Creative Perspective: Patrick Ortman

LA's Patrick Ortman is an innovator who feels the MODX community its most valuable feature, shares his witty perspective of himself and his work.

By Jay Gilmore
April 27, 2012
Creative Perspective: Patrick Ortman

Creative Perspectives is a series of interviews with Designers and Creatives discussing their tools, design and how they use MODX. This first series of profiles and the interview questions were produced in conjunction with CMS Expo. Over the coming weeks we will be posting Creative Perspectives on each respective site. Want to share your Creative Perspective? We'll let you know how in an upcoming post.

Who's Patrick Ortman

Name: Patrick Ortman
Location: Los Angeles
Title: President & CEO
Company: Patrick Ortman, Inc.
Twitter: @patrickortman

Patrick Ortman founded one of the world’s first commercial web design companies, in 1993. He directed and produced the world’s first rock concert on the web* , the first live Internet newscast, first large-scale corporate rollout of Shockwave and Futuresplash (now basically Adobe Flash, sorry about that), and virtual reality and web projects for events like The Olympics and Major League Baseball’s World Series. More recently, he’s designed and managed projects for 8 Fortune 500 companies, and a whole bunch of smaller organizations.

He and his web projects have been featured in The New York Times, Washington Post, Atlanta Journal & Constitution, The Toronto Star, PDN, Time Magazine, Newsweek, a ton of expired Internet rags, and NHK Network in Japan.

His eponymous agency splits its time between coming up with brilliantly designed websites and gorgeous web and broadcast video marketing materials for clients who “get it”.

*Blues Traveler, Hootie & The Blowfish, Matthew Sweet, & Moist. Former MTV VJ Adam Curry sent a congratulatory email, as we beat his Rolling Stones Mbone event.


Remember your first computer? What was it? Any interesting stories behind it?

Yes, yes I do. I was a kid, and my brother convinced me to buy an Atari. I spent all my newspaper money (remember newspapers?). He let me use it once in a while, mainly to play Zaxxon. What a rip.

So...Photoshop or Fireworks or both/neither and why?

Pencil and paper. Then Photoshop. Because it works for me.

Who is the person who inspires you the most creatively, and what you admire most about them?

I admire people who can harness their dreams and create stuff.

What are young designers and upcoming art directors missing today that you got to experience first-hand, when you were starting out?

The birth of the web, for sure. I know some whippersnapper type will be banging me for saying this, but back then for a moment it felt like we were changing the world in a good way, for everyone. It was certainly a more innocent time, more positive. Not that it was all ‘Happy Days’, of course.

That said, I’ve decided to bring a sense of purposeful play back. Are you with me? Yeah! Woohoo! And if you’re not with me, then f&*K off!!! Oh, sorry, that was meant for the article on bringing punk back. Which is kind of silly, really, seeing how punk comes back every 4 years it seems. I guess the web is a bit cyclical as well, and I’m hopeful that as the economy rebounds a bit we’ll see more risk taking in web design and interactive, again.

Similarly, if you had to do it all over again, what do you wish you knew then, that you know now?

Buy more Apple stock. Lots more. Tons more.

Quick, name your favorite 3 “must-have” apps and what makes them so?

Have2Pee, to find public bathrooms in strange cities. Ninjump! for boring meetings. And I’m digging the Kindle app, too. I read a lot.

What HTML editor do you use? (or are you secretly using DreamWeaver in design view? :P)

I’m responding to this interview in Dreamweaver code view, powered by my voice using Nuance’s Dragon Dictate. Mainly because I can, not because it’s efficient. And like any good web designer, I like the sound of my own voice. Bonus!

But really, any text editor’s just fine. It’s not the tools we’re lacking, mostly, it’s imagination and the freedom to create beautiful things that work.

So, how long have you been using a CMS? What led you to start using MODX?

I wrote my own in the 1990s. Did the job, but the process sucked. Tried a lotta proprietary ones. Got sad. Then tried Joomla and Drupal. Got sadder. Then... MODX. Yay, MODX! No longer was I sad.

What are some “must-have” features and add-ons or features you like most about MODX?

It’s all just wonderful. But the feature I like best about MODX? The community. Seriously. I’ve met some great folks through this project. I find that MODX attracts real problem-solvers, devs with depth, so to speak.

What capabilities does MODX give you and your team that you appreciate most, and why?

The capability to do a $500K project for $100K, scale that up or down a bit as needed :-). In this economy, that’s vital. Because the clients are squeezing us all, always. Most agencies do things sloppier, with less care. I hate that. I like quality. MODX lets us roll out quality work, at a very reasonable price, and that makes us super-competitive.

Who touches your CMS? All members? Freelancers? Your Clients? How is that working?

All of the above. Swimmingly!

What are the most important things you’ve learned, using a CMS, versus the “old days” of static web sites?

Who are you calling “old”? Geez, man. Well, back when we built sites with hammer and chisel, on granite tablets, things were really tough to change. So clients often wouldn’t change them. And information was locked up and crusty and boring. And dinosaurs still roamed the Earth, too. CMS driven sites change all that. I won’t say everything’s groovy in webland these days. But the idea that each page isn’t hand coded? That’s better than sliced bread. Which, yes, my generation also invented alongside Al Gore.

Bonus Question: If you hadn’t decided to go into the creative realm, what do you think you’d be doing today?

Gigolo for lonely, hot women with money. That’s actually a side business I’m considering starting up, with all the free time using MODX has given me.

More from the Creative Perspectives Series

If you enjoyed this Creative Perspective take a look at the complete Creative Perspectives series for more inspiring and interesting stories from designers who use and love MODX.