Aaron Prevots : What are some of your own strategies to sort through workflow when inspiration isn't quite at hand?
Eric Scott: I have days where I mix things up a little, if I really feel that the creative juices aren’t flowing. What I’ll do is clock something from my to-do list, and allow it a maximum time limit of 20 minutes. I’ll actually use an egg timer for this. Then I switch hats and do a different activity for another twenty, and so on. It’s a little bit like musical chairs, there’s no sense of comfort as to when the bell will ring, so you work faster to accommodate the possible nastiness of interrupting a creative spurt, and you try to finish a “phase” within a stricter time limit. I used to call this the “Thursday Game” because that was the day I would always seem to get those blues.
I still do it because it produces a welcome mix
of disorientation and excitement, and that helps me to release attention
that may be fixed upon a particular problem. Usually, by end of day,
I’m back in the driver’s seat.
Have you ever taken new directions after reading about a favorite artist or communicating with others in the field?
I’m always inspired by something; I tend to get a bit thorough, and research something or someone pretty deeply, once I detect where the hidden layers may be.
This could be musically related, artistic or painterly, filmic work... I could even be the work produced by a comedian (such as Chris Morris) or any versatile performer or renaissance figure like Peter Greenaway whose body of work goes deeper than just a simple project, but manages to exude mystery and ambiance.
Really, I just like to figure out how people get
exactly where they’re trying to go. And that’s more than
just some train-related metaphor; I think genuine success is fascinating
and sometimes I’ll just get intrigued by any successful figure,
and usually proceed to delve until I can feel an appreciation for their
vision, or for some new, outer layer that sits comfortably around their
body of work. I truly love to make sense of the artist’s oeuvre,
and take great pleasure in finding successful – and consistent –
examples all around me.
Web design has so much behind what the viewer sees. How do you balance detail and master plan work? Any particular method here, for example sketching an outline beforehand, then pursuing whatever bits and pieces most take your fancy as you proceed?
I try to do as much “concepting” aloud as possible, so I’ll use a Dictaphone so I can record and listen back to see how pompous my idea may sound! You don’t know until you hear it back – it may have merits as part of the discourse of design. There’s some objectivity to be found in listening back to yourself abstracting, and usually, while I’m doing that, some visual direction will pop into my head and I’ll capture the moment better through speech than through sketches.
The next stage is usually Photoshop, where I can cobble together something very quickly just to get a sense of color, type and imagery. I’ll usually start to write code on a cocktail napkin off to the side just to help plan the technical flow (and no, I don’t drink that many cocktails in general.) All these phases wrap up once I’m secure in the design direction, which is when I break out the production tools and actually start to make the thing.
If something springs to mind visually, it might
be possibly based upon something I’ve seen before, and I’m
usually quite clear about the strength of that direction; it’s
either love or hate. I also make a point of trying not to look at much
visual reference once I enter the design process. It’s just not
that helpful and I prefer not to receive a bias if I can avoid it.
How have you evolved since your early days as a designer?
It certainly takes less effort to make something that looks good, and I can now pre-visualize, but also better call out the production elements, tools, scripting and so on.
For example, I no longer feel I need to scan a
font book for type styles, since I can already identify many hundreds
of typefaces pretty easily just from memory. So therefore, the workflow
has become much more efficient, and less of a barrier to the creativity.
Are there any few words that might describe your design philosophy?
Irony, texture and color are the first three that come to mind.
I tend to categorize design, music and art by its ironic content or attitudes, because of the way it governs our emotional responses. Everything has been seen before or has context or a history. Interestingly, I wasn’t really thinking about this, but irony plays a huge part in how we appreciate things. For example, if the design “look” is intended as an appropriation of some historical design style, then it probably also relies upon people “getting it.” Which means making an assumption about their comfort zones and history with a particular design philosophy.
It’s like when we see Bauhaus-era lettering styles in today’s world; good designers are rarely trying to fool us into believing that these ideas are original. Rather, they will pastiche something that they know we all recognize to some degree. They make an overt comparison to some time period that we can all appreciate, even if we can’t put our finger on it directly. Of course, the more obscure that reference, the more open that design brief probably was, since it invites only a select few cultural aficionados to embrace the historical side of it as well. But what’s important is that it still needs to articulate in a unique way, and with its own contemporary design philosophy – one that is post-contemporary enough that it can securely position itself in a historical context, and not take itself too seriously.
Peter Saville had a great quote on the subject
(Eye No. 17, 1995). He said, “Better to quote Futurism verbatim,
than to parody it ineptly.” I really agree with that. I like that
Any lessons learned in school that have indeed turned out to be invaluable?
Yes. Always have a plan.
What are your future projects?
I’m currently shopping a technology partner and a gateway model to mix into this idea of curatorship using a web-based portal. I’m still a little guarded about how much I’m prepared to say about this, as it’s the concept I’m still finessing at this point, and this will be influenced slightly by the technology chosen.
Also I’m remixing an album by Peter Moraites called “Cinemathematica” of percussion based ambience and synthetics and which I believe will sound very new and fresh, and am almost finished with Day 042 “Rhythm Factory and The Case of the Chiming Clock”... There’s also a sampler of 70 one-minute long music beds to come soon, called Day 070 : HOSPITAL License.
There are a couple of self-initiated projects for
the Day For Night catalogue that I’m determined to break though
this year, Day 049
Primer (Event Logic) which is meant to be an experimental
hybrid of opinion, fiction, sketches and thumbnails... Like a breakdown
of my own creative process, and most likely will be available in its
early stages as an e-book, then later on through printed edition. The
book’s content is mapped into a series of templates created through
a Filemaker database. So just like a flipbook, the book’s grid
makes it actually about 10 miniature books in one, and also mirrors
the structure of the Day For Night catalogue.
Lastly, is there any famous quote or line that could serve as your motto?
“Teach us to number our days aright