August 7, 2017 Interview with ToxicPixel

1 Please tell me a few things about you and the country you live in.

Hello! That awkward part of the interview…
I come from the game design/development: illustration, 3D, texturing, animation etc. Primarily a production/pipeline specialist, but mostly the studio mentor or manager. Quite possibly one of the older design competitors on Topcoder, if not the oldest. Currently residing in Cape Town, South Africa, which is that little bit right at the bottom.
I am passionate about pop culture (games, movies, anime etc) when the time permits. I love writing, sketching, reading and spending time in the sun while away from the computer.
South Africa is a true melting-pot culture, accentuated by our sense of humor, honor and humility. We love meat, beer and good company. Also we all own at least one lion. Promise.

2.What is your experience in the industry? How did you start?

I started in illustration/design which became web dev(pre-bubble burst), to then migrate into game development, and now I am here. Starts happen all the time. Ends are just, commas, inside a long sentence. Only death is the full stop.

3. When did you join Topcoder and what do you like more about it compared to other freelance/crowdsource sites?

I registered in 2013 I think. Topcoder is a joy compared to other crowdsourcing websites. The vibe here is a lot more relaxed, yet the spirit of competition is more amicable and agreeable – definitely more honorable, more intimate, and Topcoder has formidable competitors. For a person coming from a sports culture, how the game is played is as important as who the winners are, if not more so. If there is fairness at play, we all win.

4. Name one particular challenge you liked working on and why.

I unfortunately cannot recall the name of the competition. Something about a Rubix Cube for 3D printing (so many competitions!). That was fun.

5. You are usually very creative on concept challenges. Where do you get all of those ideas? Do you have backgrounds in multiple and diverse areas?

Usually? how dare you, Madam! Haha! Thanks for the compliment. How? To quote Stephen King: “I have the heart of a child. I keep it in a jar on my shelf.” Ideas, free association, and lateral thinking is also very rewarding, if it works. Let’s not get into when it doesn’t.

6. What type of books do you read? What do you write?

Detective Fiction, Horror, Fantasy or Science Fiction. Writers who have a large amount of work under their belt spring immediately to mind. Stephen King, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle, Terry Pratchett, G.R.R Martin, J.K Rowling and others of similar ilk. Or the new wave authors such as: Masashi Kishimoto, Hitoshi Iwaaki, One, Neil Gaiman and Alan Moore. Those crazy enough to create/curate/destroy worlds, conduct Red Weddings, make vampires glitter…maybe not that one, but I respect the courage to do so!
Any author’s mastery, madness and stamina in maintaining their work appeals to me. If they are constantly writing, it means they can never get into politics. I prefer to keep a watchful eye on the above mentioned maniacs one book at a time, especially those that are still alive. Then again, they might be doing the same to all who read them…twist!
Right now I write to solve problems, consultation mostly. When the time permits there will be blogging or finally that book or comic.

7. Which part of the design process do you like most and why?

Design for me is like enjoying a bath or a shower. There are 3 ways to find the right temperature when running the water. First step for me is Identifying what is going to bring personal satisfaction. What I focus on first (let’s call that the “hot tap”), would be that human interaction, theme, atmosphere or even branding. I look at the big problem(s) and 95% of the time they are flaws or weaknesses in the brief. I run with that until I am satisfied that I have attended to the problem, however long that takes and this chews up a lot of time. However, moderation is required so the “cold tap” is run making it all work and filling out the bulk of what remains, which is mostly icons or forums at silly hours in the morning.
Here at Topcoder I am my own boss. If I wanted to be a great DTP operator, I would be in the design sector and miserable. Here I can have fun and be intentionally really off the wall and lateral. If I follow these personal rules (hot – cold – maybe some more hot) I step out at the end satisfied and clean.

8.What is your weakest and your strongest areas when designing?

Weakest area? Definitely websites – there is a huge psychological block there. Also the thinking is up and down(literally) and not sideways (linear vs lateral). I need to properly plot out my whole user experience from beginning to end.
I would say my strongest points would be brief reduction (elevator pitch) and championing the idea on the battlefield (feasibility).

9. Is there any designer who inspires you in the Topcoder community? How about from the outside?

Great question! Well it’s a little insular inside Topcoder. We are not really exposed to other designers. If I could speak to the designers and know better what they wanted to do or were aspiring to do with something, I would always follow the original thinkers, who are the people that take risks and are working on their skills at the same time. They would command my utter respect and admiration.
Design is prone to the zeitgeist, the “now” too quickly becomes the “then”. For example, you could be following a designer as a celebrity too quickly and sadly they become an observation in their fall.
I am more inspired by the work achieved in different schools of design. Of them all I would have to say that typography designers, past and present, know design inside and out. They should reside in temples, on top of mountains, harassed by birds and butterflies while they meditate. Gameplay Design is also relatively new and is basically just sanctioned schizophrenia. Their working day is spent in the heads of a lot of different people (…crazy people). Don’t give these people weapons or yogurt, especially yogurt, what they do in their culture is scary. GUI/UX designers in the gaming industry are however already weaponized and should first be given some form of food before mounting a conversation or riding in the same elevator. Take the stairs. Always take the stairs.

10. If you had the power to change something at Topcoder, what would that be?

I could write volumes on where I think improvements could be made. But the fair competition ethos has been met. Wouldn’t try to fix something that ain’t broke. Everything else is a niggle more than a flaw.
However, I am seeing a narrowing or funneling of style in general. Maybe a vortex is a better analogy, as it has a gravitational pull which effects on the design pool itself, especially when the competitor ratio is high and the amount of competitions available is low as of late.
I do believe foolishly, stubbornly, and at great personal cost, that diversity and innovation is the key to new opportunities.
something…something…Bold…Never Regular!
(I think adroc has it trademarked…the royalties alone would bankrupt me! Plus I heard the beard is detachable and craves blood.)

11. Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Generally I don’t have a “plan” per say as i’ve learned long ago that those seldom pan out exactly as expected. Completing a sustained/established web comic would be cool and a few kids books would be great! Honestly I don’t know as I am having a lot of fun in the here and now.
London Calling(The Clash). Amsterdam(Imagine Dragons). Or just go Big in Japan(Alphaville). Are all singing a song. Ask me again in 5 years.

12. What’s the most important thing you have learned on Topcoder?
Never ever stop learning. Never ever rest on your laurels. Exceed yourself daily. Roll with the punches or invest points in the Water Off A Duck’s Back perk (gamers will get it).

*All illustrations are done by ToxicPixel


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