Simple is good! There is a shift towards lean, super-slick websites and products that spread easily over all devices and platforms.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
My name is Martin Strutz. I’m Creative Director at Jung von Matt/Alster. From 1999 to 2004 I studied ‘Media Information and Science’ in Hamburg and ‘Multimedia Design’ in Cape Town. I joined Jung von Matt in 2005 just as the agency set their focus on the digital world, and have worked on digital and integrated campaigns ever since.
What do you do for inspiration?
I love going to museums and art exhibitions, traveling, reading blogs and magazines, flipping through portfolios or boards on pinterest. But strolling through the city as well as simply talking to our creative teams and colleagues is probably the greatest source of inspiration after all.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
My favorite sites are: Google, TripAdvisor and most importantly Wikipedia. Not from a design perspective, but because they are really, really useful.
How many hours do you work each week?
I work from 9 to 6 (1 hour lunch break included).
How do you relax or unwind?
Traveling, even for a few days, does it for me. Being away from the everyday routines is the best way to disconnect completely. Running at night or in the early morning hours helps too.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
Being a DoP must be fun – having all the latest tools to play with and a whole crew that will help you creating the perfect picture. Not bad.
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 like that everyone tends to be very passionate about what they do. This passion for our projects makes working at Jung von Matt feel a little less like work.
The hardest part is probably seeing your concepts die or being dragged piece by piece into mediocrity. Because when you love something – it gets personal.
And when I get stuck, talking to someone who has a different view on the project often helps. After that everything falls into place.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
Trying to get into Jung von Matt was probably one of the best decisions I made for my career. I was lucky to get hired and to find great people who helped me to grow step by step. Working in such a great place opens a lot of doors and gives you that relaxed feeling of freedom to choose where to take it from here.
What software could you not live without?
I would trade any software for a house on the beach.
How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?
It must be quite a few – the people seem to be very busy all the time.
What area of web design lacks the most?
Web design continues to be limited by what is technologically possible. When you print a book for instance it will end up looking even better than the layout. The way it’s produced, the fine paper, beautiful colors, etc.
With web design it’s different. Most of the time it will look worse than you intended it to be – due to technical limitations.
Not only Apple products have proven that looking at the whole picture including the design and the technical environment may result in a more beautiful user experience.
Are there any websites that have shone through as being pioneering in the last 5 years or so?
Not really… it’s more about trending concepts or styles that are hard to tie to one ‘inventor’ – like Nike’s ‘Better World’ for example. Were they pioneering the concept of parallax scrolling HTML 5 sites, or is it only the most famous one? I don’t know…
Ah... there’s one that I found tremendously innovative and that I liked a lot: the Modernista! 2008 website.
When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?
Creatives in different fields often face the same challenges. Take automotive designers for instance: They come up with beautiful concept cars with breathtaking lines and perfect proportions. After the motor show, when it comes to mass production, the prototype will be stripped down due to national laws, international laws, production costs, requirements to build in parts off the rack, etc.
With designing interfaces for wide audiences it’s the same: the more needs you have to meet, the further you move away from state of the art.
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?
There a quite a few. With ‘Pay with a Tweet‘ for example, my former colleagues Christian and Leif used Twitter to create a virtual currency. Social media still has a huge potential to change not only the digital world.
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?
When Mercedes-Benz introduced the new C-Class Coupé the strategy was ‘digital first’ from the very beginning. With “Drive & Seek” we created an interactive movie that led the international campaign through all media including print, TVC, CRM, social media and mobile in more than 30 countries worldwide.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
No, not really. It’s already fading, isn’t it?
There is perhaps a shift in web use these days. We are seeing a decline in the purely experiential sites in flash with huge production efforts, to a relationship with clients based on tools and services, that many times have simples interfaces. How do you see that trend developing? Will flash suffer?
Simple is good! There is a shift towards lean, super-slick websites and products that spread easily over all devices and platforms. We don’t depend on Flash the way we use to a few years ago – even more than that: today you need to ask yourself: what specifically is it that I can only do by using flash and do I really need that.
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, I think that’s very possible. The tools are easily accessible and the young bloods are using software intuitively. But why skip the fun part?
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
Try to figure out what you like, what you don’t like and where you want to go with your skills. Try to speak to people. How do they see you?
How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?
Finding really talented people is hard – but I guess it always has been.
How do you keep up with the latest capabilities of Flash or do you rely on other members of you team to do this?
I coded myself before I got into advertising – so I do have an understanding of the basic concepts of programming. Knowing what is possible is essential, but at Jung von Matt/Alster we primarely focus on ideas and concept more than on using the latest features. One reason is, that advertising addresses a broad audience that is rarely the super hip cats with the latest equipment. But we talk a lot to our tech people to try to improve our stuff, find better solutions or simply get a different perspective on the projects.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
A Sonos Play 5 – easy to use and works pretty well with Spotify and Napster.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Colonel Trautman tells this story in Rambo III, i believe:
“There was a sculptor. He found this stone, a special stone. He dragged it home and he worked on it for months until he finally finished it. When he was ready he showed it to his friends. They said he had created a great masterpiece, but the sculptor said he hadn't created anything. The statue was always there, he just chipped away the rough edges.”
It's a pretty neat description of what Creative Directors do: picking the right stones and chipping away the edges.
It has been a privilege, thanks very much