I think it’s fair to say the following: Fi, among some other select companies such as 2advanced, Blitz and FWA itself, played a large intangible role in the success of Flash. We know or knew it better than anyone else. It has some life left in it on the web side of things for some select projects but it’s clearly a dying medium purely due to its inability to become truly mobile. As we move towards Google Glass-like devices and others I see HTML5 will quickly fall as Flash did.

question Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

Hi FWA’ers.

Some of you that have followed FWA since its beginnings may know me already.  I had the pleasure of being featured in Interview #1 and #200 here. In 1999, I founded a digital agency in Sweden called Fantasy Interfaces and today I am the CEO and Founder of that same agency although we are slightly larger now with 4 global offices. Today it’s simply known as Fi.  

Just the facts:
-         I am 35.
-         Born in Dublin, Ireland. Moved to Sweden at 21 (for love).
-         I am noticeably very passionate about things I like.
-         I am a pilot of a Cirrus SR 22T and can land the crap out of that plane unlike anyone else.
-         I am your best friend if you are in a car accident or fall onto the subway tracks.
-         I cannot draw to save my life.
-         But I can design.
-         I was the lead designer at Fi from 1999-2005.
-         I never graduated from anything. School hated me more than I hated it.
-         If you explain anything to me, it needs to be visual to sink in.
-         I’ve never read a book in my life. Ever. Unless it had more images than words.
-         Rob Ford and I have NEVER met!

What do you do for inspiration?

I drive fast-ish while listening to something like Skrillex VERY loudly. It gives me drive. It is hugely inspiring to see Fi grow into the company I had dreamed about.

Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

I can give you 3 fav apps I use. 

1) USAToday.com. It’s a web app now. :)

2) Foreflight (for pilots). Amazing design/utility.

3) Pulse News (iPhone). 

What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

Honestly, I have never felt successful which is why I have as much drive as I did 12 years ago. Ultimately, what I feel my best achievement has been is becoming a pilot, therefore, being able to fly my plane solo. 

How many hours do you work each week?

Less than I used to thanks to the amazing people at Fi. Right now it varies pending on the day.

How do you relax or unwind?

Wash my cars. Fly. Jetski. Drive. Wine by the outdoor fireplace in Napa.

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

I'd most certainly aspire to edit and/or direct films or movie trailers. Or become a pilot but the salary is quite low. Entry-level US pilots get between 20-25k a year. It’s really sad. 

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

I love when we deliver a presentation or pitch that we’ve put a lot of work into as a team. We have had clients clapping and smiling. That's just awesome. The hardest part of the job is when someone wants to leave Fi for whatever reason. It's always the worst feeling and you can't help feel like a failure. 

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

Since 1999, I've done a few all-nighters. 

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

Receiving criticism from clients on both our work and myself. Each time it became a turning point in my own development. The decision to open Fi in NY in 2005 was a pivotal point for both Fi and my personal life. I have continuously realized 3 things I need in people that work with me or are at Fi regardless of their role: passion, proactivity and competency. I have found surrounding yourself with these people excels everything around you.

What software could you not live without?

iOS but specifically email. Really? Email? I can’t believe that’s my answer to this question. Ten years ago it was Flash and Photoshop.

How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?

7 – 12 pending on the size of the project.

What effect on traffic do your new designs have?

Fi tends to get a lot of traffic on our new work especially from the creative and development side of the digital community. We haven’t been an agency that has had connections with the AdAge’s of the world. Our traffic has been core digital folks that are passionate about their trade. Our clients are rather large with millions of users, therefore our fan base or followers do not impact that traffic but they impact our morale heavily in their response to the work.

Who is your target audience?

1) Myself.
2) The amazing designer and developer we would love to hire at Fi.
3) The client at a Fortune 500 company that clearly understands the need to bring Fi in to realize their digital project.

What area of web design lacks the most?

Honestly, a lot of things.
1) Budgets. Sadly, digital is still an afterthought for some .
2) Equally lacking would be decision-makers at agencies and the client side that are design savvy.
3) Unlike iOS design, it lacks quality control.

Are there any websites that have shone through as being pioneering in the last 5 years or so?

No. Innovation is happening in the app space and now it’s starting in the web again under the label “responsive design.” Our latest project beta.usatoday.com was aimed at reimagining the website. It needs to rival an app. We focused on building an experience primarily for the tablet rather than web first and a fall back for the tablet. That direction is the next step in web site design.

Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?

Greatly so. Our clients know of The FWA and often state “We want this to be an FWA winner.”

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

Not difficult really when you have invested in the discovery of the user and the project. #UXDesignersRock!

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

No book yet though I’m interested. A publisher needs to help me write the Fi story. Any takers?

The web is getting out of the web. Do you find that thinking in digital solutions alone hinders you? Do you feel the urge to solve the problem using all mediums necessary?

It depends on the brief but generally no. The only thing that hinders you is a misunderstanding of a brief. We primarily work within digital. It’s rare we need to go outside that domain. Why should we? We have several amazing projects going on that involve delivering an experience for 3 screens (mobile, TV and web). We see digital as a thriving space and all other mediums, well…, they’re not.

Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?

What did I say 10 years ago to this question? Today I say that in 10 years, “websites” will be the WAP of today. Design will be centered on a “low level of effort” to engage with utility and consume or share content. That means the least amount of physical and mental effort to send an email or read the news. Hardware-wise, I can only wish not to project what’s possible in 10 years. But I’m sure 90% of us that use email daily will NOT be using a desktop. We will not be using “websites.” The more devices that come in play, (mobile, smart TV’s, Google Glass) the more a ubiquitous user experience is required with not one device dominating as the desktop or website that have done so for the past 10 years.

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

The 2004 Fi website with all the video case studies. That was a major company milestone.

What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?

Starbreeze.com and Conspiracygames.com pioneered a lot of the Flash techniques still used today from preloading when on idle to high frame rates, to PNG fake video sequences and animations as well as sound FX’s. It’s still online via our outdated bare bones 2004 site www.f-i.com/bye.

Do you think Flash is here to stay?

I think it’s fair to say the following: Fi, among some other select companies such as 2advanced, Blitz and FWA itself, played a large intangible role in the success of Flash. We know or knew it better than anyone else. It has some life left in it on the web side of things for some select projects but it’s clearly a dying medium purely due to its inability to become truly mobile. As we move towards Google Glass-like devices and others I see HTML5 will quickly fall as Flash did.

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 have seen exactly this trend. We have been lucky enough at Fi to work with huge production efforts on HTML5 projects such as Ramayana. However, like the banner ad is ignored by all of us, the fancy Flash or HTML5 project is following suit. Utility is key. Ramayana is a great example of that where it showcases Google products such as Gmail, Search, Maps, Chat etc. and integrates them into the experience. It can’t be just a fancy HTML5 site for showing off anymore.

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

YES! If there were 20 designers that applied to Fi now that had no work experience or formal education but were self-taught at home and could mimic the quality output of our work by using their Photoshop skills, I would hire them all right now. We have hired these exact people! Education teaches technique but it doesn’t give you passion for details.

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

1) Be passionate about your work.
2) Be proud of your work.
3) Know your tools well.
4) Be proactive.

5) Understand the difference between work that’s an 8 and work that’s a 10. Education will make you a 4 at best.

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

Insanely. We have for that purpose global offices in 4 locations to accommodate talent in multiple parts of the world: London, San Francisco, New York and Stockholm.

What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?

A smaller 2012 version of the Concord with single pilot operation. If it were something I had to drive, it would be a Porsche Panamera Turbo S which, thanks to our client Porsche, I get to drive. It’s insanely good. #Launchcontrol

What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?


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

A major news site done right. USA Today was that example. We would be open to working with NASA, Lonely Planet and any major airline as we would love to reinvent airline booking management in the digital age.

What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?

It seems it holds a future.

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

Golf clubs in Dublin, Ireland.

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

Ralph Lauren is my style of clothing.

Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

Dear FWA,  

It’s time you guys take it to the next level. The industry lacks an authentic voice for digital design much like how there are publications devoted to Madison Avenue brands. We need an exclusive publication to legitimize our business as a true standalone discipline and not a plug into advertising.  [Rob Ford note: "we're working on it!"]



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