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Meet the Guy Who Designed North Korea’s Website for $15

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a country of non sequiturs, exemplified by how the late Kim Jong Il's prodigious affinity for Hennessy stands in stark contrast to the generations of families on IT (and food for their people, but...
April 25, 2012, 5:13pm

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) is a country of non sequiturs, exemplified by how the late Kim Jong Il’s prodigious affinity for Hennessy stands in stark contrast to the generations of families stuck in the country’s prison camps. So it comes as little surprise that, despite spending a half billion on a failed nuclear launch, the country is totally scrimping on IT (and food for their people, but that's neither here nor there), expending a measly $15 on the country's official website.

Since then, the country has been getting a ton of flack for buying a template, posted on ThemeForest for general consumption, to represent North Korea to the world. But really, it's sort of impressive Kim Jong-Un and co. knew about WordPress in the first place.

I had a chance to chat with Robert Westmore, the man behind the now infamous Blender theme, who, until this shit hit the fan, had no idea his work had been chosen by our Dear Leader to be the face of the world's premier totalitarian regime.

So, rather than hire a full-time designer, North Korea just picked up your template?

Honestly I didn’t even know North Korea had a website! It’s bizarre to say the least, out of all the websites out there I’d really like to know how and why they chose mine. But overall this is great exposure for me so I can’t complain.

You’re welcome! How long did it take for you to make this thing?

The template was several months of development, it was difficult in respect to meeting the very high standard required by Envato.

Do you think it's appropriate, from Kim Jung-Un’s perspective? What's your typical clientele like?

Obviously I’m going to be biased when it comes to using templates, but let me just point out that some of the most talented programmers and designers in the world sell their work on Themeforest.net, so you're really getting the best of the best. There aren’t really any typical customers, they pretty much cover the gamut, i.e. music, film, retail, real estate, auto industry, photography, artists, even the adult industry. But this is a first for a government website as far as I know.

And perhaps not the last. Tell us about design your philosophy.

I believe a good designer doesn’t follow the trends but makes the trends. It’s not an easy thing to achieve but the kind of designer I aspire to be.

Nowadays we don’t go anywhere without our smartphones, we use them for everything so the web is often the first contact we have with a business, so it’s vital to have a solid web presence. Over the past year we’ve seen the web change significantly. Getting the information has superseded any desire for visual stimulation, gone are those amazing immersive flash websites, and sadly a big chunk of creativity. Now it’s all about iPhone and iPad compatibility and responsive layouts. But that’s what makes the web so exciting , it’s constantly evolving.

What do you think of our website, Motherboard?

It’s not a responsive layout guys c’mon…just kidding. It’s informational so I think it’s structured correctly and serves it’s purpose. You might want to re-think the logo though.

Well thanks for that. (Give the logo some time though, it grows on you). So what's your favorite most awesomely designed place to consume news online?

I find most major network news sites to be a cluttered mess, for me I just want to get the information as quickly and easily as possible so I usually go to drudgereport.com.

Super bare bones, I get that. What about smartphone app for the same?

If you can call TMZ news, that’s the only news app I have on my phone.

*How about government websites? Any favorites (after North Korea's, obviously)?

I think WhiteHouse.gov is a great looking site. The Barack Obama site back in 08 was stunning in my opinion, although I don’t think it qualifies as a government site.

So how’d you get in the biz, for those at home looking to maybe one day have the honor of designing a website for Iran?

I studied traditional art and design back in the day. At one point I wanted to be a matte painter. For a while, I was a graphic designer for an ad agency, but always wanted to progress into web design. Lucky for me, one of my previous employers needed a website and was willing to give me a shot, so I read a few tutorials and off I went. After a while, I started freelancing full-time.

Check out Westmore's work at ThemeForest.

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