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Paul Souders 13 March 2008

Paul Souders

Another white guy with a computer

Paul Souders has dirt in his blood. His great grandparents, to a person, farmed the rich Nebraska soil. His paternal grandmother was born (1901) in a farmhouse made of sod. His maternal grandfather, a country doctor, delivered farmers’ wives’ babies. Although by that time (the 1940s and 50s) most of the farmers lived in houses made out of wood, albeit sometimes ones without indoor plumbing, or even electricity. Paul’s father grew up in just such a house (without plumbing or electricity), and went on to become a geologist, because his blood is pure dirt. Paul’s mother was a librarian. So the half of Paul’s blood that isn’t dirt is information.

Paul Souders first saw the ocean when he was 14 years old, but he has had dreams about the ocean his entire life.

He attended college in his native Nebraska where he studied Archaeology and many other things that make good conversation at parties. He then spent seven years digging square holes slowly and taking careful notes and writing reports about the things he found in the square holes. In 1996, he found so many things in square holes in Alaska that he wrote 70 pages about it, prompting the University of Oregon to award him a Master of Science in Anthropology.

All of which amply qualifies Paul Souders to design websites, which he has been doing for love since 1995 and for money since 1999.

Paul (and his wife and their dog) lived in Xiamen China for most of 2006-2007 and it blew his mind. Nowadays he resides in the hillsy woodsy part of Southwest Portland with his wife (a teacher, polyglot, marathon-runner, competition swimmer, and person of the world), their son (who weighs three pounds and breathes amniotic fluid), and their dog (a large good-natured fellow of uncertain heritage)

What are you up to?

I work at Mercy Corps, where I design websites and emails, architect information, and help sculpt branding. After working for eight years in and around creative agencies I am shocked SHOCKED how much more productive a person can be when working “in-house.” I produce more in a day or two at Mercy Corps than I would in a week at an agency.

What are you into?

I’m into my wife, my son, my parents and brother, my dog, my hand-built bicycle, my other bicycle, hot black coffee, mowing the lawn, a good night’s sleep, all-day bicycle rides, the dignity of labor, my wife’s bicycles, movies about spies or robots or radioactive monsters, licorice, nonfiction books, long walks on the beach, bicycle repair, fresh produce, moderate alcohol consumption, and bicycles. My favorite yoga asana is Virabhadrasana II, the lunging warrior. Because it is so macho.

What do you like most about Portland?

I grew up in a flat dry place with few trees, very far away from the ocean. Every day in Portland feels like a vacation for me because it is the exact opposite of all those things. I do still miss an unbroken horizon.

What’s the difference between Design and “design?”

When you create something new, the *first* thoughts you have about your creation are Design. When you decorate something that someone else has Designed, that’s “design.” They are not equivalent experiences, yet in the web world we use the same word to describe both ends of the process. I can’t even count the number of web projects I’ve worked on where the *last* person to touch the Design is the web “designer.”

Why do you like bicycles so much?

I believe bicycles represent the most perfect possible application of technology to fulfill a human need. Occasionally you hear something like “technology is neither inherently good or evil” but name one evil thing you can do with a bicycle other than bludgeon someone with it.


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