15 Questions for ...

Francis, Chan of Mystery
The creator of Famewhore gets his 15 minutes of fame. Francis, Chan of Mystery, is the brilliant surrealist behind famewhore.com, and the designer of award-winning corporate sites.

What was the genesis of famewhore.com? Where did the idea come from?
FameWhore is my own little creative space where I can experiment with different ways of using Flash. It's also my own personal subversive commentary on popular culture. The name came after having seen John Moritsugu's film of the same name, which I hope to sell to them for ten million dollars.

How did you know when the piece was "done?" How do you judge its success?
I never really know when a piece is "done." I could probably work on a piece for weeks, but there comes a point where you have to say "stop" and just be happy with it. I judge FameWhore's success through the feedback I get from people and the recognition my peers give it.

Do you plan to add to famewhore, or is it more of a museum piece?
I have big lofty goals for FameWhore, but for now I'm only able to devote enough time to adding a "piece" now and then and perhaps updating the look. Famewhore is still trying to find its own "legs" right now and it will be awhile until I feel that it has developed its own sense of style and content. I want to also get into t-shirt design because I'm part of generation XL, the t-shirt youth culture generation who get their information through slogans on clothes. Actually, I'm a believer in the power of the t-shirt design to convey messages to the masses.

Is Flash the light and the way? Why do you use it, and what do you love about it?
I like Flash when it is used at the right time for the right purpose. Too many sites nowadays emulate the Gabocorp interface with flying spheres and an interface that slides and changes in every section. I get frustrated by long "dazzly" transitions in between sections. Sometimes all I want is to get to where I'm going. It's also a distraction having to "relearn" an interface or navigation when it's constantly changing on you.
        I guess the important thing is to know when to do the funky "experiential" user interface and when to do something easily navigable. I think some sites that use the medium well are The New Beetle site, SonicNet, and Dorado to name a few.
        There's also those who use Flash as an artistic tool like VolumeOne, Typographic, MWG, Combine and lots more. FameWhore is more of this camp.

How free were you in the design of your company's site, blastradius.com?
I had pretty much free reign in terms of the look and feel of the Blast Radius site, but a lot of the ideas and images came from other members.

What inspires the shapes and colors you use?
Sears catalogues from the 70s, rave flyers, LSD, Extra: the TV show (they have the most amazing motion designer who does their station ID). I love those who aren't afraid of new shapes and geometrics like Future Farmers and Suction. I am also big on the colour schemes the whole Scandinavian design posse make use of like Smallprint, Lindkvist, and Supernation ...

You overlay a lot of your graphics with horizontal stripes, which creates both a unity and an identity in a lot of your work. Did you originally play with that graphic approach as a means of conserving bandwidth?
No, I did it because it looks cool! I can't take credit for that idea.

Corporate work doesn't seem to get you down. Colonywars.com is way entertaining and has won Shocked Site of the Day and Projectcool Shocked Site of the Year. Do you view most projects as entertainment sites?
I look at any project as an exciting challenge. I like the diversity of sites Blast brings. You can't eat candy all the time.

When you have to create a more straightforward corporate site, such as signaturesurgery.com, does your approach change radically?
Doing straightforward corporate sites is a nice little "breather" from entertainment sites because it lets me relax the left side of my brain for awhile. But when I need to do something more "corporate", I usually wear less restricting underwear and more khaki colours and listen to more adult contemporary music. But seriously, you really need to be a chameleon in the web design industry. You have to be more conscious of cultural and periodic "styles" and be able to adapt your design accordingly.
        I guess my ultimate goal would be to have a trademark style that clients desire, like Attik Design or Tomato.

How do you approach collaborations, such as your upcoming project with Mediaboy?
I try and find collaborations with others who I think would make for an interesting project. I wanted to collaborate with Mediaboy because our styles are so polar opposite and I think some interesting things will come out of it. Kind of like what would happen if Marilyn Manson and Cindy Crawford had to share crayons and draw something...

What is your design background?
I have no previous design experience other than making Print Shop Birthday banners at age 12.

How did you come to the web?
Through a new media course. What I love about web designers is that there is a real sense of community, support, and interaction. I admire those like Shift, Kaliber10000, and Suffocate.org, who teach, involve, inspire and critique. These sites really opened my eyes and got me thinking about designing for the web. It makes me want to hold all of your hands and run through meadows.

What did you first see on the web that knocked you out? What other sites do you admire?
The first thing that really got me interested in design for the web was seeing Auriea Harvey's Entropy 8 site. Other sites I admire are the previous sites I've mentioned as well as these:

... to name a few. There's so many more.

What other art forms inspire you? Is there a special book, movie, CD that you love?
I get inspired by consumer and pop culture. What really gets me going are looking at old workout tapes from the 80s, cheesy stock image books (also from the eighties), and fads and trends come and gone. I really want to do a Tae Bo piece, but I fear it's just too soon. The hype is still hot. Gotta do it when I start seeing those tapes in used cd shops. Tony Little I might be ready to take on.
        In terms of music, Squarepusher gets my rocks off, Autechre too. Boards of Canada is beautiful, and I also like the French house movement. They are really good at taking kitsch and making it cool again.

What advice do you give others who wish to create meaningful and original sites on the web?
I would advise people to REALLY know the medium you're designing for. Try not to rely too much on the WYSIWGs. Do it "old school" if you can. It'll make you at one with the web, young grasshoppers. Give yourself a challenge like creating a site using only radio buttons as a navigation and try to do it.
        Experiment a lot. Play with things, shapes, colours, motion. Soak up design. It's everywhere. Look at food for design cues. Or Chinatown. Or maybe your grandma's underwear drawer. Read magazines. Subscribe to design oriented mailing lists. Participate in a Web project. Think. Think different. Go wild. Create. Don't emulate.

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