You might call Matthew Bouloutian a print designer’s print designer. He worked almost exclusively in the medium from 1999 to 2010, and his credits range from branding, packaging and corporate work to a coffee table book on Elvis Presley. Bouloutian’s career started out at small design firms in New York, but today he’s the co-owner and creative director of Modern Good in Havertown, PA, where interactive design is just one of many skills on offer.
When and why did you decide to make the switch from print to interactive design?
When I began running my own studio, I kept running into situations when I would create an identity but the website would be developed by someone else. It was creatively unsatisfying to let go of something you just invented. I wanted to ensure the integrity of the identity which can so easily get off track when transitioned to the web by someone else without art direction, so I decided to remain involved in the process.
Were you intimidated when you first started to learn about web design?
Definitely! It’s not my first language like books and magazines are. I grew up absorbing that language, loving it and wanting to create and recreate that paper based language. So websites were a leap of faith for me. Like anything new it takes a bit of time to make it yours. But I also needed to deliberately focus on nurturing a love and curiosity for the web. I’d spent so many years not wanting to do it and taking pride in not doing it, that when it came time to do it, I was lacking the drive. That was a problem. I was cornered by my convictions about the web not being soulful. I love this Bjork quote from one of her books. Someone had said, “Electronic music lacks soul,” and her response was, “If the music lacks soul, it’s not because it’s electronic but because the artist didn’t put it there.”
What’s your job like now? What kind of interactive projects do you work on?
My job isn’t so different. I still feel like the same designer but with another deliverable. Of course this deliverable is a more complicated animal. It is continuously evolving, so it’s important to find programmers that are good and you feel comfortable collaborating with. Additionally, clients have a learning curve in how to use the technology and integrate it into their marketing model so the pre-design process can and should take as much time as needed to ensure the website has all the functionality it needs as well as nothing extraneous.
Currently we are working on the Newburgh Brewing Company website, which should be live soon. This project has multiple phases; it will eventually have an online store. We are also finishing a website for a construction company and one for an upstart dance wear company, which will have e-commerce capabilities, too.
Do you think designers need to focus on one or the other? Or is it possible to do both?
At Modern Good we strive to work on a variety of projects, a variety of challenges. We feel it’s the variety that keeps the studio sharp and designers happy. So I would encourage taking on any kind of design assignment you can. But just make sure you are working as a designer. Though I’ve done my fair share of writing, I don’t consider myself a writer, but I work with writers. And I’m not a programmer, I work with programmers. I strive to think as a designer always, even if I’m doing something other than typical design work because inevitably I will do it better if I approach it through that design lens.
Modern Good designed this website for the Newburgh Brewing Company with a look and feel similar to letterpress gig posters.
The Newburgh Brewing Company site is being developed in phases. Eventually, Modern Good will help the client add e-commerce.
Modern Good’s site design for BSI Construction keeps the focus on the company’s work with large visuals and makes it easy for visitors to find additional information.