Since my Masters work I always had the idea to publish a design book about the history of British subcultures like the Mods and Skinheads but as time is rare it is still just an idea.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
My name is Mike John Otto, I am a Creative Director in the INTERONE Worldwide Hamburg office, mainly working for our client MINI and responsible for the site and brand development of INTERONE Worldwide.
I was born in Germany, a small university city called Munster where I started to study visual communication in 1996.
Beneath my study I soon worked for various agencies like BBDO and graduated in from Munster College of Art and Design with a Master in Design in 2000.
My work was a CD-Rom about subcultures in England from the 60´s to 80´s and was one of the first CD-Rom work done in flash.
After my Master I went to London, where I worked as a freelancer for various online agencies
In October 2000 I joined Razorfish as a senior designer and worked on most of our main clients accounts including Audi, Hypovereinsbank, Charles Schwaab and United Nations.
After two years at Razorfish I started as an Art Director at Elephent Seven in Hamburg, working for Mercedes Benz, Deutsche Post and Deutsche Telekom.
I joined INTERONE in 2003 as one of the founding members of the third team of the Hamburg office.
During my three years I worked on a few campaigns and online specials for our two main clients BMW and MINI.
In my role as a Creative Director I am mainly responsible for creating unique multi-channel campaigns for MINI and to work on developing INTERONE Worldwide as a worldwide operating and strong brand.
What do you do for inspiration?
I like to travel and find it always quite an inspiration to take a closer look at things during my trips - I always have a camera with me.
Another inspiration are movies and Fashion Magazines.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
Not new but still a great site.
The best way to find the email or address of old colleagues.
My favourite actual campaign:
Not that much the site but the movies and spots of the campaign. Great job from Crsipin + Porter.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
Well, that’s a hard question. I think it’s a little bit too early to respond to this.
Maybe having survived the new economy rise and fall.
What software couldn't you live without?
Mac OsX and Photoshop.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
In regards to INTERONE I am working on the new campaign and online special for the upcoming new MINI. That will be online on August.
On the personal side I am developing a new design and fashion shop that hopefully will launch in October this year. I will keep you updated.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
Well, this changes once a while which is good. The scene is always on the move and evolving.
Every year it seems that a new star is born, nevertheless I think that Buero destruct, hi-res and group94 are studios that have done outstanding work. I definitely would rank them.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
My own portfolio Stereoplastic had an enormous response and was a good platform to get to know many interesting people worldwide.
Even if I love my work at INTERONE I think it is important to be seen as an individual designer with its own thinking and work.
I guess it is the right mixture of corporate and private work that makes a designer interesting.
You shouldn’t try to start mixing own goals with your client work – after all you do work for money, it is not art that we produce for our clients.
I think it is important to find the right balance between agency work and projects on the personal side.
In regards to INTERONE the possibility of using 3D in such a realistic way is a complete new way of producing digital campaigns.
It really gives us the chance to work nearly as producing a TV spot.
The way we recently produced the new camapign for the limited edition of the MINI Cooper S with JCW GP tuning kit is a new experience and I think that this way of producing realistic virtual movies will soon even have an influence on other areas of advertising.
Who is your target audience?
Modern post-modern trendsetter who are interested in cars.
What area of web design lacks the most?
A big issue still is that a lot of agencies produce work without a solid idea.
Certainly it always depends on the client and project you are working on but there is a lack when taking a look at most of the big online campaigns for big brands.
A lot of sites just have a good or less good design but there often is no idea at all.
Since TV and Internet will merge more and more together and multi-channel campaigns will raise it is a new task and something that a lot of agencies will have to improve.
Design matters but good design without a solid idea does not count and does not sell.
Same with a good idea with a bad packaging/design.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
My first site? That was a company site I did in 96 for a very small architecture studio in Germany.
It is not online anymore but what I still remember is that it was not white like all the others (most of the sites in the mid 90s were white) but yellow with a Futura Bold used for Headlines.
Quite untypical for that time ... I couldn’t remember about it in detail so I searched for it on old CDs and found it. Forget about it - it’s horrible.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
Not yet but I would love to. I recently have written the essay for a new book of the German Taschen Verlag, they bring out a book about Digital Advertising now and Julius Wiedemann the Author asked me to write the essay for it.
Since my Master work I always had the idea to publish a design book about the history of British subcultures like the Mods and Skinheads but as time is rare it is still just an idea - shame on me.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
My hands-on flash scripting ended two years ago - that’s a long time. I started focusing more on design and concept.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Are you kidding? With even Flash lite for mobiles it will be the tool of the next years.
If nobody produces something revolutionary new it will stay for sure.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
To be honest – no. In the last seven years I just met one guy who was a talent and did not have any design school education.
The best designers I know have all studied visual communication or Art.
Design is more than just knowing the right tools and having a feeling for temporary design, someone who hast studied design or art at a University has a wider range of knowledge about various topics: Art, Design, History, Typography, Film and Photo maybe as well theatre.
For a young person it is important to get to know everything about design in an experimental form and environment not with a client at his back.
Nevertheless one of the main faults of design colleges and Universities is that they don’t really prepare the students for an industry that is constantly changing.
I never learned story telling or how to improve my presentation skills at University and I did not have a teacher that worked in a big Agency.
Universities are necessary but they should work much more together with the industry and with good agencies to let the students know what the industry needs and is looking for.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
Our long experience with big clients and our long time work (six years) for BMW.
As well our multi-channel thinking. We are seen as digital specialists in the BBDO Network in Germany we say “der Kunde ist Koenig” which means "the client and its needs first".
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
I learned a lot about design and producing ideas by working for different agencies and clients.
I would advise to any newbie to take a closer look at the first agency to work with.
The first five years are the most important ones and that is the time where you will get shaped and experience most.
As well try to find the time to do your own work.
I am always disappointed when somebody sends me an application for a job and the only thing he can offer me is a portfolio full of major client references, - no own portfolio or private work.
How should anyone know if he is good or not? How do I know that he did all the work by himself?
What is the most expensive thing you've bought in the last week?
A new Lambretta scooter from the 70s on ebay (I collect them) and a new pair of retro adidas sneakers which my girlfriend felt ashamed when she saw the price.
I am now thinking of giving them back ;)
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
Not really. I do have a tendency to modwear, for that reason I do buy stuff from Ben Sherman or adidas (you remember the case with the too expensive sneaker) but still love second hand as well.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Be hungry and keep the flame burning. The scene and clients need more talents.
Design does matter!
It's been a privilege, thanks very much.
Thanks Rob, Always a pleasure. FWA is a permanent bookmark in my browser.