Author Interview: ToyBoatHouse

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Creating user interfaces, collecting inspiration in a small notebook, drumming for the Minnesota Vikings, and hanging out with cheerleaders. This week we meet Jason Herder (ToyBoatHouse) from ActiveDen and AudioJungle.

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Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from, what do you do for a living?

I am from Minneapolis, Minnesota, and I am an Interactive Art Director. I create user interfaces, games, and misc. interactive work for clients. I am married, with a cat and two dogs. (One of which, enjoys to wear silly hats.)

Which marketplaces do you belong to? What types of files do you sell?

I currently design for ActiveDen and AudioJungle, but plan on branching out into GraphicRiver and VideoHive in the coming months. I generally work in Flash for my day job, so I love to create items for ActiveDen that I don’t get a chance to during the day. I love to animate objects, and trigger them with interactions.

How did you get started? Have you had any formal training?

I earned my undergrad in traditional art with an emphasis on digital media at the University of Minnesota. Right out of college I was a high school teacher for two years, teaching web design, animation, graphics arts, and video journalism. This was a lot of fun and rewarding, but I wanted to focus on design.

I got an internship working for Malt-O-Meal one summer as an interactive designer, and loved it! After that I got an interactive designer position with Capella University, developing interactive learning pieces for students. While doing that, I earned my Masters with the Savannah College of Art and Design.

My degree is in Interactive Design and Game Development. I can’t say enough about their program, it’s fantastic! Once I graduated from there, I landed my current position as Interactive Art Director. Overall I have found that you can learn the most effectively by surrounding yourself with experts who know more than you do, and are willing to collaborate.

Describe your home workspace.

I have a home-made PC, running Windows 7. I currently run the CS4 Master Collection, mainly working in Flash, Illustrator, and Photoshop. I go back and forth between my Wacom tablet and Logitech wireless Mouse. One day I’ll make enough money from Envato to buy a fancy Powerbook I suppose. :)

Describe your creative process. What steps do you normally follow to create your files?

I carry a small notebook with me at all times. When out and about, I may find or see something that I’d like to turn into a fun interaction. Having a way to record your idea really quick is key! If you don’t, the idea will haunt you for awhile, and then ultimately disappear. Freeing yourself from the idea is important too.

I have hundreds of ideas scribbled into my notebook. Looking back at them later sparks new ideas, or verifies that it was a bad idea. I try not to limit myself to types of projects that I am comfortable with.

I used to stick to interactions that were very simple when I first started, but now I try to force myself to learn how to implement a complex idea. It’s a good practice because it forces me to learn more Actionscript, and also how to turn complexity into clarity for the user.

What is your advice to other authors regarding how to create a successful portfolio?

Try to envision how an item may be used, and how a user may want to customize it. Approach your item from someone else’s shoes. Is the item general enough that it can be easily re-used or customized? Don’t limit yourself to one style either, try many different aesthetics, and “looks”. Make your items fun. Users should want to interact with your content.

What do you do to market your files?

Unfortunately, I currently do nothing to market myself, or my files. Oops. I originally started with Envato just as a hobby, and it still is.

What are your three favorite files, and why do you like them?

Calendar Animation:

This animation was really fun to create. I wanted it to be simple and clean, and easy to edit the dates. I have received a lot of great feedback from this file. I have also seen it in a few Flash banner ads for the New York Times! That was cool.

Rotating Gears Animation:

This file is great because of it’s simplicity. For a client project I had to create a robot, and I was amazed to find that there wasn’t a broad selection of gear animations on the community, so I made one! This is a good tip, if you’re interested in creating an item for a marketplace, do some research to see if there’s room for opportunity. You don’t want to “recreate the wheel”. If there are already fifty types of gear animations, yours probably won’t sell like hot-cakes. :)

Memory Game:

This game was a blast to work on. I wanted it to be simple, run efficiently, and be engaging for the user. This project was a large challenge for me, because I traditionally don’t write much actionscript. I forced myself to figure out how to code this game. It took several weeks, but I finally was happy with my end result.

Apart from yourself, who is your favorite marketplace author, and why do you like them?

ejay, this user has created some fantastic animations. Animations are my bread and butter, which is why I am so drawn to their work. I just wish they created more content for Envato!

What do you do in your spare time?

I am a drummer for the Minnesota Vikings, we drum on the field at all the home games, and they are a blast! Hanging out with the cheerleaders and the fans is a fun way to spend a Sunday.

I have been a snare drummer since grade school, and love that I have found a way to keep it up since I graduated from college.

  • betaperseiflash

    Nice interview ! One of my favourite here on Envato blog !

  • pixelmaster

    nice workspace :)