NewsThe Blitz Interview

«I don`t mind parallax, but it has already been pushed everywhere too much».

Alvin Groen, web designer from New York, USA, shares with PressFoto his view of contemporary web design and tells us about expected trends for 2015.  

Alvin Groen lives and works in Brooklyn, NY. He has collaborated with companies such as DreamWorks, Pepsi and Disney. No wonder Alvin knows firsthand which design really works and which can exist as a beautiful concept only.

alvin-groen-interview-avatar Alvin Groen.

– You created web design for Disney`s project that had a slogan: "Explore Ideas That Make Your Life Better.” Alvin, when and how did you start exploring web design art?

– My desire to become a web designer started as a hobby during high school— trying to make my own wallpapers and websites using Photoshop and the Geocities website builder. But eventually, being tired of the limitations, I taught myself how to make my own websites using HTML and CSS. Later on, I added Flash and After Effects to my skillset because I wanted to experiment more and more.

When I was almost done with high school I decided to look around at multiple universities and picked a design study where you could explore multiple disciplines in the first year before having to choose a direction. This led me to interactive design and I don’t regret it.

– Over the years you had to deal with a big variety of specific projects. Among them are the blog for DreamWorks Animation, banners concepts for Game of Thrones, and a digital tour for The Hunger games: Capitol Tour. Tell us about the oddest thing that has ever happened to you when you were buying or using a microstock image? How did you deal with it?

– A long time ago, I was asked to design and build a website for a church. The client wanted the main background look like the Wailing Wall from Israel. Unfortunately, I couldn't find any straight-on stock photos from this wall. So I decided to use a small bit from a couple rocks that were straight and basically rebuild the wall from these few rocks, using mainly the clone tool in Photoshop.

– Web designers tell me pretty often that they can`t find a right microstock image on stock photo sites. To prevent it, what would you suggest to microstock photographers?

– Based on the above, I often wish there were straight-on options for each photo subject. Or, I wish the objects were shot with equal lighting and on a solid background—which would make designers’ jobs so much easier when they have to cut out the object. This is also one of the reasons why the company I work for has their own green screen studio—so we can shoot anything in any way we need it.

alvin-groen-interview-1 Walt Disney World: Innoventions.

– To take a picture is a one thing, but to design a web site, combining multiple images requires another talents. Do you think that a designer must know how to draw?

– I think it all depends on what kind of design you want to do. I don't really know how to draw. I studied it but never continued practicing and now when I really need it I usually ask one of my co-workers or hire a freelancer. But even knowing the basics is helpful.

If you're the smartest person in the room, it's time to leave. 

– You have worked on some projects as a freelancer, but now you are a staff the company. What type of work do you like more?

– I work in a company and that might be financially more stable, but as a freelancer you could make more money. It all depends how well you do, how much risk you're willing to take and what you find important in life. Right now I don't have much of a choice because I’m in the US on a work visa.

From an inspiration standpoint, it can be tricky in either situation. At a company, you hopefully have enough talented people around you for learning and inspiration. If you're the smartest person in the room, it's time to leave.

As a freelancer inspiration can be all up to yourself.

alvin-groen-interview-2 Game of Thrones.

– Where do you find inspiration?

– Inspiration comes from many places—from drinking a coffee at a coffee shop and noticing how the afternoon sunlight creates an interesting shadow from the glass of water, or by simply talking to co-workers and following friends on Twitter, Behance, Pinterest and blogs.

– What do you think will be popular in web design in 2015?

– It's always a guess what's coming, but I'm happy to see people are moving away from the standard parallax effect and are trying new things again. There is nothing wrong with parallax, but it shouldn't be applied to every situation.

It also looks like people are pushing the boundaries on the web again by using the latest technologies. I definitely think this will keep happening and we'll see more interesting interactive experiences in the near future.

The most dangerous part of flat design is that users can't see the difference between a graphic element and a button. 

– Stepping aside from interactivity, do you notice any color trends in the world of web design?

– I'm honestly not really following any trends and just try to apply what’s best for the client and their target. Lately, I do see a lot more vibrant colors being used—not just small pieces here and there, but big solid blocks or letters.

– What do you think about web sites with flat design? Will it be trendy in the future?

– Website styles come and go, and some even come back after a while in some kind of way. Flat design has definitely been used a lot and the most dangerous part of flat design is that sometimes things are too minimal and users don't know the difference anymore between a graphic element and a button.

I'm happy to see that Google added some shadows back in to make buttons stand out again and used animation with their new material design guidelines.

alvin-groen-interview-3 The Last of Us: Official Site 

– What is about vertical and horizontal menu and tool bars on web sites? Which one do your clients like more?

– It all depends on the type of client, their target group, what you're trying to create and user behavior. Because web browsing has grown more popular via mobile, there are also sites now that just have a «hamburger menu» — only after clicking the icon you get to see the full navigation. If almost all of your site traffic comes from mobile, then that option makes sense.

Alvin Groen's portfolio on Behance.
Author: Rogneda Elagina-Apperson. You can follow her on Google.