I think Flash will still be around for a few years, especially in games and applications.
If only Apple would buy out Adobe…
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
Max Galli, 44 years old, Italian, from a long line of Milanesi.
After years of studying graphic art and visual communications, some master’s courses and various workshops, I began my career as a freelance designer about 20 years ago. Pencils, Pantone, paintbrushes and the Minolta 9000 were the tools I used to express myself.
Apple had launched their Mac plus, but it was not available in Italy yet. After years of creating covers for the record industry, Internet finally came along.
By 1996 I had some 20 Websites in my portfolio.
I founded vanGoGh in 2002 and, together with my partner, began seeking talent for it from all over the world. I was the interactive creative director there until 2008.
Now that I have surrounded myself with people who have much more talent than I do, I have become the CEO and focus my energy on strategy, relations and management.
What do you do for inspiration?
My daughter. She’s a little artist who, even though she’s only 5, shows me all her love and imbues me tremendous energy through her designs and her creative and transparent vision of the world.
Art. Some works of art, some museums and some artists have something magical that exerts an incredible influence on me. As I am gazing at the work of art I would rather be in front of a blank canvas to express all the emotions that explode inside me at that moment.
vanGoGh employees get to go to exhibits, movies and museums of all types for free as these are a real source of artistic inspiration for them. We crave stimulus, and if we don’t have some new and exciting nectar our creative capacity tends to stop growing.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
www.ultranoir.com, http://hellomonday.com/, www.ro.me
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
My twenty very satisfying years of activity notwithstanding, I still see myself as being on the tenth step of a 100-step stairway. Every goal reached, every race won and every new award that rewards us for a project that has distinguished itself on a national or international level represents a very important moment of my professional life. The latest great success, thanks to my team, was to represent Italy and win the Webby Awards in New York for the www.vespa.com project.
How many hours do you work each week?
Although work is my overriding passion, my life is not made up of only that.
In order to improve, I think that it’s vitally important to find time for oneself and one’s family.
My typical day begins at 6am. I alternate between yoga exercises and running, then I meditate for twenty minutes. It’s something I have been doing for six years now.
I then take an hour to get updated (FWA ;-)), after which I throw myself headlong into the day which, I’m lucky to say, is always different and exciting. At 8 pm I finish.
How do you relax or unwind?
I learned meditation skills a few years ago and now I can’t do without it. Great ideas can come from silence, from full immersion into yourself and from relaxing your mind completely.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
When I am not working I like to paint, make music (I once played the guitar and I sang in a rock band up until last year, when they got rid of me and recorded an album ;-)) and I “train” others (a few years ago I became a coach and, for fun, I offer my experience to people who seek personal growth).
Amazingly enough, I even find time to spend with my family.
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
There was a time when I preferred the creative aspect of my work, but now I am really into the strategy that lies above creative thought.
The hardest part, which is also the part that intrigues me the most, is convincing clients that you really are offering them the best possible solution. To do this you need relationship skills that bring together psychology-empathy and professional expertise.
When I get stuck I stop. I take a break, step back for even just 5 minutes and clear my mind of all thoughts. After that I find the answer.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
Having decided in 1994 that the internet would be my future.
What software could you not live without?
Photoshop. You never forget your first love.
How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?
We can follow 3 or 4 projects at the same time with specialized teams.
The choices we make, however, are based on quality. If we don’t have the time and budget to craft a quality project we won’t take on the job.
Developing a lot of projects at the same time does not correspond to high quality results.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
I have a great deal of respect for North Kingdom, Group 94, B-reel and, of course, vanGoGh
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
Our first objective when developing a site is to increase its power to attract users. Design plays a very important role in this. We live in a very visually-oriented society which, before even going in to explore the content, evaluates the aesthetic quality. If the container is not attractive, then the contents are often left untouched.
Who is your target audience?
People who understand the importance of an equal balance between the quality of the content and the quality of the container. Companies who appreciate the many details and the passion we put into our work.
What area of web design lacks the most?
I think young web designers need a bit of “old school” training when it comes to the use of typography. The importance of choosing just the right font and knowing how to use it in just the right way should not be underestimated.
Are there any websites that have shone through as being pioneering in the last 5 years or so?
Starting with the past, perhaps “get the glass” was very illuminating for me. Last year ro.me was able to draw a clear boundary between the past and the future.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
Sure! The FWA award gives our agency a great deal of prestige and helps keep the team united in its goals. It is always a joy and an honour to be selected by FWA.
When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?
Knowing how to interpret the needs of the client is increasingly an art in and of itself. Psychology and NLP are valid tools to help steer you away from mistakes.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
The first site I designed was in 1994 for the Teatro della Scala in Milan. A more recent version of it is now online. My version was better.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
No, I have never written a book and I have no intentions of doing so. If and when I find something with which I can leave an indelible mark, then I’ll consider it.
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?
We are that which we see, feel and hear and if we don’t constantly stimulate our “lateral thought” our creative capacity will diminish. That’s why we at vanGoGh offer the chance to stimulate our senses by giving free access to movies and cinema.
I personally spend a good deal of time training others, I love meeting and getting to know successful people to study their makeup and learn as much as I can from them.
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 love sites that use the information and passion of facebook users and then transform them into interactive activities based on the “likes” declared and aimed at involving the user himself. An good example of this is www.lotus2012.com
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?
For several years now all the activities we have been involved in are multichannel. The strength of the agency is to come up with a concept which can be applied with the same effect in all the media used.
An interesting case we are working on now for an Italian milk producer has resulted in a really unusual road. An activity that began on the Web and social media will soon become a print campaign and a TV spot.
It’s a great victory for digital souls such as ours!
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?
Multichanneling is a must this day and age. The consumer asks for it. There are still many people out there who are attracted by a TV spot, a print campaign and an interactive site. Users have different levels of sensitivity and we as communicators have the duty to satisfy this type of diversity.
The Web is and will always be increasingly vital to the marketing mix and this, as far as I am concerned, is already a victory.
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
Our thoughts will probably allow us to navigate with all types of devices.
We will be the actors, puppets and directors all at the same time because we will have given so much personal information to the social media that we will be recognized, accompanied and conditioned in every environment. The Web will be outside of the Web, and access to all types of information will be much more rapid than we can even imagine it now.
Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?
Vespa.com was one we put a massive amount of effort into and we are really very proud of the results. It’s a blend of video, motion graphics, 3D, Flash, Flex, etc…
Our efforts were also much appreciated internationally. The project dates to 2010 and has won a variety of prizes worldwide, the latest, as I mentioned earlier, was the Webby award.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
Vespa.com, which although it is an institutional brand site, is also about a product. It is entirely managed by CMS and is multi-lingual. It took the team 5 months to make it and it is still on-line.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
I have always considered Flash as the only solution to really thrill the user. Over the years I have had some real battles with stupid thick-headed technicians who were fixated on html and who hated Mac and Flash because they couldn’t understand its communicative potential. Then, all of a sudden, I was betrayed by Steve Jobs who, for entirely economic reasons, banned Flash.
Now the great potential of html5, webgl and paper js has just about made up for the differences with Flash. Well, almost.
I think Flash will still be around for a few years, especially in games and applications.
If only Apple would buy out Adobe…
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
School increases a student’s technique, not talent. I’m sure it is of great help for establishing the basis for future growth and it is often the road that leads to the agency. I am convinced that you can learn a lot more in 60 days of agency work than in a year of schooling.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
Having a very clear idea of your goals helps you to achieve them. Knowing your limits helps you to exceed them. You have to invest in personal and professional growth so that you never stop learning. You have to have the courage to make mistakes and let those who work with you also make them. You have to find the time to simply stop and think, to find the right balance between logic and your heart, and smile.
How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?
Very difficult, especially when you have set very high standards. Fortunately, a person’s portfolio reveals a lot about his expertise and abilities. I will take advantage of this interview, if I may, to make an announcement: we are looking for a very talented senior interactive art director. If you know of someone who wants to work in Italy, please give them my e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org
How do you keep up with the latest capabilities of Flash or do you rely on other members of you team to do this?
It really helps to have a team that looks far beyond the horizon. Sharing experiences and knowledge is vital to increasing our own personal value, and that of the agency as well.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
My Aprilia Motò. An old bike designed by Philippe Starck.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
I think it was showing the quality of the work we had done up to that point, even though the portfolio was not very full at that time.
Meticulous attention to detail has always been one of our main priorities and clients appreciated it. We also had a tremendous ability to look beyond the ordinary and see colour where others saw only grey, and our ability to see “summer even in winter” has always fascinated our clients.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
Keep up to date with everything, experiment and don’t stop even when faced with something seemingly impossible. Be curious and absorb everything. Never ever stop learning.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
If we don’t nurture our creative abilities through research, reading, exploration and experimentation we will never be able to innovate and create trends.
You have to have the right points of reference. And you need to follow them.
What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?
I think that in a few years time China will amaze us all. We have an office in Hong Kong where I have met with agencies the western world has never heard of, agencies with an enormous potential and competences to create excellent projects, for now only for their own domestic market. They study us and are inspired by us, by Sweden, Australia and Brazil, and they learn. In silence.
They will make their mark, soon.
There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
For some time now I’ve been working on a project/live performance that blends interactivity, painting and guitars. Unfortunately, it is still only in the embryonic stage.
What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?
I know I have a great deal of responsibility on my shoulders. The future of my agency, apart from the quality and the motivation of the team, depends on my choices of strategy. I feel a bit like a father to those who work at vanGoGh, a protective dad who looks ahead, way ahead, but still has his feet firmly on the ground.
What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?
I have something new to learn every day. Every day there is some new challenge to overcome. The important thing is to face everything in a positive way and to have a plan.
Confucius said “If there is a solution to the problem, why get angry? If there is no solution to the problem, why get angry?” I have coined a sort of personal slogan: “Intention, attention, no tention.”
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
An olive tree for my Zen garden.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
I put on my Basque.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Intention, attention, no tention.
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
Thank you! The pleasure was all mine.