I try to find inspiration outside of the industry. Talking to a fisherman about his work might be a better way to get new ideas than talking to an interactive designer.

Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

Born in the mountains of Switzerland. After studying Swiss typography founded a design company that went terribly wrong and left the country to do social work in Colombia, then continued my journey in the creative industries of Italy and England and live and work now happily in Zurich where I run a small design studio while working as interactive director for unit9 in London.

What do you do for inspiration?

I walk. For hours. Sometimes alone, sometimes with somebody else. Walking is simple, has great meditative qualities and opens the door to wonderful conversations with strangers.

What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

My daughter – well, at least so far. Let's see again when she's a teenager.

How many hours do you work each week?

Around 40 hours.

How do you relax or unwind?

I keep walking.

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

The best part is when a new site goes live and to google the reaction of the blogosphere. The hardest part is to try convince clients to do something new and uncompromised. When I get stuck I leave my desk and go for a long walk. The problem will not be gone when I come back, but I had a good time.

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

I stopped doing long hours. It's better to get some sleep and start fresh again. Otherwise you do end up making silly mistakes and therefore finish the project even later. Better to get some sleep.

If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?

Once you know the tools it's all about personal growth. And the best way to grow I found is by working in different companies, cultures, countries, industries. After a while you will start to see a certain pattern for the things that just work. Hold on to these good patterns.

What software could you not live without?


In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?

I'm still impressed by Unity3D. A tool that gives the freedom to make great games without having to have a large pile of money. 

Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?




What effect on traffic do your new designs have?

It's a bit like a new spring collection. It draws attention but then flattens out. Design is at its best when it's invisible. But to make this happen you need good contents. Otherwise design becomes content, which looks nice on the surface, but has no depth. Better to focus on creating good contents – at least as much as on design.

Who is your target audience?

The 2.3 billion people that currently have access to the Web.

Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?

It hasn't helped, but it's very flattering. I have known of the FWA since back in the days when it had the funny red and warm yellow background colours. 

It has been daily inspiration and reflection of the industry standards ever since. To give now an interview to the very same organization is even more flattering.

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

I prefer to work with major clients. They normally have been around for a while, seem more professional and understand their audience and strategy better than medium sized companies. And they know if the audience is too broad they need to break it down into different sub audiences.

What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?

Thank god it's not online anymore. It had a <frameset>, many lovely <tr> and <td>'s and a purple background.

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?

I try to find inspiration outside of the industry. Talking to a fisherman about his work might be a better way to get new ideas than talking to an interactive designer.

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

I think that would be the site I directed for the launch of TV series Breaking Bad, back in 2007. It was one of these projects where the circumstances were difficult, there was not much time, money or content – but an open minded client. 

Most often the best results root from situations like these.

Do you think Flash is here to stay?

Of course, it works. But there are other powerful solutions too. It's just a matter of choosing or combining the right technologies depending on the needs.

There is perhaps a shift in web use these days. We are seeing a decline in the purely experiential sites in flash with huge production efforts, to a relationship with clients based on tools and services, that many times have simples interfaces. How do you see that trend developing? Will Flash suffer?

I think the shift is a healthy one. Usually I like to divide brand communication into two sections, the emotional and the rational. For the emotional part, lets say you want to set the tone of a new Prada bag, it makes sense to use film, audio and small interactions, the user can emerge in the experience. But if you want to buy this bag online you need the rational side, a fast and accessible site that is easy to use.

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 know I sounds like a grandpa, but when I started out there were no interaction design classes. Everyone would start without experience, everyone would be self-taught. This has the advantage that everyone in the industry knew their stuff. 

Therefore I always think curiosity counts much more than a list of visited classes.

If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?

Focus. Don't try to make your project do many things, it should just do one, really well.

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

The skills of a person can be seen very quickly when looking at somebodies portfolio. Education and titles don't matter so much. 

Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

Don't believe the hype, believe in common sense.

It has been a privilege, thanks very much

Thank you!



Hermès: 8ties
Hermès: 8ties



Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad

Christian Etter - Zürich Creative Day, London 2012

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