As I get bored very quickly, my career is mainly built on challenges. So far, the most fruitful decision was to leave my comfort zone in France and experience living somewhere else without any idea where to start.

Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

Before joining BBDO and Proximity Singapore in December 2013, I was into startups and freelance jobs for 7 years. Before that, I spent four years teaching different disciplines of Computer Science at one of the universities in Marseille (France). 

I saw the idea of joining BBDO and Proximity as a great opportunity to work with a brilliant team on the massive brands that the network is taking care of. BBDO and Proximity Singapore is really a great place to work at right now.

What do you do for inspiration?

Even if Singapore is a tropical country with the most humid climate you can find, I walk a lot. I got Jawbone recently and I make sure to walk my 10,000 steps a day. Ideas pop up all the time when you walk.

I also have a 18 month old baby and he is a permanent source of inspiration. Beyond creativity, I am slightly obsessed with UX and actually look at my kid as an inspiration for what the most natural interactions should be.

But as a coder, I do like how ideas pop up when coding something from scratch in order to try fresh tech like a new API or a hardware gadget.  It can really result in incredibly innovative concepts. This is what creative tech is all about.

What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

If we talk about work, the World Under Water campaign went far beyond our expectations. This is a career achievement for everybody involved. I like the simplicity of the idea. There was a lot of guts in pushing it forward.

How many hours do you work each week?

I spend a minimum of 40 to 50 hours a week in the office. But honestly, you never stop working, you never stop thinking about projects, ideas, concepts. A designer probably visualises layers in his head at any point of time, I see lines of code.

How do you relax or unwind?

I do find it very difficult to relax in Singapore. It’s a city that’s permanent moving. I am Mediterranean and relaxing is a bit of a national sport where I am from. So to really relax, you have to get out of the country. It’s very easy to fly cheaply around South-East Asia. Weekend breaks are the best.

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

My brother-in-law and his wife opened a café a couple of months ago. I would probably be a waiter there, your typical arrogant French waiter.

But in my wildest dreams, I am also a musician. I love analog synths; I have a few of them. I like the physics behind them and the fact it can produce the weirdest sounds. Now I get bored too fast to produce anything significant with them though.

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

Well, World Under Water like any ambitious work with a short deadline required a strong effort. The team probably slept an average of 2-3 hours a night during the 4 weeks it took to complete the build.

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

As I get bored very quickly, my career is mainly built on challenges. So far, the most fruitful decision was to leave my comfort zone in France and experience living somewhere else without any idea where to start. I had no job when I moved to Singapore so I had to create one to be able to stay. And here I am now in BBDO and Proximity Singapore with a great team – the perfect timing for things to happen.

What software could you not live without?

Because I am primarily a coder, Atom, Chrome and a Terminal app need to be installed on my computer. The less you have, the more inventive you have to be. In my opinion you need to be in full control of your entire development stack to be able to build creative pieces of software.

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

Proximity Singapore works on an average of 25 projects at any one time (this ranges from banners, EDMs to microsite and platform builds).

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

As a coder, I am very impressed with WebGL and the creative potential of using 3D in our work more often. This is now running well on high-end Android smartphones and I hope the upcoming Apple devices will support it. Web Audio is also getting exciting. We can theorically build a full synthesiser in a browser. This is mad.

On the hardware side, I am quite impatient to see what the first Android Wear smart watches are going to bring to the market. This is a new screen, especially the round model from the Moto X which potentially is a new coding and design frontier. We should not be surprised to see more unusual screen shapes in the future. As we have mainly built experiences for rectangular screens overthe last 30 years, this could be a challenge but a very exciting one.

Who is your target audience?

Proximity Singapore builds platforms and digital campaigns for most markets across Asia (and sometimes beyond).

The Singapore audience is very mobile-savvy. Android and iOS are everywhere here. It’s very much a western market in terms of equipment and an easy audience to work with.

The rest of the countries around the region can be very different. For example, China still has high usage numbers for old browsers such as Internet Explorer 6, 7 and 8. This is a reality we have to deal with and we usually deal with it by degrading the experience towards low end browsers in order not to penalise early adopters of modern browsers.

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

It’s not online but I can recall it was a blinking h1 served via a CGI in C language. This was 1995 or 1996.

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

If you’d asked me this question a few years ago, I would have told you that HTML was doomed because of the rise of smartphones and the explosion of native apps.

HTML is still in the picture because of the huge fragmentation of the devices market. It’s incredibly difficult to build and maintain a native app for every single device out there while it’s very easy to build something in HTML based on responsive design.

So I do think HTML should still be relevant for many years. And let’s be honest, this is still a very exciting technology with new features that keep popping up.

Now, in 10 years, I do expect micro-interactions with brands and services across different types of public and personal devices. HTML, 30+ years after its birth, could still be the solution to power most of these interactions, but the real building block of this future is not the interface itself, it’s the underlying scalable infrastructure powered by APIs at its core.

APIs are the most important piece of technology in my opinion. There are going to be so many connected devices out there that APIs will be the real solution to deliver interactions regardless of the device capabilities. They are the real building blocks of the future. Proximity Singapore authored a thought paper on that topic last year.(http://www.slideshare.net/BBDO/apis-the-buildingblocksofthefuture).

This is not sexy from a design point of view but backend nerds are excited because this is what we think the future holds.

Designers will still have a lot of work, actually more work as there will be more screens out there in different shapes with variable ways of interacting with them. But I’m not sure we will still call them websites. This is going to be cool.

What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?

My wife and I are space geeks so I wouldn’t mind travelling around the galaxy at the speed of light.

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

Leading a team of coders in an agency means I need to make sure we are always on top of best practices and technologies. At the end of day, this is all about reaching the highest possible standard when implementing creative work.

We have two different streams to help with that.

First, we share recommended readings among our group or larger group with modern tools such as Piethis or Slack. We prefer Piethis so far. They are from Singapore and have built a fantastic tool. This is also a way for us to support the local scene. We also have Yammer at a company level to share readings which are in everybody’s interest.

Then we have weekly tech meetings in which one member of the team will present to the rest of us something new that has emerged in the recent months on the development scene. At the end of it, we decide as a group if it makes sense to integrate it in our workflow.

We don’t simply use new tech for the sake of it. So to answer the question, and because of the massive amount of information that reaches us every day, we have delegated innovation and intelligence to the entire team. Everybody is on it. I simply need to keep driving everything in what I think is the right direction.

What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?

In the last 6 years that I have been in Singapore, I have seen tremendous growth in the local startup ecosystem, suggesting it will become soon enough one of the global capitals of innovation like Silicon Valley, London or Tel Aviv. Still, I do feel we are not quitethere yet and are still lagging behind what’s being done elsewhere. There are some cultural barriers, which once removed, will lead to an explosion of quality work from this part of the world.

In Europe, being French, I am quite excited by the current quality of the French web design scene. There is not a week that goes by without a French agency producing some fantastic digital work. The French are like that. They need time to master the tools. Once they do, they produce amazing work. It is very similar to how the French suddenly dominated the electronic music scene out of nowhere.

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

I don’t really know what’s next. I like spontaneity in ideas and being instinctive when building things. I like video and I like the idea of dynamic cinematics. I do feel we will see an explosion of customised video auto-generated based on personal and public data.

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

I am learning Processing with the idea of figuring out an elegant and visual way to interact with all the data available out there.

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

A ridiculously expensive blade-less fan. Kid’s safety first.

Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

Whatever your discipline, learn something new everyday. I mean it.

It has been a privilege, thanks very much

Thanks Rob.


The team from BBDO and Proximity Singapore that worked on World Under Water.
The team from BBDO and Proximity Singapore that worked on World Under Water.

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