Just a few days ago, I got the chance to interview one of the most revered designers in our industry (no pun intended) — Louie Mantia, who so recently along with Brad Ellis, set sail (from Square) in another direction to Pacific Helm.
So, what is “Pacific Helm?”? If you haven’t been living under a rock these past few days, then you should already know that Pacific Helm is Mantia and Ellis’ visual design company, which had just so recently launched a nigh two weeks ago. Though announced via a few tweets and a Dribbble shot, both Mantia and Ellis didn’t give out much else as to why they left Square or launched the ship, so I decided to ask half of Pacific Helm’s crew to a quick interview.
Earlier last week, you announced both on Dribbble and Twitter what seems to be a hugely, if so, popular, announcement about both of you. Pacific Helm, as it’s called, is a visual design studio in San Francisco. The announcement seemed mainly more focused on the fact that you decided to start the company yourself. If I knew any better, you work alongside Brad at Pacific Helm too, right? I ask so because I still have yet to see a public announcement from Brad himself.
Also, where have you and Brad worked previously? And for how long?
Yes. Brad and I first met a few years back around when I worked at Tapulous (around Fall 2008). Since then we’ve both been doing our own things. Brad was at Rougue Sheep where he created Postage (which won an ADA in 2009) and he also worked as a freelance designer as well. On my end, I went to Iconfactory and later Apple. We later both met up at Square. Brad was working there for about a year or so, and then later I came on board and we worked together for around six months. We both had the desire to start our own company and to provide design services to anyone, thus Pacific Helm was formed.
Hmm. The desire to start your own company? What gave you the idea to set sail off to another direction?
As a designer, I feel like I need to work on a wide breadth of things to keep my skills sharp. All of the products I’ve worked on vary in style. Tap Tap Revenge, Twitterrific, Ramp Champ, iTunes, GarageBand, Trailers, Checker, and Pay with Square. They’re all drastically different. I’ve been able to work on all of these products by jumping around to different employers, but I believe that in starting our own company, we’ll be able to have the wide array of style we crave.
So, in a way, both you and Brad started Pacific Helm — to keep your skills sharp? (As to have a varying array of work?)
Now, how long have the both of you planned to start Pacific Helm? Did you two, or possibly some others, think of starting their own company long before?
Since I was at Tapulous in 2008 I’ve wanted to start my own company. After moving to Silicon Valley, there’s a sense that anyone can do that. However, I didn’t think I could really pull it off. I wasn’t ready. When Brad and I met back up at Square, we really enjoyed working with each other. We complement each other’s strengths and I believe we make a very good team. I think we both realized then it was only a matter of time until we would decide to start something new. And it’s proven to be a good idea so far!
Pretty cool! Let’s say, (and I’m sure it will) that Pacific Helm keeps together as a company after, say, a few years. What do you see in its future?
I think it’s too soon to predict what might be out there. We’re in uncharted waters. There’s a lot of things we’re working on now with others, but I hope that we’ll also be able to find time to work on our own projects. Brad and I have our own ideas that I think we both intend to realize some day, and this might be our chance.
Would you call this a huge jump in your career? (as compared to the other ones)?
I’ve made some jumps before, but this one is definitely a huge leap of faith. I’ve made cross-country moves to work at different companies, and even though this one doesn’t involve moving to a different location, Pacific Helm definitely presents an opportunity for us both. I believe that our best work is ahead of us and we’re really excited to bring our design services to everyone.
That’s really awesome, I have to say. Now, if I may be as so curious as everyone else wondering so, what gave you the idea to call your company Pacific Helm?
Names are hard. It’s like naming a band. Except in this case you really want the domain to be available.
(I chuckled a bit here)
Now if you could summarize, who are you, and what do you do?
I’m Louie Mantia and I work at Pacific Helm, a visual design studio in San Francisco.
I sure hope our curiosity as it was is now satisfied! Also, by the way, I interviewed Louie around 3 am in the morning here in the great Down Under, and was wondering which and what of the questions to ask him. I was certain that anyone who’s heard of Louie and Brad must surely know about Pacific Helm, so I decided to skip those questions and not ask them — don’t ask me for any more, if you’re looking for them that is.