Web stars speak
/ Interview with Christopher Esterline
Christopher Esterline is head designer of 9930
In 1994 I had an idealistic notion to create something much like what has
been created at Netdiver, a place where design reigned supreme. A place
where designers collected collaborated and created. Being not too fond of
running from my bill collectors, I took to seeking fame and fortune from
Since the days of school studying CS (early to mid 90's), I had fancied
my free time behind a computer or my Mountain bike (weather depending).
As the web grew from garage curiosity to an emerging communications platform,
my furrowing skills melded to meet its needs.
Initially I penned my abilities to that of a freelance designer. Seven-day
work weeks were commonplace, divorce attorneys were in high demand. I quickly
learned I was doing the work of others, not my own. I was a designer working
under corporate branding policies. Legal had three fonts. Marketing had
four colors - they said I could add black if I wanted. I started not to
care if I did or not. Contracts were many; my bike sat in the dank corner
and began to rust.
I was determined to build, to design and to create for reasons other than
those defined by faceless names on a corporate docket 100 years old. I'll
build something for my own namesake. No clever marketing rigmarole. Out
with the pasty graphics. Ellipses are for gumshoes. This time the kid isn't
going to punch the clock.
I finished all my gigs and went to work for myself. The-webspot.com was
born. People hated the dash. Webspotmedia.com followed shortly after. Design
was the impetus, breaking the box was the game. Tick-Tock the clock sounded
the same. Ring, Ring, the phone was still as indigent as ever. E-mail flowed,
my fingers rattled, my eyes glared from staring deeply into the 22" diagonal
white space that anchors my desk.
9930 was born.
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were you first introduced to the internet?
In 1994 when I was tutoring in the Computer Science lab back in College.
A friend, who at the time was a fledgling hacker, had compiled some software
called Mosaic in order to view this thing called the World Wide Web.
you remember your first impression of the internet?
My first impressions were filled with pixilated 256color graphics read
through a 16 color monitor.
are a creative head. When did your love of visual art start?
I'm a surfer, h30 as well as WWW. True surfers hit the lineup daily, no
matter the size of wave. Spending so much time in the water gave me an affinity
for the beauty of nature. As I grew, I noticed, in print, on the television
and in film that what man produced often lacked natures inherent design
in terms of order and balance. As my talent grew I found myself trying to
apply what I knew about nature to my design.
do you look for when hiring creative talent?
Integrity to ones style and an appreciation for diversity.
makes for a good web site?
Community: You could of course have Coke's dollars and spend your way onto
the net. In this scenario, presence is purchased through a spend to hit
ratio. Most good sites that aren't privileged enough to have Coke's resources,
depend on providing services that reinforce community. Sites like Photo.net
are a clear example of how communities make good websites.
what is *inspiration*.
A can of Coke? So... what moves intellect or emotions to spur the action
There's a truth that exists in original design. Whether inherent to the
designer or the intent of the design. Inspiration is the realization of
what is a top-notch client.
A refrigerator would make the perfect client. At will you can add and subtract
content. With minor management, the fridge will maintain the freshness of
its contents. A fridge will often outlast today's average dotcom. You'll
never hear a fridge say, “that's good, but…”
do you protect clients from their own bad taste?
I wouldn't want to be in this situation. For the most part, I try to weed
out clients who might fall into this category prior to my enlistment. The
answer might lie in the conviction each and every designer brings to the
game. Standing by my design without oppugning the client has always been
branding an important issue online?
Building brand-equity is key irregardless of the medium: online, Palm based,
Dick Tracey watch, billboard, bus stop, dream jumping, construction tunnels,
NASCAR drivers; I don't care where audiences are sought, a deviation of
brand in order to meet a specific audience is particularly reckless.
was the catalystic thought that gave birth to 9930.com?
How do I project my ability to understand the needs of my clients while
maintaining integrity to my craft? 9930, I hope, we'll be the place where
such questions are answered in bane.
what the internet means to you.
I like to say to people, when asked this question (it helps to hear my
inflection), that through the advent of the Internet “China is no
Access, voice, the ability to present MY message on a global forum; with
a stroke of my keyboard, I can be transported into the middle of heated
issues, voice my concerns to local, state and federal government, send emails
to Rodney Dangerfield / (responses vary), join web communities, present
my Tomigochi collection in all the glory of 256colors, communicate without
a baby-bell meter running or battle (the PC way of saying kick the crap
out of) my Global-friends in a multiplayer game of QUAKE.
3 qualities necessary to succeed online.
Fresh content, community and a style all its own.
is the single achievement that makes you most proud?
Teaching my son to ride his bike. Perhaps what means more to me than the
event, was the pride that comes with seeing your child succeed. Second to
that, is perhaps, New Edge Networks.
Mission, audience, message, functionality and content were all written into
the site's spec (a first in my experience). Not to be mistaken, I've always
sought such planning yet never achieved the level of organization found
within this project. The sites success is a direct result.
there were no budget limitations - which single dream project would you
What, and give away my E-ticket out of this madness?
is your opinion of the present situation in the dotcom industry?
Politically incorrect as this may be, the Web is a transient medium. The
technology employed to bring us such things isn't so revolutionary as it
is evolutionary. Evolution tells us that man will always seek change.
Dotcoms are the FEBA (Forward Edge of the Battle Field) of Globalization.
Being a believer in the human spirit, I've not fallen prey to the notion
that the dotcoms as a whole are in trouble. Rather it all seems more like
a result of shifting lines.
your view, explain what is convergence?
I'm not sure if I care how convergence grasps our world. Designers who
understand how and why people use information will continue to evolve no
matter the medium.
the www an international network?
I thought it might be useful to get input from an expert. To the question,
“Is the WWW an international network?” Ask
1. INFORSE - International
Network for Sustainable Energy.
2. Welcome to the International
Action Network on Small Arms.
3. The International Network for the Dances
of Universal Peace.
4. International Network of Forests and Communities.
5. International Network of Prison Ministries! Ministry to prisoners, jail
inmates, free literature.
Here I am responding to questions from a citizen of another nation through
a medium which bridges global, social, economic and political boundaries.
I once heard that wars are fought at the intersection of two maps.
Perhaps the Internet is a glimpse into a future where only one map exists?
us what the future (net) looks like.
Where ever I go, I carry around this little notepad. Not for names, numbers
and good times, though I believe there might be a few scribbled inside,
but for those rare moments when people trumpet, “In the Future…”.
In no particular order:
Everything will be shrink wrapped;
Teleportation will be as common as popping popcorn;
Dogs will talk;
Our Internet site will expand to feature… (the list won't fit in this
Tubes and conveyor belts will be our only means of transportation.
No longer an issue of technology vs. human behavior, the net will become
as important to humans as is the door they use to exit and enter their home
-- a means of opening and closing ones self to the world.
Enough dime-store philosophy, thanks for hearing me out.