Heather Champ is a pioneer web designer, an inspired young woman who has been at it as long as the web has been around. From her early days as the Special Projects Coordinator for the School of Architecture at Princeton University, through a remarkable string of successful professional design firms in New York and Montreal, to her present free-lance career with hchamp.com, Heather has been a guiding and innovative force for contemporary design elements. Photography is her signature, and her passion. Heather's work has been on display in galleries and museums, written about in journals, magazines, and newspapers, and is sent all over the world as electronic postcards. Exemplified by her long-term project, Mirror Mirror, it is easy to see why she has been held in such high esteem for integrating imagery with web design.
This is your friendly interviewer, Jeff Clark, as he appeared in 1999. Time changes things.
[Internet Brothers] Are the genuinely creative female influences like yourself getting their due, or is it a repeat of the traditional old-business stereotypes and buddy-systems from the past?
[Heather Champ] What's that corny phrase? "On the Internet no one knows you're a dog?" In many ways the Internet is a great equalizer. Age, gender and race can be transparent; eliminating any bias that existed in "traditional" media (granted there are still significant barriers-to-entry, as an individual must have access to a computer with a modem). The Internet has provided an arena where the individual can self-publish affording new opportunities that have not previously existed. With this freedom comes significant social responsibility. The Internet is still very new and unformed and limits for what is and what is not acceptable are being tested daily.
[IB] As a producer of both copyrighted material and linkware, do you want to see governments remain on the sideline of net regulation and the development of better technological protections, or do you have enough experience with right-click-thievery to support stronger laws and penalties?
[HC] Many diehard internet users still feel very strongly that everything online should be "free". Free of charge, and freedom to use whatever content they see fit. I don't think these people understand, respect, or appreciate the creative process that designers and developers undertake to realize web sites. I have an archive of background tiles for people to use in exchange for a link back to my site. It would be generous to say that perhaps less than 20% of those who use my work link back to my site. I can't police the web to determine whether people are meeting with my very simple requests, but I do notice.
It's another matter for material that I create for hchamp.com. I've been quite horrified to find my postcard images sprinkled liberally around a few web sites. In one instance, an architecture student at a west coast university had used one of my backgrounds and also a selection of the postcard thumbnails. I wrote an email to the student requesting that she remove them (which she did). She replied that her professor had told them to build web sites with things that they found online. Now, I don't know exactly what the professor said, if there might have been some miscommunication regarding the observance of copyright, but at the University level?
There needs to be a better process of education regarding the Web. Unfortunately most law and policy makers are wrapped up with "traditional" media's portrayal of the Internet as arch demon rather than as the incredibly useful resource that it is. They don't understand the Internet. I would much rather have a policing from within the Internet community, but I realize that isn't a viable solution. I don't know what the solution is. If policy makers and government had a better understanding and were well educated, then I would feel they were more likely to protect my rights.
[IB] Would you like to tell us about Peter Pan?
[IB] Do you feel cheated by Microsoft; or enabled by Microsoft?
“Weblogs are editorializing content found on the Internet. This movement has instigated an interesting dialogue within the development community.” — Heather Champ
[HC] I don't think I'll ever know the correct answer to that question. What would the application and OS landscape be like without Microsoft? Would there have been applications x, y and z that could have flourished in a more open environment? Would Netscape be a different product today? My first and second computers were Macintosh, a IIci and a Powerbook 5300ce. My third and fourth computers are now PCs. I made the OS switch (kicking and screaming) at my last "full time" position. The hardware is much less expensive, and the applications available equal those available for the MAC OS. On the other hand, when things go wrong, I'm lost. It's very frustrating.
[IB] When Heather does her own web surfing for pleasure, who are some of the developers that have made you stand up and take notice? What are the technologies you want to dive deeper into?
[HC] Design for design sake is a bit tired — there are many beautiful sites out there, but if you scratch the surface there's little real content underneath. I look for a marriage of good design and content, a sense of humour, and a touch of humility. Unfortunately, many sites implement every bell & whistle, unnecessarily burdening the user experience with interminable downloads merely to view a near "print experience." Designers need to acknowledge the inherent non-linear interactivity of the medium.
Weblogs are editorializing content found on the Internet. This movement has instigated an interesting dialogue within the development community. I frequently visit CamWorld, memepool, Jason Kottke's site kottke.org, Calamondin and The Obscure Store and Reading Room. These sites appeal to the information junkie lurking within.
[IB] What's next for you?
[HC] I'm going to finally tinker with a little Flash. Until quite recently, I've not had a significant chunk of time to roll up my sleeves and get down to business. Lynda Weinman's Learning Flash video series has been highly recommended. I can't think of a better holiday project to ring in the new millennium than learning a new application.
[IB] What is sitting on top of your monitor right now?
[HC] Oh man... Busted! A QuickCam, a cheap, silver plastic and feather tiara that I purchased for a friend; a small, pink plastic unidentified Pokemon character and a rubber 3-D dog picture frame sporting my boyfriend's face intstead of a pooch!
[IB] Thank you very much Heather. We hope our guests learn as much through this as we did.
[HC] Thank you very much. It's been my pleasure.
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