Webdesigners should learn more from traditional designers. And traditional designers should learn more from webdesigners too.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
My name is Jakob Nylund and I work at North Kingdom Stockholm as a senior art director. Previously I worked as an art director at B-Reel in London, digital design director at Frost* in Sydney and as a designer at de-construct in London. I studied design and communication at Hyper Island back in 2003. I haven't had any other jobs than this really, which is both good and bad. When I was 13 I got a summer job at my fathers friends one man design agency in the town I grew up in. I've always been interested in computers but didn't really see how they could be used in any other way than playing computer games. This changed however and for a few summers in a row I spent my summer days inside designing posters and brochures for local companies. I learned quickly and began picking up interest for typography and colors and what makes a good design. (looking back at it though I had quite some more learning to do still.)
What do you do for inspiration?
I get away from the computer and try to distance my self from the problem - watch a movie, read a book, have a coffee. I find it much easier to come up with ideas if you're not in the middle of it. You gain perspective. Travelling is also a good idea, but I'm sure you know that already.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
- Facebook, not because I like it that much but because I check it hourly.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
I wouldn't say it's my biggest achievement, but a typeface i did a few years back named Soraya. I'm not a typographer, but I created this typeface because I wanted to try it out and I let people download it for free, without any restrictions. It's amazing to see it being used. A friend was walking around in New York and suddenly he saw the typeface on the windows of a Kate Spade shop. I went to Los Angeles a year ago and Kate Spade had it there too, and I stumbled on it accidentally. Another friend went to Japan for skiing and saw it on a snowboard that was being sold somewhere. 3 Swedish musicians have used it for their album covers. A magazine in Australia used it as the main type throughout the entire magazine. I've seen some art magazines use it too as well as Computer Arts. A production agency in Canada is using it as their logo. Yesterday when I was out shopping I saw it in a shop behind the counter. That's what I think is amazing with typography, you create something that others can use.
How many hours do you work each week?
Depends on how big the workload is but between 40 and 60 hours. We have a good and healthy approach here at North Kingdom when it comes to those things. We try to be as efficient as we can during the days so we can leave at 6, but sometimes that doesn't work of course. But I don't have any issues about working from home after hours when it's needed, I think it's quite relaxing
How do you relax or unwind?
By doing absolutely nothing. My perfect idea of a holiday is when you have no must-do's and you can take the day as it comes - reading a book, spending a few hours with the PS3, taking a walk, cooking or just sleeping. Just the feeling that I don't have to be anywhere, and I don't have to do anything is the best way to relax for me.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
I'd still be in the creative field, but probably as a photographer. And if I could choose I'd be a photo journalist it has always interested me.
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 enjoy the idea creation the most, coming up with ideas and how they should be executed. I also love that there are so many different things you can do in this field. Earlier this year i was on the road for 3 weeks filming 5 short movies for a project for Volvo with my 5DMii, I travelled around all northern parts of Scandinavia and it was a fantastic experience. A few days later I was back at my desk again working on something else and a few weeks after that I flew to South Africa for an event for a project I had been involved in earlier.
Hardest part is to puzzle all the pieces together, filling the gaps creatively and streamline it. There are a lot of things to take in to consideration, and time is most often an issue.
When I get stuck I try to just leave it for a while, and hopefully a solution pops up when you least expect it.
What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?
I think it was nearly 24 hours, and it was for a pitch I worked on in London years back. It's better to get some sleep than working through the night, makes you more efficient.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
When I got that summer job at my dad's friends design agency back home. Haven't looked back since.
What software could you not live without?
Photoshop, Mail, Chrome and Skype. And keynote.
How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?
Everything from 3 to 7 projects at once.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
It's actually a really tricky question, there are so many great agencies out there nowadays with their own specific talent, and I'm not that interested in design in that way to have an opinion. I'm more impressed with the quality of work and the effort that is put in to a project to reach perfection or near perfection. B-Reel always do really good work, and I think we at North Kingdom do that as well :) If I have to say one more I'll say Your Majesty. But again, there are so many good ones and I can't answer this question correctly.
What area of web design lacks the most?
I'm still amazed about how the must fundamental things like typography is over looked online - sometimes it seems like someone just picked a random typeface, mixed it with 4 others, badly kerned and weird spacing. Webdesigners should learn more from traditional designers. And traditional designers should learn more from webdesigners too.
Are there any websites that have shone through as being pioneering in the last 5 years or so?
Get the Glass, RO.ME, The Wilderness Downtown, Hotel 626. What they have in common is that they not only showcase new technology and how it can be used but also got people emotionally involved - great pieces of digital storytelling.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
Of course, it drives a lot of traffic to the site and that is always a good thing. It's nice to get recognition for the work you put in to a project and what I like with FWA is that it is instant, and it's a constant flow of inspiration coming out every day.
When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?
By researching the target audience and understanding them correctly. Everyone likes to be entertained though so that's a great starting point.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
It was gothic looking, which is weird because I was a nerd back then and played classical piano and listened to my dad's old jazz albums. But I had a little rebellious side and listened to Ramms+ein, so I guess it came from there. It's not online, which is a good thing.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
I'm not very good with words so I don't think I ever will. I would love to make a photo book about something that people could have on their coffee tables. But not sure what the subject would be. Right now I just have pictures from my life, and I don't think people are very interested in that...
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?
Yes, getting that distance from work that you do need in order to see things properly. Hanging out with my girlfriend Mia gives me the right mindset for example, unless we're not talking about work... she works at North Kingdom too as a producer so it's quite often we can't let go of talking about it when we get home. Other than that I try to stay hungry in any way possible and I think it's all about that, you can't lose interest or faith in this industry if you want to be in it.
What was the last digital effort you saw (or were a part of) that used social media in a way that really made sense. Why?
Have you been a part of a campaign that was rooted in digital and THEN reached over into other consumer touchpoints? Did this happen organically or was it a part of the plan from the beginning?
I recently worked on a project for Vodafone Germany - Vodafone BufferBusters. It is an augmented reality experience for smartphones and you had to take on the mission to make Germany a faster place to live in. We released some 1.000.000+ buffer monsters (evil creatures that makes everything slow around you) over the entire germany and you had to find where the monsters are via a map and trap them by sucking them into your digital buffer tank. So far so good, but the nice part was that in order to claim the points for your trapped monsters, and also the chance to win great prizes, you had to dump them off in buffer dumping stations that were located inside every Vodafone store around Germany - so we got consumers into the stores for potential POS. It was part of the plan from the beginning but turned out better that we thought.
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 doesn't hinder me, but it is different than before. There's a lot of channels to take into consideration, but that just makes it fun. I'd love to do more traditional things, but we are not that type of an agency - we are a digital agency but we span across different channels and platforms within that realm. We've done TV commercials for example as part of digital campaigns which was fun and challenging. But ideas themselves are never digital, that's only when you come to the execution. It all starts on pen and paper.
Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?
I didn't work on it, but I'm proud of Get the Glass that North Kingdom did a few years back, and people still talk about it. I'm proud of all the work we do, and I think that is important.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Maybe, but flash is losing its feet and it will continue to do so as long as its not supported on all platforms that are introduced. But each release has some cool new features and I can't wait to get started with a project using the new 3d engine in Flash 11. We are actually doing a project right now with it, so keep your eyes open for it! But it's much more fun now when you can jump between different technologies in different projects - makes work life more varied.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
You don't need schooling to become a designer or a developer, it's about interest and dedication. However, you do extend your network in school and it's easier to find internships at agencies that wants to take you under their wings.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
Do work that you can be proud of, and don't push yourself too hard. There are more important things in life than work - again - you need the distance in order to be creative. But try to do something new each time, if you push yourself to do that you put more time, energy and love into it and hopefully you don't fail. It also make it more fun, because a challenge is always fun.
How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?
It's actually a bit tricky. It's easy to see who's a good designer or not, but they also have to be able to adjust their skills and be mature enough to understand that there is a client on the other end. Good design in advertising isn't only about perfectly kerned typography and things aligned nicely. It's about creating a feeling and there are so many elements that are equally important. It takes a while to understand this.
How do you keep up with the latest capabilities of Flash or do you rely on other members of you team to do this?
You just know I think. When you see a website that uses some new technology you save it in your own backpack for later and see how it can be used in a project down the road. Subconscious learning. It's more tricky for a developer thought that actually has to be able to do it.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
A car. But the problem is that I don't have a drivers license.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
In general I think trends are quite boring, so I tend to not think of it like that. A good idea has and always will be a good idea, and good design is always a good design. Oscar Wilde once said that "Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months" and I think that applies to web trends too. If you have a good sense of what works and what doesn't work, if you know your tools, your typography and your colors, it'll turn out ok, and it will last longer than any trend out there.
What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?
Keep going and do better and better work, I'm still learning and that's what's fun.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
It has been a privilege, thanks very much