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A Baltimore native, James Merrill is a Flash developer at Planit Advertising and a digital artist. His portfolio includes Under Armour, FILA, Marriott, Marilyn Manson, USDA, RIF, American Red Cross and other international clients.

08.23.11

A Striking Design. Kept Alive Long Enough to Grow.

What’s the best site you've seen lately? What’s so great about it? Right now I’m all about Depthcore, which has recently been redesigned to display not only bleeding-edge digital art, but tutorials, interviews and other insights.

If you were to change professions, what would you choose to do? I would pursue digital art full time. Right now it’s a hobby, but if I wasn’t in advertising I would devote all my time to it.

From where do your best ideas originate? There are a lot of factors, I usually ping ideas off other creatives, browse inspiration sites and spend my free time making code experiments that I can later adopt into functionality for future projects. A clear mind is key, and occasionally a long car ride will spur some new ideas I can start to explore too.

How do you overcome a creative block? A trip to Chipotle and lunch by the water here in Baltimore will usually clear my mind enough to approach a problem from a new perspective. I always feel like creative blocks are the result of repeating the same creative process too many times; it helps to go down a new path every once in awhile (with a burrito).

In one word describe how you feel when beginning a new project. Penguins.

What well-known site is most desperately in need of a redesign? As much as I love it, Reddit. Of course, that doesn’t mean it should go the route of Digg’s redesign, which was a catastrophe.

Do you have creative outlets other than Web design? Yes, I am an avid digital abstract artist. Art is how I was introduced to Flash and Photoshop and it’s what compelled me to learn 3-D modeling, animation and design. I’ve also been getting into bonsai lately, which is actually quite challenging, not only to craft a striking design, but to keep a tree alive long enough to have it grow.

What music are you listening to right now? Trentemøller. It’s so empty, dark and evil. I love it.

What’s the strangest thing you've bought online? This is a great question for me. I just bought a gun that shoots smoke rings, a $60 bonsai tree and ten professional wrestling posters.

What’s your favorite quote? “I pretty much use sketchbooks to note down great ideas of somebody else’s I’ve just had. A good sketchbook means you don’t actually need to bother with having a memory yourself. You can get away with a fair bit of substance abuse if you always carry a notepad and a sharp pencil around with you.” —Banksy

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? A great portfolio is key. When I started, I would spend weeks designing a Web site for myself only to throw it away because I got a better idea during the process.

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? Having a great idea is one thing, but being able to thoroughly explain it is another, nearly as important, skill.