In the Q&A below, get to know more about PBS'er Chris Bishop. Chris has been Creative Director at PBS KIDS since 2000. He led the charge for the recent relaunch of PBSKIDS.org and is the mastermind behind the all-new PBS KIDS brand designs. Outside of the office, Chris is an accomplished artist and illustrator.
Q. You’ve been with PBS for 13 years. Tell us about a few professional highlights at the organization, and why are they memorable to you?
The biggest highlight has to be the new PBS KIDS brand redesign. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to pitch a concept and very proud to have had it rise to the top in a competitive field of very good external firms. I enjoyed working with our internal team to refine the concept – those are some smart people.
Aside from that, I've done a lot of random, fun things over the years… I went to Pittsburgh to direct a photo shoot with Mister McFeely. I spoke with Fred Rogers on the phone once when I was working on a game for his site. I shook hands with George Costanza in the elevator. I high-fived Mr. Carson. I touched Telly's nose. I built Crystal City out of cardboard for the company holiday party. I talked snakes with Martin Kratt over beers. I talked caterpillars with Eric Carle. I knocked an ornament off of Jim Lehrer's Christmas tree and helped Judy Woodruff sweep it up.
I think one really interesting thing we've done was going to a tiny house in rural Indiana to watch one child interact with our website and take notes. You get the best ideas from watching kids play with the website in person.
Q. Tell us about the new PBS KIDS brand package. What was your thought process behind the changes?
The idea was to design the next step for the PBS KIDS brand while not scrapping everything completely for a new direction with no ties to the previous brand. We wanted it to feel like PBS KIDS had evolved but was still familiar.
To help the brand appeal to kids all the way up to eight, we made the character Dot a little older and put her in the guide-type roll her brother Dash used to be in. Now SHE leads her new twin younger brother and sister in exploring and adventuring. The gang is no longer limited to backyards and bedrooms – they can shrink down and explore under the couch, they can go into space, they can even climb up a volcano to grill hot dogs.
For design elements, we went with a vibrant palette of magenta, turquoise, yellow, blue and green as well as flat areas of color and line drawing. It has a contemporary feel and allows the exact same visuals to cross over from TV to web to print without having to simplify them for any medium.
Q. What are the biggest changes to the new PBSKIDS.org?
PBSKIDS.org is no longer built in Flash so the site will now work on phones and tablets. Additionally, the site is built responsively so it will resize and change layout to adapt to the device it's being viewed on - a phone, a tablet, a desktop, a tv or something that hasn't been invented yet. Also you will notice we've substantially increased our video size so that it's practically a full-screen experience.
The biggest thing that hasn't changed is the show wheel on the homepage. We found in testing that the wheel is a fun and effective way for kids to find their favorite show. In user testing, we showed one girl a prototype of the site without the wheel and she refused to believe it was PBS KIDS! She typed in pbskids.org and showed us the wheel on the previous site and told us THIS was PBS KIDS. So, yeah, after that we had to keep it.
Q. Who would you say has had the biggest influence on your career in design, and why?
My old boss Dan Willis really opened my eyes to user experience and putting the user's needs first over everything. Otherwise, I don't really follow design much. I think Nintendo has been a big influence on me over the years. The are constantly re-inventing how they make games and ignoring how everyone else is doing things. That’s what I strive for when I design stuff for kids.
Q. Where did you grow up? What do you like or miss most about your hometown?
I grew up in Syracuse, NY. My favorite thing about Syracuse is how crazy the whole city is about Syracuse University basketball. From birth, you are raised to be a fan and to *ahem* strongly dislike Georgetown. I also miss the snow but my mom says that's because I am remembering it fondly and not having to deal with it daily.
Q. Where did you go to school? What’s your degree in and what drew you to your major?
I went to the State University of New York at Fredonia but I actually didn't study web design. I got a BFA in Fine Arts with a concentration in Drawing and I taught myself web design after college. Turns out web design skill and illustration skill is a good combo when designing for kids. I make sure everyone I hire knows how to draw.
I've been an artist ever since I was little so I knew early that art was going to be my focus. I was lucky to have very supportive parents.
Q. And finally, finish this sentence: PBS is special because…
…of the people. I’ve never seen so many people dedicated to doing right by our audience, our legacy and our mission. We couldn't do everything we've done without that passion. It just wouldn't work.
And, also, the 75 cent soda cans on the bottom row of the second floor vending machine.