.

 

I think we, as an industry, often fall into the trap of developing for ourselves and expecting users to tolerate a lot of complexity. We cater to too many opinions and use cases, and need to focus more on context. Responsive design and mobile are positive forces changing this: we now prototype on devices instead of 27-inch monitors, and emphasize usability over just sex appeal. Simple is sexy... and a lot more challenging.

question Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

I am the Managing Partner at Soap Creative, a digital creative agency focused on bringing brands and consumers together through play. I lead our studios in Los Angeles and Dallas across an awesome roster of clients. I’m a gamer, a father, and a fanboy of the future – though not always in that order.

question How many hours do you work each week?

Typically 80-100 hours, though a lot of that doesn’t feel like work.
That still leaves 40.5% of the week.

question 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 love the breadth of my job – playing with great brands every day, each one a different challenge. I actually enjoy the ups and downs of the creative process even more than whatever results.

The hardest part of my job is stepping back. I’m zealous about the work, and have the most fun in the formative stages of the project, but I don’t get to focus exclusively on any one thing for long. That said, the core of leadership is really helping everyone else be successful, so I try to channel more of my energy on challenging the team and our clients toward creating the best possible product.

And when you get stuck? Get outside of the puzzle. One of the things we focus on internally is not tackling challenges (or competition) head-on. Doing so is more likely to lead to sameness or frustration than a breakthrough, so we try to come at things from an unexpected angle. When it’s not working, we change the lens.

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

I’m assuming by the question that the Internet is no more, and mankind now finds itself scattered amidst a post-apocalyptic wasteland without the random joys of Reddit? In that case, I’d probably be grabbing all the ammo I could find since the zombies won’t be far behind.

question What do you do for inspiration?

I’m a big fan of art and architecture, for instance – so I travel with that in mind, and to force myself to get lost somewhere new. It’s invaluable to keep perspective on the real world, and you find interesting connections in random places. I find inspiration, and innovation for that matter, comes from bridging seemingly unrelated information and experiences – so I try to maintain an insatiable appetite for both. I also binge on an unhealthy volume of games and movies in any free time (which falls somewhere between random inspiration and work, I guess), or get out on the water to clear my head.

question Please list your three favorite sites.

Polygon covers the gaming space in a beautiful way. Circa is amazing – a curated fire hose of information for people that want to know everything, but have little time (I know this person). And Pocket to aggregate everything else. I think it’s telling that the last two are really mobile apps rather than sites.

question What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

I am incapable of contentment – so while I’m happy with many steps along the way, and in awe of the people around me, I hope that achievement is yet to come. If that answer isn’t acceptable, then I’d say starring in the 3rd grade Christmas play. It’s all been downhill from there.

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

With three studios -- and a push toward smaller, more versatile project teams – we have the capacity to create a lot during the year. It’s pretty amazing when we go to pull it all together. There’s usually a few projects launched each week between Los Angeles, Dallas and Sydney, and if the launch email goes quiet for a while you know something epic is about to come. We always have a variety of projects in in the works, for our clients and for ourselves, but the teams are structured to focus on making one great thing… they’re not hired to juggle.

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

38 consecutive hours. I do not recommend it, and I won’t be doing that again.

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

Uber, Wired and IDEO. Uber shows how vital design has become to the product experience (of course, Apple paved the way). They clearly made the decision every day to focus and simplify until the experience was great. Saying ‘no’ to seemingly good features is hard, and essential. IDEO’s human-centered philosophy gets to the same point, and I’m inspired both by their work and the process that gets them there. Wired isn’t a design company; but don’t tell them that – I love the playfulness they embed into every page. It’s surprisingly immersive by design, and they’ve done it consistently for years.

question What area of web design lacks the most?

I think we, as an industry, often fall into the trap of developing for ourselves and expecting users to tolerate a lot of complexity. We cater to too many opinions and use cases, and need to focus more on context. Responsive design and mobile are positive forces changing this: we now prototype on devices instead of 27-inch monitors, and emphasize usability over just sex appeal. Simple is sexy... and a lot more challenging.

question Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?

Definitely. Our clients really understand what an FWA means, and they appreciate the recognition just as much as we do. FWA has become the water cooler for an ever-evolving industry: people go there to discover something fun, new and different. We’re very proud to have our FWAs on the wall here at Soap.

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

It’s not difficult. We primarily work on global brands and IP across a breadth of major clients – we want to create things that millions can embrace. We focus largely on building experiences around play, so the wider the audience the more potential ‘players’ we can reach. That’s all we can ask for. That doesn’t mean catering to every variable though – the challenge is to choose what matters, and filter out the rest. At the end of the day, we’re trying to craft the best possible experience.

question 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?

Dumb Ways to Die. The key to social (IMHO) is that you make something worth sharing in the first place, and that campaign had a simple idea reinforced through brilliant executions that were all worth spreading around. There is no wizardry – it worked because it’s good. It’s good because it’s playful and unexpected. I wish that people would stop thinking about how to game the system as though social media is SEO; it’s about people and the things they love enough to put their name behind.

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

The work I’m most proud of all comes from tapping into people’s innate desire to play, and by no coincidence that tends to correlate with some of our greatest results. I’m hesitant to lionize any one project, but I’m very proud of The World’s Biggest PAC-MAN – the largest PAC-MAN maze in history (ask Guinness!). I love the simplicity in the idea, the way it empowers the creativity of fans, the way it literally brings them together, and the fact that it continues to thrive even years later.

question What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?

I live in Los Angeles, so I don’t need an overcoat. Flashing in an overcoat also sounds like grounds for arrest!

question What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?

I think there are great things to be learned in design schools. I also think some programs are better than others. Your aim in school should be to do as much work as possible under real-world scenarios: thought provoking briefs, working in teams, with critical revisions required along the way, and 80% of the time you wished you had. That’s reality. Learn the theory; but focus on making things – create something every day whether it’s assigned or not. The real value of higher education has less to do with knowledge, and more to do with shaping how you think. Of course, you don’t need to get a Bachelor’s degree to do that, and you don’t necessarily even need to major in design if you do. We’ve hired all kinds.

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

My advice to students assembling their portfolios would be “show your thinking”. It’s not enough to have beautiful work; how you got there, your role in the process, and the decisions you made along the way are just as important.

question What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?

I drove a 2001 Civic until earlier this year, so anything would be an upgrade.
Ultimate? The alien ship from Flight of the Navigator.

question Do you think Flash is here to stay?

Flash will be gone as soon as someone else delivers the same capability at scale. We’re not there yet. HTML5 and Unity have earned the future of the market, but I think Flash still has an important role to play for web-based gaming and advertising over the next five years.

question What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?

Israel. They have judiciously developed an ecosystem for it – highly educated engineering talent, access to capital and an ambitious entrepreneurial spirit. We’re going to hear more and more from Israel over the next few years.

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

We’ve had quite a few dream projects at Soap; but I’m still looking for any excuse to build a robot. Please send all robot-related briefs through to griswold@soapcreative.com!

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

Xbox One and Playstation 4 – priceless.

question Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

This has been fun, thanks. How about we end on a haiku to mix it up.

Idea – awesome!
Iterate, Iterate, Launch.
F-W-A.


Links

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Matt Griswold, Managing Partner at Soap Creative
Matt Griswold, Managing Partner at Soap Creative

The World's Biggest PAC-MAN.
The World's Biggest PAC-MAN.

Splinter Cell Blacklist Spider-Bot.
Splinter Cell Blacklist Spider-Bot.

Pi's Epic Journey.
Pi's Epic Journey.

Disney Infinity campaign.
Disney Infinity campaign.

The Wolverine Unleashed.
The Wolverine Unleashed.

The Wolverine Experience.

American Airlines Mobile Apps.
American Airlines Mobile Apps.

Original artwork from Star Wars: Galactic Spy.
Original artwork from Star Wars: Galactic Spy.

Infinity Blade Experience.
Infinity Blade Experience.

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