Netdiver magazine

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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 corporate America.

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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/ How 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.

/ Do you remember your first impression of the internet?

Slow� ;)

My first impressions were filled with pixilated 256color graphics read through a 16 color monitor.

/ You 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.

/ What do you look for when hiring creative talent?

Integrity to ones style and an appreciation for diversity.

/ What 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.

/ Describe what is *inspiration*.

A can of Coke? So... what moves intellect or emotions to spur the action of invention?

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 such truths.

/ Describe 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�”

/ How 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 my goal.

/ Is 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.

/ What 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.

/ Describe 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 longer China”.

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.

/ Describe 3 qualities necessary to succeed online.

Fresh content, community and a style all its own.

/ What 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.

/ If there were no budget limitations - which single dream project would you launch?

What, and give away my E-ticket out of this madness?

/ What 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.

/ In 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.

/ Is 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 Jeeves responded:

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?

/ Tell 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 space);

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.