I think if I would have not joined Fi 7 years ago I would have become an architect or probably a photographer. Architecture taught me a lot that I still use as a interaction designer.

question Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

I am the Global Creative Director at Fantasy Interactive.

In 2006, I joined FI starting at their Stockholm office and after working more with american clients, I was relocated to the New York office where I am currently based. I work closely with a very talented team of designers at Fi across all of our offices to come up with the best design solutions possible.

Originally born in St Petersburg (Russia) and raised in Tallinn (Estonia) where I went to school and studied architecture. I also lived in India for a short period of time interning in New Delhi.

At the end of the day, I am a designer.

What do you do for inspiration?

Look around mainly. I don't use books, websites and other creative things to be inspired. Mostly what inspires me are the things that are done wrong or don't work at all, that gives me ideas on how to fix them. Most of the ideas and solutions come to me randomly, while traveling in the subway for example. 

Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

FFFFOUNDDesigner NewsWikipedia.

It's funny, how 5 years ago I would have listed more sites here or even think much less which three to mention. Most of the content I consume now is mainly through apps. I use Flipboard extensively to catch up on all the topics that I am interested in, I don't go to news websites, as I get all the news from "news aggregator" apps, same for social media, different readers to read and follow multiple blogs. 

How many hours do you work each week?

It's hard to say as for me, quite often, life and work hours start to blend together. Actual time being present in the office is about 9-10 hours each day, but I start "working" from the moment I wake up. With the sound of the alarm in the morning I already start to plan my day, what I should do first and how I would run certain meetings even before I leave the house. I start reading and checking my e-mails on the way to work, so I do all the prep work before entering the office. And the same thing in the evening. We have four offices around the world (Stockholm, London, New York and San Francisco) and by the time I leave work some offices are still working or just starting their work, so I am constantly checking and syncing with the teams. 

I am not a 9 to 6 type of person. I look at work and life as waves that come and go and on top of that I am a very black and white person that prefers everything or nothing. Sometimes I like to disappear for a couple of weeks focusing on getting things just right, after that when the project is delivered or certain milestone is achieved I tend to take things easy for a little while gathering energy for the next challenge.

How do you relax or unwind?

The only way for me to relax is to get out of New York. I love to travel and try to use any spare moment I have to go to some new place. I love photography and the process of taking an image and then retouching it. Hanging out with friends also helps.

Having said that, a lot of things don't help me anymore :). When I read a book that I like; I am always thinking of redesigning the cover or making some illustrations. When I watch a movie, I start to think about any type of design and arrangements that appear on the screen. 

If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?

I think if I would have not joined Fi 7 years ago I would have become an architect or probably a photographer. Architecture taught me a lot that I still use as a interaction designer.

I mostly focus on large scale projects such as portals or user interfaces that lots of people use on a daily basis. For me designing experiences for large portals is very similar to designing a building where people will spend their lives. 

What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?

Favorite part of my job is of course making a difference. Having a chance to work hands-on with great clients that really effect and influence technology and our modern life such as Google, Microsoft and Sony. 

Also working with a very talented and hard working team at Fi allows all of us to really make something that millions of people will use on a daily basis. Sometimes I am even afraid of this responsibility :) My other favorite part is creating design languages; thinking about modularity and how different user experiences can be translated to other mediums but at the same time be the part of the same family while they accomplish different tasks for the user.

The hardest part of my job to be honest is being a Director. 

What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?

As a designer who loves the job and the project sometimes time doesn't matter. I can spend hours working without really getting tired. There were times when I barely slept through the week, but at the end when you see your project going live and the response from the community you really feel it was worth every minute spent. 

In this industry meeting deadlines is very crucial. The high level of pressure that something needs to be done very quickly actually helps you find a new way of solving a problem. This forces me to think of shortcuts to accomplish the task in a very different way, the way I would never think of if I had all time of earth. And usually when looking back you realize that you came up with something more innovative and interesting under the pressure of time. 

What software could you not live without?

Spotify, Photoshop.

What area of web design lacks the most?

To be honest I think what is lacking the most is the holistic thinking about the experience. A lot of people still design a "website" that lives in the browser. I don't think designers should think they are designing a website but rather an experience as a whole where the browser is just one of the viewports to this experience. 

When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?

It is difficult but you need to take one step at a time. I don't think it is possible to launch a project covering every single feature to make everyone happy.  What we usually do at Fi is go through a pretty extensive discovery process prior to starting the project. Part of this process is a Features and Functionality matrix that is based on the client needs as well as user needs at the same time. Using this matrix we make lots of decisions on what will be in the first launch, what can be done later so it is not damaging the user experience of the project etc.

It is important to start with something small and then grow it over time.

Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?

Not yet, but I definitely will. I am dreaming of creating city guides with photography and the walk routes. I love traveling myself, love maps and photography, all I need to do now is to merge all of it under a series of books.  

Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?

Absolutely. I do design experiments in my free time that go outside of the digital realm, with product design or some other areas that I have never touched (I have an experiments portfolio that I keep up to date: www.repponen.com). I think it is very important to come up with ideas of your own and execute them to get it out of your system. Some of that personal work inspired me in a way to do something great with a client project at Fi. 

Having side projects is crucial for designer's growth. And designer needs to be ok that 10 ideas he or she would come up with might not turn out to be great, but you would never know until it is done. But the next one might just be right. 

Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?

I am very proud of our latest launch for Wacom.com. It was a real dream project for me as a designer who uses their products for the past 10 years. I don't even use a mouse anymore. I have 3 different size Wacom tablets  and have to travel with one of them every time I leave for work. USAToday.com was another great launch from Fi last year.

What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?

I think so. At this stage industry is still very young and there's a high chance you can be in this industry without specific education. I myself didn't study design in school or college, I learned most of it from people I worked and still working with.

I don't have anything against design schools but they are very few of them right now who can give students the right education. I don't think any of them will teach you how to become the best designer but at least provide you with the proper exposure to the industry, connections and give you the guidance on what to do next. 

How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?

Honestly it is very difficult. There is also a problem with titles, where every other person calls themselves an art director or creative director without any experience of actually directing and running a project. Just being a really good designer does not make someone a good director . There's no easy solution here, it just takes a lot of time vetting through portfolios and having calls with people. 

What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?

Time machine that would allow me to take my cameras and lenses. Maybe iPhone charger on the side. 

There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?

There are too many and not only digital ones. I do dream of making a platform for travelers as mentioned above. Anything to do with maps, photos and world locations. 

In terms of client work, a dream project can come out of nowhere. It depends on how open the client is to make a difference, making risky decisions and not look at others. It does not matter whether the brand is famous, world-known or some company you have never heard before. Being open for something new can make a project a dream project.

I would love to design a toilet paper site too, completely crazy one. 

What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?

A Fender guitar.

What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?

I actually grew up in a family of fashion designers surrounded by clothing, patterns and rolls of textiles. At the age of 6 I knew how to sew a simple piece of clothing. My very first summer job was at my dad's jeans factory. I don't think I am a labels person, but someone who respects quality and prefers to own very few things, but properly made. Looking at a product whether it is piece of clothing or new headphones, I most of the time see the pain and process the designer went through to create the product and that to me is important.

Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

Don't be lazy and don't take things for granted.

It has been a privilege, thanks very much

Thank you, Rob! It was an honor.


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