Netdiver magazine

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Web stars speak

/ Interview with Paul Petrunia

Paul Petrunia, curator/editor and head designer of ARCHINECT 

Paul began his post secondary education at the University of Victoria, BC, focusing his studies and receiving honors in physics and mathematics. 

He later continued on to study architecture at both the University of Oregon and SCI-Arc (Southern California Institute of Architecture) where his focus of study spanned practical approaches to environmental design to experimental architecture and later graphic and web design development. 

He started ARCHINECT, an online architecture and design magazine in the summer of 1997 and has continued as curator/editor and head designer. 

He started a cross-media design company, Low Country Guidance, with Clancy Pearson in late 1999. 

LCG has kept very busy with projects ranging from product to web to graphic design. This and Paul's other commercial work has earned him various awards and recognition over the last three years. 

Paul has been a guest lecturer at SCI-Arc and Woodbury University.

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/ How were you first introduced to the internet?

In 1995, when I began my architecture studies at the University of Oregon.

/ Do you remember your first impression of the internet?

I was overwhelmed by amount of information. My mind soon began racing with ideas for ways to use by making my own web site(s).

/ You are an *internet pioneer*, what exactly does it mean?

I guess it means that I've been using and designing for the internet since (near) it's inception. I've been using the internet since 1995 and designing for it since 1997 so I guess I can be considered a pioneer since the internet is so young. 

It also means that I can exaggerate and tell my grandchildren ridiculous stories when I'm old.

/ Looking at your track record, you have a *multiple path* career. Why?

Yes, but I don't think it's as you assume. I consider my two careers to be

1) curator of ARCHINECT and 

2) designer/principal of Low Country Guidance, a cross-media design firm. 

ARCHINECT does not provide an income so it's not really a career... but I would like it to be able to afford to devote more time to it in the near future.

/ What was your initial profession?

As stated above, this is my first profession. If you're referring to architecture - I did study architecture... and I do love architecture... but I am not interested *at the moment* in practicing it. 

Architecture takes more time and patience than I have right now and there are too many other areas I want to research first.

/ Describe your present professional activities and why you chose it?

I chose to start Low Country Guidance with Clancy Pearson two years ago. We met in architecture school and both had an interest in design... beyond just that of architecture... so we applied our own skills and experiences to form a company. 

We often apply architectural strategies to our work designing for the web, product, graphics, broadcast, furniture, and interiors.

/ Describe the path how you became a professional designer.

After traveling in Europe and the US for a year after graduating from high school in Victoria, BC Canada, I decided to go to the University of Oregon to study architecture. I was interested in sustainable design at the time.

My interest later moved to experimental design and theory so I chose the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc), which I enjoyed immensely. I continued exploring other fields of design while there, especially web design, and was hired to design the web site for SCI-Arc while a student. That led to other job offers which I eagerly accepted and made me decide to form my own company.

/ What is your favorite designing material. Why?

Wood - it's beautiful, flexible, natural, durable.

/ What makes for a good project?

A good concept. It's important that the solution hold on tightly to the concept.

/ You are a creative head. When did your love of visual art start?

When I was very young... taking it in and appreciating visual arts. I didn't start producing until after high school.

/ What do you look for when hiring creative talent?

Natural ability and talent in general... but I like to hire people who show self motivation, discipline, and the ability to make good decisions.

/ How do you promote your talent and land gigs?

So far all of our work has come from word of mouth or from promotion through self-initiated projects like ARCHINECT.

/ What makes for a good web site?

A successful site needs good/interesting content. It should also be designed well by being easy and enjoyable to navigate. It should look good too.

/ How did you first get involved in content publishing?

ARCHINECT started out as just a link resource site for architects and students. I later decided to start featuring work by interesting designers. That was appreciated so I continued doing it.

/ How do you sharpen your talent?

I continue working hard and learning more every day. Every once in a while I need to design something for myself, rather than for a client, to regain touch with my own style.

/ How did you first get involved with Flash production?

I had to put together a small site for a client and it was obvious that Flash was the tool to use for it... so, I just played around with the program, did some reading and picked it up from there. 

I would like to become much better in Flash than I am right now.

/ You have a sharp convergence outlook on the industry. Where does that come from?

My personal interest in ARCHINECT is to use the internet to make architecture more connected and open-minded. This stems from my own opinion that architecture is too detached from the other design disciplines (and even culture in general).

/ What makes a good team?

A group of people that work well together and have specific roles that are necessary to fulfill a project.

/ What makes a good storyboard?

Scratch and sniff markers...

/ Describe what is *inspiration*.

Anything that drives creativity and is motivational.

/ Describe what is a top-notch client.

The best clients are those that respect the designer for understanding the best approach to a design problem. 

A recent client of mine, for example, is a very talented architect who has hired us to design his firm's web site. He has given us almost complete freedom to do what we want because he knows that is what we do well. 

As a result, his site will be one of our best to date.

/ How do you protect clients from their own bad taste?

Fortunately we haven't had to work with any clients that insisted on using bad design decisions. If that does happen, we will not work with them since it would reflect badly on ourselves.

/ You have been invited to many web related events. Can you tell us why?

Because of relationships that I have formed online with other designers as friends and business contacts. I have also been invited to web related events by companies who simply want to promote their products.

/ Explain the value of peers recognition.

Peer recognition is very important because it confirms that your work is of a high level when other practitioners think so. 

Peers understand the logistics behind working in specific fields.

/ Is branding an important issue online?

Yes, as it is offline.

/ What was the catalytic thought that gave birth to ARCHINECT?

I wanted to take advantage of the internet to make architecture more connected and open-minded by bringing together designers from around the world to introduce new ideas from all disciplines. I also wanted to make architecture loosen up a little.

/ Describe what the internet means to you.

Global communication.

/ Describe 3 qualities necessary to succeed online.

Well, there are many ways of succeeding online... it depends what you want to be successful at... but I think determination, as in everything else, is key.

/ What is the single achievement that makes you most proud?

At 25, I am proud that I can earn a living doing what I enjoy; making important decisions on my own; running a business and a web site that has proven to be enjoyed by thousands of people daily.

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

Hmmm... I'm working on that right now so I can't talk about it... yet ;)

/ Give a one line counsel to newbies.

Try to be unique and create something new. Create a niche.

/ What is your opinion of the present situation in the dotcom industry?

I've stayed small and avoided it so I don't have an informed opinion to offer. Seems like it's just evolution...

/ Is the www an international network?

Yes. Is this a trick question?

/ Tell us what the future (net) looks like.

Fast, controlled by an interface that reads eye movement, projected onto a wall by a computer which looks more like a small, sleek flash-light. When you surf to, you notice that it's finally been redesigned...