It's not so much a choice of occupation as it is a lifestyle if that makes sense? It's an inner-drive of creating and achieving goals that makes us work hard not because someone told us we have to.

Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

I'm an Art Director & Designer based in Melbourne Australia currently working with Deloitte Digital. I love what I do and have done so for the last 14 years working on a large range of projects around the world.

I'm the founder of Nerby.com where I've had the privilege to run projects with companies such as Warner, Ellen DeGeneres and Disney to name a few of my current engagements.

What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

My concept around a new look for Facebook and how it affected so many millions of people around the world! The way it was embraced left me speechless and what I’m most happy about is not the actual numbers but that people adopted my vision into their lives and I’m thankful for being able to encourage that need with a new idea of what an enhanced interface and experience “could look like”.

Today it’s reached out to millions and the project has been featured in an endless amount of blogs, magazines, people tweeting and sharing this on various social platforms etc. I'm amazed and truly humbled by that event.

What area of web design lacks the most?

I don't think it's a specific area of such but more so the understanding of who the end user is going to be and how to give them a functional experience that looks good.

There's an ongoing problem in our industry where, deep down, we hope that people are going to care and get as excited about our product "as much as we love making it", and that's a problem!

So we can't help ourselves from filling it with the very latest development techniques, design-tricks, scripts etc and what we end up with is a very complex product that can only be truly appreciated by ourselves because we understand the effort that's gone in to the making. It's a sense of over achieving to satisfy our own needs as creators and unfortunately the end user is sometimes lost in that vision.

It's hard because it comes from a good place of wanting to go the extra mile for our clients, but in user testing sessions we quickly realize how the outside world actually looks upon the work and is trying to interact with our product. Less is most often more!

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?

So this is an interesting topic and I've been asked this question quiet a lot lately. To put it simply, No! I'm one of those guys who embrace digital in any form where i know for others; it scares them! Because in many ways you have to step outside a well known safe format or "template" that you're so used to and create or invent new media in a digital space, and it's scary.

A lot of firms and professionals who are stuck in an older format (a narrative way of working) need to get a better understanding of what you’re actually able to create within the digital space "outside of web" because too many people treat it as yet another channel of media and it’s not! It’s a very complex environment built on user behavior and it’s constantly moving forward.

There are great examples of this where the world has embraced products and media invented in places such as the Silicon Valley (Apple etc) and the innovation that has been driving such places forward is not the innovation of narrative, it’s the innovation and understanding of systems and behaviors. And today; that has become a creative discipline!

Companies like Apple are focusing on creating platforms and it’s a new world where you invent media to frame behavior, which in itself means that the "media is now creative" so your relationship with the making is very different. If you want your UI in a digital space to be successful you need to have a solid understanding of all this before you move on to architecture and design.

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

Who knows if websites are still around in 10 years? Digital has come a long way and today we’re introduced to innovative applications every day for both desktop, and mobile devices.

I think we're heading for a more interactive and engaging way of streaming content in an application form so i don't think of it as websites as much when looking in to the future.

Content is so much more than just data on a wall and design and integration of such data can "and will" be experienced in a whole new way.

There is perhaps a shift in web use these days. We are seeing a decline in the purely

It's because most people look at their desktop as a place to work, create or do specific tasks and mobile devices as a place to consume, connect and share content these days. Not saying that people aren't still doing this in a desktop environment too but the need has shifted and we've now emerged ourselves in a mobile environment.

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

So this is another huge question that touches on a few things. I believe the industry left the world of "generalist's" 10 years ago and i think a lot of companies around the world have struggled with this for a long time where the understanding of "why" they're hiring a professional in digital hasn't always been there from a leadership perspective.

Years ago, I think a lot of companies fell behind when digital took over and firms needed to up-skill departments more and more and they went out hiring people without really understanding what that person was all about and the expertise that he/she could bring to the firm.

So the recruiting process was sometimes based off work that looked shiny and the fact that others said good things about them because at the end of the day the goal was simply: "he'll make us look more digital".

There are obviously exceptions to this where i know many production companies have built up exceptional teams and it shows in their folio and reputation, however i believe this was quiet a common mistake for many companies out there and in some ways, still is.

Today, the idea of a "generalist" (someone that can do a little bit of everything) is gone! we ask for a lot more out of each person and unique skills have become a lot more targeted and are mostly needed and recruited accordingly for specific projects.

My recommendation for assembling a proper creative team should be based off goals set prior within the firm, such as building a folio with specific projects/brands and to build a team of professionals that in a collaborative way will win awards based of their expertise!

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

Normally a fair bit of research has already gone in to the project in terms of need and behavior before we touch on design and related tasks.

When all the research and strategy around a project has been finalized I base my design and ideas of UX on experience and I'm probably not thinking of it as satisfying everyone's unique needs at that point but more so how to engage the user in a whole new, innovative and interactive way for a better product experience.

How many hours do you work each week?

That number is always based on current engagements. Today i work with a few larger brands where the projects are normally quiet big and and they always come with a fixed time frame, so with that in mind: if a normal work week is 40h then there are weeks where i would easily add another 20-50 hours on top of that with some additional researching whenever there's an opportunity.

To be honest, i spend too many hours doing what i do but it's done by choice and not because i have to! I consider myself lucky to work with my biggest interest in life so i don't consider it "work hours" in the same way as others might.

What do you do for inspiration?

I tend to keep an eye on the trends of interactive design and various UI work through a number of sources. In the past i always kept a few selected gallery websites close to heart but these days I spend more time on Pinterest which i find to be excellent for my field and other platforms such as Behance and Dribbble. 

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

I made a distinct decision years ago to put myself out there and I'm still driving that. To believe in my own ability to design and create a vision in a digital space and then push that work where it actually matters.

Later on I started hearing from creative friends and firms in the industry and i could finally see that my skills had progressed and was at a high level and i believe that if you've got something truly worthy, something exceptionally good, put it in-front of them and get a reaction!

Too many creatives (and firms) do amazing work in the dark and some of them have exceptional skills but that dream of being discovered (someone big will come knocking on the door) is still alive and they're waiting for that moment. Even though that might happen to a selected few, you're better off going at it from a different angle and be pro-active with your work.

What software could you not live without?

Photoshop, simple as that.

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

Since most of my engagements today are quiet large they tend to keep me busy one at the time, however, on a monthly basis i handle multiple projects side by side because most of these projects are phased out in stages so they come and go which makes it easier to control and plan for.

Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?

I think for me, winning the FWA award with my colleagues was more of a re-assurance of quality and hard work and it does establish more trust in an existing network of people.

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

My very first site ever created was my own back in the days of 99 featuring an overwhelming amount of blue, a terrible gif-animated background with a few photos on it.

I still have the original files and i can safely assure you that it will never be shown to the public!!! But come to think of it, i should probably frame it for a unique spot on the office wall :)

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

Of course. Industry knowledge is everything for us! It's good to know the basics which can be taught in schools, but to be honest, a lot of it comes down to pure passion.

For some of the most well known designers out there it's not so much a choice of occupation as it is a lifestyle if that makes sense? It's an inner-drive of creating and achieving goals that makes us work hard not because someone told us we have to.

You need to have an eye for design, a gift, a talent and then you can fine tune that with years of experience but some of the most gifted designers out there that i talk to and also work with are self taught.

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

If you’re hoping to reach out and make it big in the world of digital you need to study that space and truly understand the industry you’re approaching or are already in.

If you're entering into a specific field and you’re highly skilled then chances are that you’ll get noticed for making a bit of noise around your work because great talent is always wanted!

But it all depends on what your goals are as a creative too and I’ve learnt that it’s important to take time out and really think about your goals and where you can see yourself in the future in the digital industry before you promote yourself because there are different ways of going about it depending on the desired outcome.

How have you learned so many design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?

Most of the techniques I've collected through the years has come through many hours of studying the worlds best and setting my own goals and not giving up on a specific design or project until my stuff was at the same level. If it wasn't, i would start again...and again.

I think for people who are starting out as designers they need to understand that this won't just happen! It's a crafted skill that require many hours of patience, weeks, months of just learning, playing and comparing and it's not for everyone.

Many junior designers get frustrated very early in the process and they ask me; I want my design to look like "this example" but mine isn't so what am i doing wrong?

I've found that most junior creatives have a good eye for appreciating the beauty of world class design but the understanding of how and why it triggered the WOW emotion in the first place is most often missed or over overlooked.

There's quiet often a missing link between looking at something, understanding how it's done, why it was done in that matter and being able to execute the exact same techniques using a tool/software in your own designs.

That link is the experience and it can only be achieved by time and a huge amount of passion!

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

There are a couple of engaged re-design projects in the making for platforms I've always wanted to work with. I'm not able to pin point one specific brand but it'd be very interesting to do more work in the entertainment & sports industry and also touching on application design for the fashion industry for some well known labels.

What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?

I get excited about both new and existing engagements and the challenges that comes with those projects. I'm looking forward to get even more absorbed by the Eco-system of products that my clients work with as well as new adventures.

Having the ability to team up and connect with other people and their skills to create something bigger is always interesting too!

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

The way i dress is far from being label-aware I'm afraid! I'm lucky to have a partner who makes sure I'm on a steady path of what's passable and not sometimes ;)

Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

Learn to trust your own skill and to ignore the ocean of opinions out there.

It has been a privilege, thanks very much

Pleasure mate. Anytime...

Behance folio
Personal folio

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Fred Nerby, Art Director & Designer
Fred Nerby, Art Director & Designer

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