I think the fact that in the first three years of my career, I had the opportunity to get in early on a startup that grew like crazy and sold fast. This played a major role in starting my own business very young, but with a lot more wisdom.

question Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

Joe Olsen, CEO and co-founder of Phenomblue. Phenomblue is a brand experience agency of strategists, designers and engineers using technology to connect people and brands. I'm a lifelong entrepreneur and technology advocate.

What do you do for inspiration?

I read and write. Writing lets your brain run and I get a lot of great ideas by writing and then periodically coming back to the pieces. I write songs, stories and screenplays. I also spend a lot of time brainstorming ideas with close peers. I think it's important to have a group of smart people around you that can run with an idea and improve on it.

Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

Google. Airbnb. Phenomblue.

What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

Winning an FWA award, of course.

How many hours do you work each week?


How do you relax or unwind?

Drinking. Eating. Friends. Video games. My kids.

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


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

Favorite: Being able to surround myself with smart people. This is also the hardest part. When I get stuck, I call friends and peers.

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

4 days.

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

I think the fact that in the first three years of my career, I had the opportunity to get in early on a startup that grew like crazy and sold fast. This played a major role in starting my own business very young, but with a lot more wisdom.

What software could you not live without?


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


In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?

Google Goggles.

Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?

Not sure. I think we're in a very inconsistent time with design right now. No one is really standing out.

Who is your target audience?

People who have most of their brand experiences through connected devices.

What area of web design lacks the most?

Information design.

Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?

It's always nice to be recognized, and the FWA awards are widely respected. 

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

Very difficult. We spend a lot of time working through consumer research to find an insight worth building on.

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

A Geocities Wu-Tang tribute site. And no, unfortunately it's not - some of the best animated GIFs of my career.

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

I have not, but would love to if I could find the time. I've tried, but naturally am more a screenplay kind of guy.

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?

Traveling is the best distraction, like a rest tool for the soul.

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?

I think the most powerful social media experience, period, is Twitter. I am constantly amazed at how people continue to find new ways to use the service.

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?

I think digital is becoming more of people's everyday lives each day. As a result, digital solutions are becoming more and more relevant. I read a stat recently that said kids born today will spend over 30% of their lives looking at screens. That's pretty incredible.

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

Over the next 10 years, the web will either become the de facto software platform for everything or the largest data access and distribution system we've ever seen.

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

Our own, of course :)

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. Some of the best never went to school - most likely because they taught themselves things much earlier than they would have learned in school. I always found school too slow.

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

Build something no one has ever seen before. Be daring.

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

What is a web designer? I think there are information designers, interaction designers, UX designers, visual designers and engineers. Sometimes you get a cross-section of a couple of those, but today it takes a team to build amazing experiences that stand out.

What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?


When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?

Knocking on doors. Lots of travel.

How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?

Lots of reading.

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?

Anything with Nike.

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

In both cases, I hope we keep growing.

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

A house.


Joe Olsen, CEO and co-founder of Phenomblue.
Joe Olsen, CEO and co-founder of Phenomblue.

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