This is the third story in a series. Read previous post about Leslie.
Noel Henneman, Lead Interactive Designer
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Noel a couple of weeks ago and chatting about design and the path it has taken him in his life. I enjoy working with Noel. He has such a calm demeanor as well as a knack for figuring out the mystery behind why some things are the way they are as well as why they work versus not working. If you have ever met Noel, you know that his quiet, go-happy ways should not fool you, for there is an interesting layer behind that. I am excited to tell you about our conversation.
Noel grew up in NW Washington: Bellingham and Lummi Island to be more specific. He attended Western Washington University where he studied Fine Art, English, Business, and Graphic Design. This surprised me because Noel seems to be pretty stuck in his ways and the number of different studies made me giggle. I asked him how he finally ended up in graphic design he said “Well, it was a process. I started out in business and English, but while taking some classes in the fine art department I discovered the graphic design program and quickly realized I would be happier on that path.”
Finding out what Noel’s first experience with design was not as surprising. At the age of 5 or 6, he was very interested in old monster movies. As a result of this passion, he recognized that he also had an interest in the movie titles from them, specifically the Sal Bass titles from Alfred Hitchcock movies. This also led to enjoying monster magazines and toy packaging. He realized that he was very aware of the typography used and that became something that he played with—tracing them and trying to mimic the styles.
Even now, if given the opportunity, Noel would love to, on a project basis, re-do the Haunting film title (the late 1960’s version of course). He remembers trying to figure out how they made that title work and the moment when he finally figured out. “It’s a favorite movie, and I remember being fascinated with the opening title as a kid. I was overjoyed when I finally figured out the film effect they used to create it.”
Everyone who works in design finds their defining moment where they realized that design would become their career. For Noel, his took place in Disneyland. “I remember I was at the Big Thunder BBQ Ranch, and looking at all the signage and realizing it didn’t all match. Some of it looked old west, while some of it was clearly the old west as viewed through the lens of the late 1970’s. I remember getting very excited, realizing that I was seeing subtleties I wouldn’t have noticed a few years before.”
During his college years, Noel related well with Kent Smith, a faculty member at his university. I asked Noel why Kent played such a profound role in his design career and he stated, “He encouraged the more individualistic and strange parts of my work personality but at the same time was very matter-of-fact and hard knocks about the details—he didn’t crush ideas but made me think about them more.”
It wasn’t surprising to me to learn that Noel’s favorite aspect of design is motion graphics. Noel, as the interactive designer here at HB Design, has really taken his role to another level. He spends time researching and following trends, which he shares with us weekly in a technology update meeting he started. I asked him why motion graphics? He stated, “I like them because they’re not just a fixed design. You have to think about the experience and the behavior. It’s not about a fixed element and how it looks with this type or this background. It’s about how I want this element to behave, how do I want it to interact with other elements, and what is its overall character. It brings so much life into design…it’s a joy to work in.” And taking this further, a career dream of Noel’s would be to take an active role in shaping the development of behavioral graphic design. “I think in the world of dynamic information, we are just seeing the start of it and it will change everything. I want to shape it—be on the frontier—and not just follow it after-the-fact.”
To end our conversation, I asked Noel if he thought design made the world go around. “It adds flow and efficiency to our existence. And while it’s in ways that people don’t see or understand, we would live in chaos without it. I think it is a key element, if we are talking about design holistically, it is a very key component to civilization.” He continued his reason with “Design starts out as a visual component, and once you do design, it becomes part of your life. It is a flow of information and hierarchy of thought. It’s simple to say that design influences organization, thinkers, behavior, but it gives us the tools to be civilized beings, not just animals of impulse.”