JW: Stay young, creative and most of all humble. Every day's a gift.SB: Make the technology fit the idea and not the other way around.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
JW: My name is Jeff Whitney. Coaches called me Whiteknee. Born in LA, moved to Northern CA, raised on a farm, now reside in Orange County. Recovering ad guy. Oldschool tweener. Analog DJ. Creative Director at Juxt Interactive.
SB: My name is Sebastian Rodriguez Kennedy Bettencourt – I’m an Associate Creative Director at Juxt Interactive. I was born and raised in Lisbon, Portugal and I’m passionate about illustration and the intersection of digital media and physical space. A creative at heart, I’ve always been drawn to the power of visual communication from a young age.
What do you do for inspiration?
JW: Get outside and breathe. Get back to basics. People watching in public spaces keeps your feet grounded. I soak it up. People don’t lie when it comes to what captures their attention. That’s really what we are in the business of doing. People choose to give you their time regardless of platform.
SB: I try to get out of my normal, digitally focused routine as much as possible because it always stimulates my creativity in unexpected ways. It’s become so easy to immerse yourself in the digital world that one loses perspective on everything else. I draw inspiration from watching people interact with the world around them; I feel like they provide invaluable insights on how we can approach user experience design.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
JW: My three awesome kids hands down. They amaze me.
SB: So far, I must say that it was having my master’s thesis project “Beyond The Fold” featured at the Museum of Modern Art in New York this past summer. It was part of an exhibit entitled “Talk to Me” that explores the communication between people and objects.
How do you relax or unwind?
JW: Music is my vice. All kinds. I tinker with the guitar. Vinyl hunting and digging through old, dusty record crates is relaxing. Staring at the dust on my surfboard.
SB: I know many people look to videogames and digital media to relax, but I find that a black pen and a piece of paper is all I need to achieve the same escape. I also love practicing yoga, skateboarding, and cooking.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
JW: I’m strangely obsessed with architectural history. Those countless blogs dedicated to “then vs. now” pics pacify me for hours. Perhaps something tied to historical research or geo-investigation and the space-time continuum.
SB: I would probably be spending my days painting large canvasses in a big warehouse somewhere in Downtown LA.
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
JW: Favorite: Working with such talented people. We’re having a blast at Juxt. I’m happy to be doing projects that really move people. The smiles and palm-to-face moments when someone encounters our work is what push me. Hardest: Earning a client’s trust to let you drive them into completely new territory. As far as getting stuck, slap boxing usually fixes everything.
SB: What I like the most from being at JUXT is the people I work with and the opportunity to work on projects that go beyond the desktop environment. I really enjoy being challenged and exploring new creative ways of pushing digital technology. The hardest part for me is communicating rich interactive ideas to clients that are not necessarily technology savvy or have the ability to visualize things like we creatives do. I try to be successful by providing them with a clear representation of a fairly complex idea and at the same time demonstrate its value. When I get stuck I tend to reach out to my peers and get a fresh take on what I am struggling with.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
JW: I’ll go right to the beginning. While in school, I hit the streets for a design internship. I had so much to learn yet. I was very impatient. I was shot down so many times. So I stretched the truth a bit in an interview and got in. Then I panicked. I knew very little about real design, marketing or even computers like I said I did. I faked it and stayed at the agency every night, after hours for weeks teaching myself Photoshop 4 and Illustrator alone in the dark. I studied the art directors and teams. I somehow pulled it off and never looked back. It was a huge risk, but it showed me how to stand up and jump in. Sink or swim.
SB: I would say moving to the US in 2004 with the goal of getting my MFA at Art Center College of Design was definitely pivotal for me. It wasn’t easy, but it was the best decision I’ve ever made. It exposed me to new creative practices and emerging technologies that have greatly influenced my career path.
What software could you not live without?
JW: Chrome, Keynote, Twitter, Spotify, OmmWriter, Wunderlist
SB: I feel like it would be tough to do my job without the Adobe Creative Suite. Outside of that, there are a few mobile applications that I find myself getting pretty attached to; Instagram, iFound and Pandora.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
JW: Smart, beautiful design has a nice way of capturing people’s attention whether they’re consciously aware of it or not. Time spent is really what we strive for whether it’s a website, app or installation. Our recent work in the auto show arena has been very successful in driving guest traffic, perking their interest and keeping them in the brand’s space. That’s an important objective. It’s fun to watch and very rewarding.
SB: The recent installation projects we’ve been working on have definitely had a very positive effect on people due to the playful nature of their interfaces. New experiences get people talking, in effect, driving traffic.
When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?
JW: In regard to Toyota and the live event space, the brand has such a large, diverse product line-up we are literally targeting everyone. All walks of life, old and young pass through these events so our experiences have to appeal to the masses. It’s important to build in levels of engagement so that guests just passing through have opportunity to get just as much out of the experiences as the in-market shoppers who are seriously researching vehicles for purchase. In contrast, the Scion project we recently launched is for a pretty savvy, niche audience. But given the auto how environment, the passive and interactive experiences had to be designed w/ the larger crowds always in mind.
SB: Jeff took the words right out of my mouth.
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?
JW: Spend as much time with my family as I can. It’s impossible to do my best work if they are not cool. This business is demanding. Hours can get hectic at times. But I do my best to be home every night to tuck my kids into bed. I love my wife. She’s extremely supportive. When they are happy, I’m firing on all cylinders.
SB: Yes. I’ve been trying my best to live a healthy lifestyle. Exercising, sleeping, and eating right have definitely improved the way I work.
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?
JW: I read a quote a few years back that has stuck with me. “The future of digital is less digital.” We should strive to create solutions that address people’s needs first. And do it in a smart, simple way no matter the medium, device, surface or place. The “digital-ness” of it should never be forced.
SB: I think this is a really exciting time. In my opinion, solving problems now is more fun than ever before because we are no longer restricted to the screen. Technology is evolving, becoming more human, and therefore digital solutions are also becoming more adaptable to our needs and the way we function in the real world. Architecture and physical objects open up amazing creative opportunities. We can explore totally new interaction models. We as designers can offer whole new metaphors.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
JW: Don’t chase the awards. Concentrate on doing great work. Every pixel counts. Hone your craft and people will notice. Study the work acknowledged by the FWA. The judges are top of industry. Push for excellence foremost.
SB: It’s so easy to spread yourself thin in this industry… There are too many options and they are all very compelling. My advice would be to find what you are most passionate about, be the best you can be at it and don’t be afraid to fail.
How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?
JW: Finding the right fit is tough and so important, especially at a smaller shop. Someone can impact the group in a big way be it positive or negative. We are a small team. Everyone is tight. If someone turns out to not live up to who they say they are, it’s a pretty swift boot. I’ve seen it.
SB: It's important to find people that are passionate about their work and are able to affect change across a whole team. Their talent should be as strong as their positive attitude. Nowadays, there are so many tutorials that teach you how to execute, plugins that do the work for you and brushes that speed up your craft that the perception of real design gets blurry.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
JW: A giant motorhome with high-speed satellite uplink and a deployable golf cart. I'd trailer a Porsche GT3 RS behind it.
SB: I consider myself a car guy, so it would probably be a Nissan Skyline GTR34 with some serious mods.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
JW: Be aware of trends but strive for something new. To answer your question, Twitter is my pipeline. I follow a lot of smart, talented people. They share a constant flow of notable content, tech, news, happenings etc. The FWA has always been a great source of inspiration and a pulse of what’s hot. It's nice to see it's evolution over the past couple years. It’s still part of my morning ritual.
SB: I actually don’t focus on trends that relate exclusively to the web. I’ve forced myself to look at trends from a broader perspective, especially when it comes to technology, fashion, media and hacktivism. At the moment I look at websites and publications like: fashioning technology, Neaurl, Seed, Wired Autopia and Creative Applications to name a few.
What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?
JW: Wow that’s a hard one. My vote is the Human race.
SB: If I had to pick one, I would say Japan. I am particularly keen on their anthropomorphic approach to robotics and their gadgets.
There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
JW: I’ve grown up in advertising and storytelling on the web. I’ve done my share of rich media, microsites and social media. So it's refreshing to be involved in live experience design over the last 18 months. Pretty dreamy.
SB: I just did. It’s called the Scion Surface Experience.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
JW: Does a bar tab count?
SB: A limited edition silkscreen print by Buff Monster and Brian Ewing.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
JW: Stay young, creative and most of all humble. Every day's a gift.
SB: Make the technology fit the idea and not the other way around.
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
It's been an honor for us. Thank you.