This month’s cover design was produced by Krister Olsson and Stella Lai from Tree-Axis based in San Francisco. The designs created by Stella who was formerly associated with FutureFarmers and Krister who is a programmer are so cute and delight our eyes. We interviewed them who are now pushing back the launch of their new site.

First of all, please tell us who you are.

Tree-Axis is a multimedia design company located in San Francisco. It was founded by Krister Olsson and Stella Lai in late1998. We work hard to combine unique design and unique programming to create unique work.

Stella was born and raised in Hong Kong. She came to San Francisco in ’93 to study at the California College of Arts and Crafts.

Krister was born in Singapore and has spent most of his life in China and Japan (14 years). He studied at Swarthmore College in the US, where he received his degree in Computer Science.

How was Tree-Axis established?

We first met in 97 when we were working together on the Future Farmers‘ “Stimuli for Wonder” CD-ROM. We became good friends largely because of our backgrounds, as well as our similar attitudes towards the multimedia industry. We started working together on a CD-ROM in the summer of 1998. The CD was never released, but we quickly decided to team up to work on projects.

There are a lot of stories as to how our name came about, but we think right now it represents a nice mix of the organic and the techy. You can see it in our Shift cover!

Our staff is currently quite small, but we are on the verge of ballooning. Currently Stella is the lead designer, and Krister is the lead programmer. Jimmy Au is our director of operations / bus-dev guy. Talla is our junior designer, and Ed our junior programmer. We also have a design/programming intern, Meno, from Germany.

We are focusing a great deal right now on developing our own content. While web/CD/print design/programming service work for clients will always provide welcome income, we are committed to developing our own products which we will use to sustain our business. We really can’t say any more for now!

Please tell us about your current activities.

Right now our time is being spent moving to a brand new office (nice and clean!) in Potrero Hill. It’s a good size two level space. We’ve been investing a lot of money into our Intranet/Internet systems (T1, multiple servers, etc.) with an eye towards the future.
Because one of our strengths is in interactive work, we are moving into creating more on-line single and multiplayer games. We recently wrote a game for Nike for a race that is held every year in San Francisco. We are also finishing up a number of games that will be hosted on our site as well as some of our partners’ sites.

Right now you’re finishing the Tree-Axis web site. What will the new site be like?

The new site will be split into four sections – news, arcade, html info and Shockwave info.

The Shockwave info section is pretty much the same as our existing site, only all the graphics have been tweaked and the code crunched. Also, the portfolio section is generated dynamically using xml, so we can easily swap in other projects using just a text editor. No more recompiling!

The html info section is a simplified html version of our site that will appeal to our more traditional clients. Information on the company can be easily found. It will work with the simplest of browsers.

The news section will be a PR archive: what we’ve been up to, and what we plan to do!

The arcade section will be a collection of our best original games and interactive pieces, all unified within a single interface. These pieces will also be hosted on other sites that have the potential to reach people outside our typical site audience.

What are your ideas on interactive design and which personal principles do you follow in creating a design?

When we create an interactive piece, the first thing Stella does is look at Krister and ask, “Well, what do you think?”

We like to develop the technology behind, and the design of a piece at the same time. That way neither technology nor design dominate. You don’t create something really sophisticated that is impossible to figure out, and you don’t create something pretty that doesn’t do anything.

It is important to create things that are fun and make people sit up and take notice. The web is like TV x 1 million. People won’t waste time looking at your work unless you can offer something unique. Anything you can do that sets you apart from the norm – and perhaps instills a sense of wonder – is good!

And of course, it has to load really quickly. No one wants to wait for an 800K Shockwave movie.

How do you cooperate with each other when designing the web site and other stuff? Do you have anything to say about the power and possibility in collaboration? Also, please tell us about PANTS.

When we work on projects it usually depends on whether the project is more design focused or technology focused. Usually greater responsibility rests on the shoulders of the person who is more involved in the project. With our web site we did a lot of independent work, then came together and tried to figure out what worked and what didn’t. We squeezed everything together and voila!

PANTS is on hold right now. It is eventually going to be an on-line outlet for all kinds of creativity. Nothing large scale, very ‘ziney. But we have our hands full with other projects right now!

When you made the cover for Shift this month, what did you imagine?

Stella: I have been working too much lately. I really want to take a trip.

Krister: I drew some inspiration from “World Standard.” The album “Country Gazette” was very appealing, both musically and in terms of cover art!

What are you most interested in now?

Stella: Right now I am really interested in painting. It’s a way for me to release my frustration! In many ways it’s also more personal.

Krister: In terms of work, I’m really interested in creating multi-user applications. Outside of work, I really want to travel more!

We’d like to ask you about the web design in San Francisco in general. What’s hot at the moment?

There are many people doing good web design here in San Francisco: Josh Ulm, Andy Slopsema, Annette Loudon, et al.

A lot of people are spending their free time creating on-line galleries and communities too!

What do you think about you being based in SF?

Being near Silicon Valley is kind of nice because the SF web community can often be constricting. We could be anywhere, though, as long as there are strong programming and design communities. And work!

Who are your favorite visual/graphic designer(s) and web(s)?

Stella: Sabre/An online magazine. I really like their design. And NetBaby/Cool style, fun games.

Krister: I like the sites that Stella’s listed as well. But I don’t have too much time to surf the web for pleasure these days! Anything that makes me think is good in my book.

The last question. Do you have any plans for the near future?

Without tipping our hand too much, look for us to be working in Japan a lot more in the near future!

Address: 1025 17th Street #1, San Francisco, CA 94107
Tel: 415-355-1330

Text: Mayumi Kaneko

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