event posters for touring musicians like Slash and KISS. Flowing on from that, I was able to work with Triple J designing album covers for artists like Josh Pyke, Kate Miller Heidke, Eskimoe Joe and more. So it wasn’t all that bad, plus a hobby of mine is the guitar so it was the perfect blend both loves.
Coast Studios is relatively new player to the Coffs Coast market – tell us why you choose to start your business here and what sets you apart from other web design studios?
I love everything about Coffs Harbour, amazing surfing beaches, the lifestyle pace, great food and friendly people. People say you can have your cake and eat it too, but I feel the mix of Coffs and my work life is absolutely perfect! I can have my cake and eat it too!
Coast Studios is definitely different to other design businesses around the coast, we are always pushing the boundaries with our design techniques, ensuring we are setting trends rather than following others, which we feel results in a unique, modern and professional finished job. Also as we are a collaboration of highly skilled designers and developers and are able to produce a higher quality of work a lot quicker than other studios around and at a very affordable rate!
What inspires you about the world of website and graphic design?
Design done well is super powerful! I love the challenge of taking everyday ordinary ideas and giving them an identity that people can relate to and identify with the artwork. Also the design industry is constantly changing, so you’re always kept on your toes with new and interesting ways of delivering a better customer experience. You are always pushing your ideas and methods of how you work to produce not only great work, but increases awareness for your clients. It’s EXCITING!
The buzz word of the moment in the website world is “responsive design” – can you explain what this really is?
Responsive design is a technique used for websites to ensure an optimal viewing experience on a wide range of devices such as smartphones, tablets and desktops. A good responsive design would mean minimal scrolling and resizing on your device accompanied by simplistic navigation and legible text. It really is the only way to design websites moving forward.
So many users are using their phones or tablets to search the internet and connect with businesses, so it makes sense to ensure that you businesses website is optimised to cater to your customers’ needs and expectations.
As technology is a driving force of change and, no doubt, innovation in your work, just how much influence does this have on your business?
Technology is obviously huge in our industry and as it continually is changing and improving, so does the methods of how we need to work. Without it we would find it hard to keep up with the demands on todays work environment.
You can’t stay still for a minute or you will get left behind and thus we are always on the lookout for the edge that will help us stand out. I mean who would have thought two years ago that we would be considering building websites specifically optimised for mobile phones and tablet devices, it’s incredible really just how fast technology moves!
What’s next for web design?
Gone are the days of designing websites at specific widths for computers, technology is moving faster than ever. Our design needs to be applied in new and varying ways to suit the rapid growth of the smart phones, tablets, smart TV’s and even google glasses (soon to be released). We will need to consider how we’re going to be making meaningful, engaging and yet simplistic brand experiences across a multi-platform digital world. Now that’s going to be a fun challenge!
Do you have a mentor? Tell us about him/her and how they have helped you in your career/life?
My design career is influenced by Herb Iubalin, an American designer who was huge in the 1950’s – 70’s. He created arguably the design worlds most commonly used fonts “Avant Garde”. He understood the importance of typography in design and set trends that are still used today! Herb didn’t care if people liked his work, but did his own thing and through that built a base whereby people approached him to work on projects. So I think that he has probably had the most influence on my career to date.
What’s your life motto?
“Everything is designed. Few things are designed well!”