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If you have a degree in what field is it? A BFA from Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Design.

What’s the best site you’ve seen lately? What's so great about it? Big Spaceship’s Most Awesomest Thing Ever is great. (I wonder if it includes itself as a contender?) Rich information born out of simple inputs repeated thousands or even millions of times—emergent information—is awesome. As I write this, “a nap” is the fifth most awesomest thing, right behind oxygen and music, but ahead of a real light saber. Debatable. Among the least awesome? Glitter and Mitt Romney. That’s genius. And it can go on indefinitely, which is also awesome. Two other favorites in the same vein: Noah Brier’s Brand Tags and We Feel Fine.

If you were to change professions, what would you choose to do? I wouldn’t change, so there’s that. I’d be a designer if I won the lottery. I’d just be even more insufferable. But I wish I could write. Not least of all because I would have a MacBook Air. I’m jealous of the simplicity of a writer’s tools. And I imagine that writing this would be less excruciating. Though if I was a writer, I’d write about design… and movies.

Design or technology? Which is more important? Why? With a few evolutionary exceptions, technology is generally designed. Design thinking produces technology. And new technologies create new opportunities for design. Technological innovations will certainly keep interaction designers busy until we enter the singularity. Also, I’m a designer so design is more important.

From where do your best ideas originate? I have no idea. I love Michael Bierut’s take on this. I’ve reread it countless times. “Somewhere along the way an idea for the design pops into my head from out of the blue. I can’t really explain that part; it’s like magic.” Read the whole article. It’s great.

How do you overcome a creative block? Reading. Anything. In my case it’s always non-fiction. It doesn’t matter how far afield the subject might be from what I’m working on, inevitably there’ll be some kernel of relevance that will help me see a solution, or to see the project in a new way… or maybe, it’s just that any new information is inspirational in general.

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

What well-known site is most desperately in need of a redesign? Google. Google Mail. Google Reader. Anything Google. You name it. We’re told that the robots have optimized and tested every pixel—and I’m a huge fan of what those tools make possible, don’t get me wrong—but I can’t believe that’s the best typography and information design we can get. This isn’t an argument for more decoration, developers. Everybody stay cool. But some more white space would be nice. And Georgia.

Do you have creative outlets other than Web design? Yeah, but they’re all design, too: brand identity design, information design, other kinds of interaction design, print design, reading about typography, etc. Maybe that’s pathological. It really may be. I think I’m okay with that.

What music are you listening to right now? Whatever Pandora tells me to, to be honest. It’s already better at playing music I want to hear than I am. I’m eager for those tools to get even better—Pandora, iTunes Genius, etc. Not because they’re not great already but because they will get better and that’s exciting.

What product/gadget can you not live without? Can I just say Apple? It’d be a cage match between my new laptop and my aging, shattered iPhone (v2). My first iPod—Pod—changed my life. I’m not kidding. Suddenly having all my music with me anywhere… that was amazing. It’s easy to take for granted now. I’m impatient for it all to be in the cloud already. Let’s get on with that one. And I’m not a fan of phones in general, so that’s not a sore spot for me. I routinely blame missing calls, that I intentionally don’t answer, on AT&T. Maybe AT&T is fine and no one wants to talk. Holy moly. This could be big…

What’s the strangest thing you’ve bought online? A VHS of three episodes of Gigglesnort Hotel. (You know what I’m talking about, Chicagoland.) It came with a personal note from Bill Jackson—an unexpected thrill. This was probably in 1999. They’re all on YouTube now. Watch out for Blob. He’s terrifying.

What’s your favorite quote? Not my favorite quote but one I keep coming back to: “Silly, controversial, progressive, then obvious”—the successive stages of a game-changing idea. I don’t remember where I read it. Maybe in a political context? I’d like to think we’re in stage 3.5 for something like gay marriage; Twitter is somewhere around stage 3 (it depends who you ask, which is probably typical of the middle stages). With slightly different names, outdated cultural ideas go the other way—from obvious to awful.

Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Live cheaply (that part’s critical) and do what inspires you. Practice and be patient. Work with great writers and designers who you can learn from. Stay open to change... because everything will. (This is all good advice for me.)

What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? Get busy making mistakes. It’s the quickest way to learn.
Michael Lemme owes his current job, creative director at Duncan/Channon, to barefaced nepotism. Setting that aside for a second, his background is equal parts brand identity development, traditional print design and all manner of interaction design. Prior to joining D/C in 2004, Mike was a creative director at the San Francisco design firm Method, where he lead creative efforts for SFMOMA, Autodesk, Macromedia, Sun Microsystems, Reuters and American Apparel. Before that, Mike restudied typography at MetaDesign SF and, at Wall-to-Wall Studios in Pittsburgh, Peppi’s sandwiches. His work has been honored twice in the Communication Arts Interactive Annual, as well as the One Show for interactive and he has two REBRAND 100 Global Awards for the rebrand of Hard Rock (2007 Best of Show) and Autodesk (2006). He is married to another D/C creative director and the proud father of two boys.

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