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Interviews

Flickr Contest Winner's Showcase w/ Adam Rotman

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Last month we launched the Flickr Group with a bang! The winner of the group contest is Adam Rotman, a designer out of Toronto, Canada. Today, we'll be featuring an interview with Adam along with a peek at his portfolio. If you're just starting out in the field of web design (or you're just curious to see another designer's portfolio), this is an interview you won't want to miss!


Meet Our Contest Winner!

First off, congratulations to Adam for taking the most votes for his work on the Niagara Winery website (below). It's truly a great piece of web design and it's a pleasure to feature his work on the site as the contest prize!

Adam Rotman is a designer based in Toronto, Canada. He works under the name of his own agency, Capital Design Solutions, but he gets a lot of his work from LMA Communications, where he's had the privilege to take on some pretty interesting projects... let's start by taking a peek at just a sample of his portfolio (you can find more of his work at his website). You can also follow him on twitter at @adamrotman.


The Portfolio

Niagara Winery - The Contest Winning Design!

The winning entry was the website design for Niagara Winery. It's actually just a design comp at the moment (the client has yet to decide on the final design), but it was enough to garner nearly 70% of the community votes. What I love best about this particular design is the wide open, airy feeling... it really delivers a sense of being at the winery. To counterbalance the wide-open landscape photography, there is a fantastic structure to the informational parts of the design as you move down the page, which helps ground the experience and maintain a sense of sophistication.


Sanction Snowboards

Sanction (@SanctionSkate) is without a doubt, Toronto's premier skateboard and snowboard shop. With one of the widest selections and best prices in Canada's biggest city, Sanction has grown it's online and retail business over the years to be a major player.

Working with my good friend and confidant Vlad (@vladikoff), Sanction is built entirely in ExpressionEngine. Using a combination of some javascript plugins with PayPal Standard, Sanction is able to easily manage all their products and attributes right in ExpressionEngine without the use of any ecommerce modules. The design was intended to be right-to-the-point and allows Sanction to direct traffic to all the right places. An interesting part of the site is the Video section, where users can upload their own skate/snowboard videos and let the community comment and rate the videos.


Grenada Grenadines


Official Website for the Grenada Board of Tourism.

Designed at LMA Communications (@lmacomm), the Grenada Board of Tourism is a huge ExpressionEngine website. Utilizing the power of a whole bunch of robust modules and some custom php, the site features a trip planner, complex event calendar, tour operator locator, interactive map, multimedia gallery, media/travel agent center, huge directory of all accommodations/shops/specials/attractions on the island -- and it's all content managed. The final creative was an adaptation of an original design by Grenada local, Orlando Romain and was developed over time to portray the island's unique "Rhythms of Spice".


LMA Communications

Agency website for LMA Communications (@lmacomm) in Toronto. Since 1991 LMA has evolved constantly, adapting to navigate the ever-changing landscape of new medias, technologies and culture. We do this because we are passionate about what we do and want to deliver creative and compelling work, that connects our client's audience to their brand to show positive results - every time.

The LMA design has a very structured layout which allowed us to top-line a lot of the information about our process, clients, and work. It uses tons of fancy javascript sliding to condense the information into neat stacks. Our services section has a wide range of totally custom graphics, created by our studio to give the site a unique and interesting user experience.


Creative Bag

Designed at LMA Communications (@lmacomm), Creative Bag Co. Ltd. (@creativebag) has been supplying custom bags and packaging to retailers, advertisers, marketing companies since 1983. With several locations across the Greater Toronto Area, they have established themselves as one of the major suppliers of innovative packaging and packaging materials.

The Creative Bag website was fully redesigned at LMA Communications from the ground up in mid-2010 to create a clean, seamless, and consistent user experience. The idea was to keep things as easy-to-use as possible, based on the demographic that visits the site. Many complex UI enhancements were made to the product pages in order to allow users to easily navigate through multi-tiered pricing (between bulk and retail orders), and also having the ability to view all colour options and achieve bulk discounts. Since the launch of the site in mid-2010, we have seen an average increase of traffic of over 120%, hundreds of new followers on Twitter, and naturally, increased sales! At LMA Communications, we consider this project to be a huge success!


Canadian Friends of the Israel Museum

The CFIM is a national organization with representation from coast to coast. It is one of 16 International Friends’ groups that enrich the Museum through gifts of works of art and financial support. Funds raised by the CFIM support “Free Admission” to the Israel Museum for Israeli children of all religions and ethnicities.

The creative incorporated some interesting 3D elements and was designed to be inviting to donors and those interested in attending CFIM events. The site is built entirely in ExpressionEngine1.6.x and is about to be upgraded to ExpressionEngine 2.x in the near future.


The Interview

QWho the heck are you and what do you do for a living?

First of all thanks for having me! :)

I'm hailing out of Toronto, Canada and I build websites for a living. When I'm not designing and/or coding, I love playing sports, golfing and snowboarding with friends, and spending time with my amazing girlfriend.

At my day job, I take part in the construction of web properties -- but what I'm most passionate about is strategizing, conceptualizing and visualizing how websites will ultimately work/feel. I love getting the chance to focus on UX and UI, and eventually getting to see it all come to life. More than that though, I'm obsessed with the idea that great websites/applications can enrich our lives and give us easier access to information. Call it cliché, but like everyone else, I'm hoping to one day be part of a web application that will change the world!


QDo you work for a studio, freelance, or both?

I work full-time for an agency in Toronto, Canada called LMA Communications. We're a good group of talented people with a nice client roster. The company's 20th anniversary is coming up next week!


QHow did you get your start?

I've always been messing around on the web just about as far back as I can remember. I recall one afternoon in the late 90's getting a phone call from my uncle - and he goes, "I'm soaking wet, dude!" ... I was like "Uhhh....what the hell are you talking about?" to which he immediately responded, "...Cause I've been SURFING the web all day!" ... I got setup real quick with one of those AOL free 30-day trial CD's (or was it a floppy?!)....and right there, my obsession with the Internet began.

It seemed like one of the few things I could do relentlessly for hours on end without getting restless.

It was actually only many years later that my girlfriend and her sister started a jewelery company that -- naturally -- needed a website. She didn't have much of a budget to pay someone to build it, so I figured I could take a stab at it...well...About 100 hours and an ulcer later - a cheesy flash website and my career were born! I was hooked. It seemed like one of the few things I could do relentlessly for hours on end without getting restless.. (or tired or hungry) So in pretty short time, I applied to the web program at Seneca College here in Toronto and took it from there. I was very fortunate to have had some great influences early on; Derek Allard (formerly technology architect for ExpressionEngine) was my teacher and he introduced me to ExpressionEngine -- which I work with every single day! It really is the designers best friend.


QWhat was your first big project that you got excited about?

The first big project I got really excited about was the Grenada Board of Tourism website (the country's official website). I had just started with LMA Communications and a gigantic spec landed on my desk. Armed with hopes and dreams (and ExpressionEngine of course) I started to map out the project. It was a big boy. From gigantic piles of data to trip planners to interactive (and content managed) maps -- there was a lot involved and time was of the essence. A few decisions on the project sparked some incredible debates, but in the end, it all came out right -- and we were all better for it. Kinda reminds me of when you get into a fight with someone in sports -- and then go for beers after, like it never happened :) It's great to get the chance to work on large projects, but it's so important to be flexible and think several moves ahead.


QWhat is the single most important skill you think a web designer can have?

There's some really amazing things we can do with modern websites now, but we always need to keep the user in mind...

If you're strictly a designer and don't do any of the actual development, I think it's really important to understand boundaries. There's some really amazing things we can do with modern websites now, but we always need to keep the user in mind (and especially the lowest common denominator of user -- yeah, I'm talking to you IE6 users!). These days, it's so easy to get carried away with great UX features, but it's important to have clients, bosses and users understand that with better browsers, comes better experiences -- and that's just how it is. It's going to be quite some time before we'll see any kind of 'boundary-less web', if ever. Tons of developers out there are waiting for IE6 to die -- but what we need to ask ourselves is -- who's gonna croak first, IE6 or it's users?


QWhat tips do you have for other designers that are looking to get their own foothold in the industry?

Ahhhhh yes, this is a good one. Well...first and foremost, I think it's becoming more and more important to be able to design and develop. Being capable of both will undoubtedly give you a better idea of how designs will eventually pan out once they've been sliced and coded (especially when there's dynamic content involved)...and I hear the paycheques are nicer too! *wink* *wink*. Luckily, there's some amazing software out there that makes it so much easier nowadays for strictly designers to cross over into the development world.

Figure out if you're better suited for freelancing or working full-time at a studio...

Another really important thing for designers trying to get a foothold in the industry is to figure out if you're better suited for freelancing or working full-time at a studio. This is a tough decision I think we all need to make (or remake) at one time or another. The best thing you can do is try out both, and get a feel for what works best for you. Both sides have their ups and downs!

Lastly, here's some things you can do to get exposure, great feedback, and ultimately a chance at landing bigger clients:

  • Submit your designs to CSS Galleries
  • Get involved in design communities where you can get feedback (Dribbble, Forrst, Flickr etc)
  • Become an author on the Envato Marketplace or try to submit an article of your own
  • Start a design blog -- give some tips, show off your work, establish yourself as an expert in the field

Oh yea and one more thing that's helped me out... drink lots of coffee!


QIf you were to have a design superpower, what would it be?

Would definitely be the ability to use the pen tool in real-life. Think of all the places close-cropping would come in handy!


It's Your Turn, Join the Flickr Group!

Want to have your work featured in the future? We'll be running all sorts of contests and promotional articles in the future for designers and agencies that enter their work into the Flickr Group... so join up, add a few of your designs, and take part in the community here at Webdesigntuts+!

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