If you still don’t know who Matthew Inman is all we can say is, shame on you! Matthew Inman is a designer and illustrator who is popular amongst internet geeks and dinosaurs. He has been featured on Comedy Central, The Huffington Post, Digg, Gizmodo, Reddit, Thrillist. He is known for his iconic humorous comics which usually involve a list of some sort. If you’re interested in witty design he is definitely one to check out. His work can be found on his website, The Oatmeal. He can also be found on Twitter, his Facebook Fan page and his website. You can also help support him and do it while enjoying yourself by purchasing his book. Enough blabbering, we now present to you; The interview with Matthew Inman.
Q) To begin with, who are you and where are you from Mr. Inman?
A) I’m a 27 year old guy from Seattle, Washington. I grew up in northern idaho but moved here around 10 years ago to work as a web developer.
I like snowboarding, sushi, running, traveling, and illustration. I’m also currently learning how to speak Japanese, and I spend a fair amount of time doing endurance sports: marathons and triathlons. I also have a dog named Rambo who is super dumb and a giant pansy, but he’s pretty skilled at eating crickets and pieces of rubber so I give him the benefit of the doubt.
Q) Could you give us a brief insight into your design history and where it started?
A) I got my start when I was 13 years old creating a website on AOL that showcased half-nude photos of Gillian Anderson(the actress who played Skully on the X-files). I used to think she was pretty hot, so I compiled a website which had the most comprehensive collection of photos of her. From there I started creating websites for friends, family, and neighbors. Eventually I learned how to code perl, work with unix, and moved to Seattle to work during the dot-com boom.
Also, I no longer find Ms. Anderson to be attractive. It’s all about Scarlett Johansson now – a woman who is actually in love with me even though she hasn’t realized it yet. I know this because I’ve been hanging out in her backyard with binoculars, and deep down I know that she’s looking back – if only from her heart.
Q) Could you describe a typical ’start to finish’ workflow when working on a comic?
A) I typically begin with a short document outlining the comic. If it’s an infocomic, such as 15 things worth knowing about coffee, I’ll research the facts beforehand and then make a list of them. Sometimes I’ll put in a rough sketch of how the comic should play out, but more often than not I come up with the humor as I draw it. If it’s a complex scene I’ll do a quick sketch on paper just so I know where everything is supposed to be. I don’t scan or trace anything, I usually just draw the vectors straight out on their own. Once it’s drawn, I’ll slice it up and put it on the website.
I tend to iterate a lot – meaning I re-draw the same thing over and over again until it’s perfect. I’ve learned to limit myself when doing this because often times I’ll end up with a drawing that was no better than the original, but I wasted 45 minutes screwing with it. It’s sort of like chewing large quantities of peanut butter to solve a math problem – the only thing that you’re gonna get out of it is a sore jaw and some quality time in the bathroom later on. Meanwhile you still won’t know what the answer to that quadratic equation was.
Q) What tools do you make use of when working on comics and how long does one usually take to complete?
A) I use Adobe Fireworks to draw the comics. It’s intended for web design, but it’s also a very capable vector editing tool and it works beautifully if your work is going to end up on a website. Transitioning to print from Fireworks can be a pain though, because it wasn’t intended for that.
I don’t use photoshop and I’m actually pretty terrible with it. I have Illustrator and I was using it for a few months, but I ended up going back to Fireworks simply because I’m more comfortable with it and it’s better for creating web content.
I also recently started using an image compression tool called ImageOptim that cuts the sizes of PNG files down dramatically. My monthly hosting fees are really high and that all comes from delivering all those images to a ton of people, so cutting a PNG down by even 30% makes a huge difference to me.
Regarding code, I use an MVC framework called CakePHP that is basically the equivalent of Ruby on Rails but for PHP. I run OS/X but my servers are all FreeBSD. My text editor of choice is Textmate. I can code in a few languages but I do most stuff in PHP because I’m fast with it.
Hardware-wise I use a macbook pro and I recently got a magic mouse from Apple. I really like the mouse and I recommend it to anyone who requires precision, such as someone who does vector editing or photoshop.
Q) We can only imagine how time consuming it could be when coming up with these lists, what’s your main source of inspiration?
A) I spend a lot of time on the internet, so I’m exposed to a ton of weird crap every day. I think this sort of builds up in my head and fills me with ideas. I also spend a ton of time on Reddit.com and Digg.com.
As far as generating ideas goes, I’ll often make a list of nouns and then draw connections between them: Panda Bear connects to a chainsaw. The apocalypse connects to throwing up on my ex- girlfriend’s couch. Dinosaur urine connects to my stained carpets. I’ll take a loosely defined concept and then imagine a scene which makes me chuckle, such as a parent forcing their child to eat something horrible. It’s weird but it works for me.
I also drink so much coffee that my brain soars at the speed of a thousand parakeets on crystal meth. I do this daily.
Q) Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to take part in this interview. Lastly, do you have any advice for the anyone out there aspiring to become an illustrator / designer?
A) I’d recommend searching on websites like http://delicious.com for tutorials and howtos on vector illustration. Delicious is a good search engine if you’re purely looking for tutorials, and there’s no shortage of drawing instruction on the internet. http://tv.adobe.com and YouTube also have a lot of video tutorials.
Overall, the best advice I can give anyone is to make something like this a hobby. I’ve become good at what I do mostly because I enjoy it so much, so I don’t mind spending the better part of the day drawing vectors or mucking around a particular illustration. If it’s not a hobby or you don’t enjoy it, getting good at it is going to be an uphill battle. Also, be patient. I’m one of those people that if I’m not good at something right off the bat I’ll dismiss it and go back to what I’m used to. For an aspiring illustrator, you’re going to want to avoid this. In the beginning everything looks like rancid monkey ass, but if you persevere you can transform that monkey ass into a beautiful, glistening gorilla ass.