When a project hits all the right points and the team is totally involved, it’s almost like a magical experience.
I’m an Art Director originally from the south of Spain. I love playing video games, crafting interactive experiences, teaching and sharing my time with passionate people.
As a kid I enjoyed reading mangas and drawing crazy stuff. I got my Bachelor's Degree in Advertising and soon after I started a PhD in Fine Arts, but I'm still working on finishing it. My family moved a lot when I was young and I picked up where they left off and in my early twenties. I moved to Valencia in 2006, then on to London in 2008 and lastly to New York City in 2010.
Despite having various odd jobs during college, I'd say the beginning of my career started when I joined a bunch of friends at Pixelinglife in Valencia, Spain. Since then I've been lucky enough to do work for great clients at incredible agencies like SixAndCo, PlainConcepts, Fanstasy Interactive and B-Reel.
What do you do for inspiration?
On a daily basis I check the usual stuff online, play video games and read random books. Some of them are design-related, some are hardcore design theory and lately I’ve been checking out comic books without words.
I also love to travel. I don't get to do it as much as I would like to, but it's definitely what inspires me most. One of my all-time favorite trips was when I took the Trans-Siberian train by myself. Nothing is more inspiring than spending 9 days on the longest railway in the world with no more than a notebook.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
I’m going to pull out a classic here, my biggest achievement is yet to come.
How many hours do you work each week?
It’s hard to say, lately maybe around 50-55 hours a week. I never let myself totally disconnect during the week.
Along side my daily work, I also keep myself busy with side projects at home. Recently I taught a course on interactive design and that required tons of planning. Designing apps, planning talks and now teaching take up my evenings.
How do you relax or unwind?
I love watching movies, singing out loud, reading random books, chilling with friends and riding my bike. Also I’m pretty bad at drawing but I still try my best whenever I have some free time.
Once a year I take a total break and travel with a group of close friends to different locations. We do these nearly improvised journeys finding our way from point A to point B. It’s not really relaxing but it certainly helps me to disconnect from my work.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
When I was a kid I wanted to be an architect. I love any activity that can get me into the flow zone where I lose track of time. If I weren't working on the internet I would still try to do something that people could find useful and enjoyable. Product design is something that puzzles and intrigues me a lot.
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
Just as you would expect, my favorite part of the job is its creative side. I love working with talented people, coming up with innovative solutions, being involved in the design and being able to be part of its whole execution.
One of the hardest part of this job is its advertising side. Realizing that sometimes what’s best for the user is not for the client. It’s also difficult to work with such tight deadlines, small budgets, the short lifespan of projects, blah blah blah.
Finally when I get stuck on a project I try to take a step back and take a look at it from a different angle. Throughout the years I’ve developed a list of bullet points with actions steps that help me move forward through each stage. For instance in the design process it’s important to always ask yourself what’s your take in terms of interactions, what can you do to improve readability, color themes, project structure and many more questions.
What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?
Years ago I worked on an agency project and worked for a straight 24 hours. However back in the day I used to participate in a 72-hour video game development contest with friends. Our team of 5 would work non-stop on a video game for three days in a row. Those were good times.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
First moving to Valencia from my hometown without a job or a place to crash. Second moving to London from Spain without a job or a place to crash. And third moving to NYC from London, this time with a job and a place to stay :)
These journeys have definitely shaped me. Through them I've met many of my life-long friends and I've been able to work with many of the most talented people in the industry.
In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?
Paper by 53 is probably the most beautiful App I have ever used.
Who is your target audience?
It depends on the project, each assignment requires a different approach. It’s part of my job to identify and address users needs. At the same time I always try to create experiences that would impress me as a user in one sense or another, pushing interactivity as much as possible. My expectations are really high.
What area of web design lacks the most?
It’s not just one area in particular. I think Interactive Design normally lacks love. Sometimes due to tight deadlines or a bad attitude on a team that can lead to a lousy outcome. However, when a project hits all the right points and the team is totally involved, it’s almost like a magical experience. A team working towards the same goal of excellence with the right mindset leads to amazing results.
These projects are rare to see but when you see them, you know it right away.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
Absolutely. Winning my first SOTD in 2008 gave me the confidence to move to London and show my work on a global scale. The FWA is pretty well-known in the industry and it has been my source of inspiration and one of my most visited sites for the last 7 years.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
It looked really bad. It was an online repository of works for a group of friends in college. It took me two years and a ton of emails to finally have it taken down.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
Not so far, but it's on my list.
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
From an industry perspective I hope 10 years from now that the currently useless interactive advertising industry will evolve and start designing meaningful experiences that will improve people's lives.
The interactive field is still in a blind phase of self-discovery. New devices and new capabilities have promoted people's isolation. The first time I visited Japan and Korea I was shocked to see how many people were looking at their phones all the time. Years later I see the same thing in Europe and the US. Now Japan is looking back and promoting campaigns against social isolation. So it's a matter of time until it comes back around for us.
10 years into the future I hope websites and interactive experiences will be truly about improving the user's life; that's what I'm aiming for.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
Totally.I never studied anything related to this field in college or elsewhere. The resources are online and available for anyone who is willing to learn. The only thing you need is time and persistence.
On the other hand now it’s easier to find dedicated schools where kids can go and learn what they need to get in the field. That might speed up the process but in the end, it's up to the individual to improve their skills, do well at what they do and be passionate about it; you can’t learn that at school.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
Try hard and if it doesn't work out try even harder. Harder still if necessary. Earn your place and make sure you enjoy every single day of your life. Hard work always pays back and as long as you enjoy it you won’t see it as hard.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
I could say teleportation but I'll go with jetpack and enjoy the ride.
What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?
I always had a crush on Japanese agencies like Tha.jp, Projector, SpfDesign, IMG SRC, Bascule and people like Roxik. I’m still really excited about them and really look forward to their upcoming projects.
However my mindset has changed towards creating meaningful relationships with consumers more than flashy microsites. In that sense I think the US is an amazing place to be right now; there are new start-ups and great ideas coming out every single day and the mood is positive here. I'm thrilled to be here and witness it.
There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
Yeah, but I have many, they are all different and they all have changed several times throughout the years.
In terms of Design and UX my current dream project is to redesign Google Fonts. It’s a great service and I think there is still room for improvement. Starting with new fonts visualizations, the selection process or font management could be improved a lot. Another dream projects are to have a go on the design of a mobile OS, redefining what’s important, its structure and how it looks like.
An all time classic on this regard is to work on products that work across different scenarios. Think about taking flights, from the desktop website to arriving at your destination. Think about going purchasing processes, from the Ikea site to going to the store and looking for a lamp that’s out of stock. Think about attending conferences, from checking out the site to attending a keynote. And now the other way around, travelling with a group of friends and creating a collaborative memory online, attending an event and recording different perspectives of the same thing. There are tons of future vision concepts around these activities but very real products doing it right.
From a conceptual perspective a cool challenge could be to think what’s next for advertising in the near future. There is a big big gap between users and advertising. At the moment most online Ads are a massive wall stopping users from getting content. Only Google is doing it right so there is an idea.
So well, lots of dream projects. However, on a different note now I do believe it’s important to become excited with every project you work on. Every single assignment can become your dream project if you find what’s challenging about it. And if there is nothing, you can always challenge yourself through it. These micro challenges can be design related like using an specific color palette, hand drawing everything by yourself or treating typography on a specific way. They can be more conceptual like finding an innovative way to display a menu, or looking for a twist that improves a standard interaction.
And finally when I come with an idea and there is no client or project that relates to it I just work on it myself. Why would you wait?
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
A set of umbrella reflectors and a lighting kit for an ongoing photographic experiment I'm working on.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Work hard, strive for excellence, get a life and be nice to people.
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
Thank you Rob :)