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I HEART NY…the world IS getting smaller!

Could a pen and a piece of paper be the starting blocks for a detailed design process? Richard Johnson buys two coffees and settles in for an online image makeover.

To err is human. But to really foul up requires a computer. If you ask me, a computer lets you make more mistakes faster than any invention known to man - with the possible exception of a handgun or a tequila slammer. So why on earth would I want to get involved with a website? And pay some nerd - the kind of drop-out I wouldn't want to get stuck in a lift with - to design it for me? But all that changed one Saturday afternoon in April - just after Final Score.

On the Saturday in question, my restaurant column in the Independent raved about a brasserie called Desports. In case you're interested, the fragrant duck breast in five spice was a triumph. Anyway, Richard Budd of Lionheart Graphics e-mailed me at home. He managed the Desports website, and wanted permission to reproduce my column for publicity purposes. He also wanted to meet and discuss "something of mutual benefit". Very James Bond.

I knew exactly what to expect. He would be a bright but sun-starved young man. Personal hygiene for these computer sorts is always a luxury, and a girlfriend (although you sense this is purely hypothetical) an intrusion. But I was wrong. Richard Budd wasn't wearing an anorak. He was wearing Armani. And he wasn't anaemic. In fact, he is a strapping man who runs 10 kilmotres just for fun. And teaches martial arts. His only other hobby is typography and website design.

On his laptop, he showed me the sites he had designed - for everybody from accountants to furniture designers. "Everybody should have a website" he said. "Everybody?" I said. "Everybody" he said. "Even my Mum?" I said. "Even your Mum" he said. "Everybody has got information to share. Think how much better the world would be if we all shared information." There was something about the way he talked that made me think Richard Budd wasn't going to come cheap.

Not true. Not to begin with, anyway. His website-design package costs from £2,000, but his initial consultancy is free. He showed me pictures from his digital camera - a mix of shapes and colours from the architecture of New York - to generate some ideas. He loves New York, and enjoys working with American clients. The time difference works in his favour. While his clients sleep in their Manhattan loft apartments, he re-works their corporate image by morning.

But how about me? As a freelance journalist, my job entails pitching ideas to magazines and newspapers. And that involves sending out photocopies of my work. After two espressos, and an in-depth discussion on the benefits of Flash 6, Budd convinced me that a website was a more modern solution. I just didn't know how to get to where I wanted to be. "Simple" said Richard Budd. "Fetch me a sheet of paper and a pen. And another cup of coffee."

Budd is dyslexic. So he thinks visually, and works by scribbling mind-maps in perfect-bound notebooks. His solution to my problem was typographical. He wanted to use the mastheads of the magazines and newspapers I work for to bring my site to life. But he would keep it simple - no ads, pop-ups or laborious navigation functions. I think he muttered something about "human-centred" design. You can tell he spends a lot of time in New York.

Budd then disappeared for three days. Maybe he was working on that far-off planet where computer types like to live. Maybe he was working on the beach. But then the web really is world-wide. And Budd believes in 'remote working'. Which is why his client list includes companies in all four corners of the world. On the fourth day, I got an e-mail announcing that a working site was ready. The whole process was surprisingly painless. No 'smash forehead on keyboard to continue'.

I am proud of Richard Johnson Online. So I'm glad that Budd is marketing it to the world - it's not just a case of 'build it, and they will come'. People like me have always been fearful of embracing the internet. It's a frightening place where the rules seem to change on a monthly basis. But Budd convinced me that to dismiss it as a passing fad is to ignore a powerful new medium and selling tool. And I liked the way he did it. Hey, I even paid for the guy's coffee.

Richard Budd BA (Hons)
Design Director

Telephone: 07000 345670 Mobile: 07767 895 205 E-mail: Richard@LionheartGraphics.co.uk Website: www.LionheartGraphics.co.uk
Lionheart Graphics Ltd Registered in England No. 3433023