😗 Aubyn here.
Interactive designer. Art director. Stuff on screens.

Aubyn Freybe-Smith
In Victoria, BC (Canada)
aubyn@sometimes.ca ↗
CV ↘
In the past, this has meant videos, coding, some branding, but these days I’m at my best exploring and setting a plan for the experience of a website (or sometimes an app). So, strategizing a structure and navigation to weave a story; wrangling together type, video, illustrations, and photography; and determining the interactivity and animation to support said story.

Which makes me a planner, a sketcher, often a researcher, a cobbler of ideas and influences, and sometimes a late-night-head-against-the-wall-er.

My work with the NFB Interactive Studio over the last few years has been recognized by Cannes, Applied Arts, Communication Arts, the Webby Awards, FITC, the FWA, and other glorious sources of design wisdom.

I’m also a father, a musician1, an athlete2, a chef3, and an extra-galactic astrophysicist4.

1 – I strum chords + sing to my children.
2 – In a cute, amateur kind of way.
3 – Sure, if doing this dish ad nauseam makes you a chef? Oooh la la that sauce!
4 – Total lie, but I do love stargazing. I mean c’mon, the universe is expanding into what? Don’t respond, I’ve watched the videos, it still doesn’t make sense.

On approaching design work, and admiring that secret sauce

When a project really sings to me, it has done the following:

A / Find that thing

There is a distinguishing, sparkly something to say about every protagonist — every person, place, moment and object. Sometimes, it’s hard to find. But it’s there, you just have to dig deep.

B / Communicate that thing

There is a remarkable way to emphasize that uniqueness. Craft it on multiple levels with emotion, juxtaposition, humour, surprise, attitude or redefinition. Maybe with mystery, metaphor, or even brazen clarity. But don’t be heavy handed.

With A+B, you are cutting through the noise and shining a spotlight. The protagonist will benefit from its moment, its own handwritten love poem, its own kindergarten play soliloquy.

To get there on a project, I usually do the following:

Actually, you know what? I’m wary about writing too much on process. It seems redundant. However, this might be worth mentioning:

  • I tend to adapt my process for the project.
  • I often go deep on a subject, with research and questions. This might mean digging through primary sources in an archive or educating myself on a complex technical topic so I can speak for it.
  • I like to ask “why?” again and again to find, explore and pull apart the real problem. Doing so gives me confidence in the solutions I offer later.
  • This produces a lot of content and possibilities, and it takes diligence to filter and refine what I uncover and to commit to a strategy. Blame the history degree.
  • I care about details. And it’s likely I’m focussing on little things that others don’t notice. A-hole much? What I’m trying to say is that you can trust me to execute.
  • I often feel haunted by a “better” solution.

On why I fell in with this


At a young age, I absorbed the idea that to create—be it to build practically or to express with art—is honourable, rich and worth your .


I think I’m also driven by: if you’re being different, you probably won’t have any regrets. But you can easily regret doing it the “same way” just because it’s safe and expected.

That being said, I’m often not “different”, and this disappoints me.


When a big, bold, brontosaur-ish story is available as the foundation for a design, I'm in .

But I’m also happy exploring a subtle story for inspiration.


I the challenge of problem solving that secret sauce (A+B above). It takes patience to plan and craft an experience that delivers quickly and subconsciously across multiple conceptual levels and senses.

Or, I find it oh so rewarding when a disjointed type grid fits Tetris-like with some copy rich in juxtaposition while your nostalgia for a particular film grain is invoked even though the colour treatment on that animation is fresh and new… or something like that :)

A progression of experience, in chronological order (kind of)

  • 👶
  • History degree
    The most touching, original + unbelievable stories are often the real ones
  • Film education (certificate)
    Building a storyworld; executing a grand plan: filmmakers are intense 👊 craftspeople
  • Video editor
    Curation, juxtaposition, rhythm, pace, iteration = story
  • Music composition
    More storytelling, but in an aural, 3D space, with a mainline to emotion
  • Motion graphics
    Building videos in After Effects, + websites in Flash
  • → → → →
  • → → → →
  • Interaction Design
    Design, Art Direction, but also coding (HTML, CSS, Actionscript, JS)
  • Wallop (2004-2010)
    Co-founder, partner + Art Director in this Vancouver-based web / video design firm
  • Freelance (2010-present)
    Interactive projects with direct clients, + much award-winning storytelling with the NFB

On tidbits, and more of them

  • Coding
    While I rarely develop anymore, my background in coding and logic helps me prototype through complex ideas, and I enjoy designing in the browser.

    I’ve often found that an array() of possible sequences and some random() chaining can create a very special experience.
  • Photography
    Though an amateur, my ideas on design and storytelling have been greatly influenced by seeing the world through a lens, and art directing and treating imagery.
  • Exploring outside
    Be it on a mountain, a shoreline, in the ocean or a big backyard, I just wanna feel human after the screen time. Next up, gotta do:

  • Reading
    About human topics that make me think, and maybe laugh. Here are a few things I’ve been reading lately:

  • Food
    I’m currently loving Eastern Mediterranean flavours, as I work slowly through Jerusalem and Plenty.

  • Music
    I’ll listen to, and enjoy, just about any genre, minus the heavy + metallic sort. Though there are these…

  • Movies
    I used to dream of making films, and occasionally tried to! Some of my faves are:

  • Movies cont'd
    So done with the ‘supers, but just the other day on a flight, this got me laughing out loud: