Ten years into the future I predict things to revolve even more around unified logins like your Facebook account or similar, making it possible to tailor most experiences to you on your computer, phone, TV, in your car etc.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
Born on 22.11.77 just outside Copenhagen. Creative parents who were both in the music-industry back then, raised me with lots of music, smoke and other exotic things filling the air all through my early years. Made my first website in 1997, started at In2media in the end of 1999 and stayed there for 10 years stopping as Executive Creative Director in 2010 to try out life abroad. Spent the last part of 2010 as Creative Director at B-Reel NYC, working with some amazing people on some exciting projects. Went back to Denmark to pursue a dream of having my own company. I AM PELLE http://iampelle.com has been at it for a year now with great success, working mostly with own clients and doing a bit of freelance once in a while as well. This is my 2nd FWA interview and a lot has changed since the last where I was representing In2media.
How many hours do you work each week?
Having your own company changes your daily routines and you soon see work-time and spare-time float together. It is not a bad thing though, I love what I do and my clients benefit from that flexibility. That also means I usually have way more than the normal 40 hour week.
How do you relax or unwind?
I love traveling and I try to do that as much as possible, I value the time when not working and I try to spend that with my wife, friends and family. I am a sucker for good food and enjoy cooking - a good glass of wine is not the worst thing either.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
I feel extremely lucky to have found this occupation and to actually be quite good at it. At the same time I got accepted at the Graphic Design School I was actually offered a job within the world of television, and I expect I would have been producing television today if I hadn't done what I do... Or maybe been a professional race car driver?
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 pushing boundaries in design and technology - I am fascinated by the human interaction with interfaces and that motivates me in each project. The hardest part of my job is when I feel restrained by bureaucracy. Working with larger agencies can be really tough, you have to deal with internal hierarchy battles and old ways of working that doesn't fit with the collaborative nature of digital advertising and that can compromise the end-result.
But everything in life is build on compromises and you just need to make that your advantage. Become good at speaking your case and selling your work, but at the same time be open to other people's input and don't be afraid to throw away work if a better idea appears.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
I think the strongest digital people are people that have a broad background but have specialized at a later state. I personally started up by designing and coding a bit of HTML and Flash. The insight I have in coding helps me today making better concepts, designs and UX that the developers can easily implement. Having an interest in human behavior helps when targeting user groups and is the main component of making great UX. So you could say that my decision to go in the design direction made a huge difference to me at an early state.
How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?
I can manage two or three projects at a time using my network of production people. Starting out on my own I really tried to fill my calendar with work as far into the future as I could, but that meant that I had to say no to some really exciting projects in that start-up phase. Now the jobs I get are usually bigger and I don't plan ahead as much. I have some clients that I have long term deals with now and gives me the steady income I need to focus on making really good work.
What area of web design lacks the most?
Online is a relatively new discipline and we are just now beginning to see people in our part of the business that are really good at understanding the world of advertising and mechanisms that are on play there. This has been a big disadvantage for a long time but I am sure we will see more 360 enabled people coming out in the next generation.
Another big problem is that some people don't get that users just want the best possible experience and don't care what technology is used. For instance mobile almost always needs a platform specific solution no matter if you start up with a HTML site or not, touch interacting is just fundamentally different than mouse control so you should make a specific solution for that. So you might as well make a nice Flash site for the computer and a super optimized HTML solution for the mobile devices.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
When I won the first in 2005 I didn't even know it. It wasn't until a year later that I saw it was there :) Since then winning FWA sites is the single most important merit I have, and in our world people really recognize FWAs as the best badge of honor. Placing a FWA ribbon on your portfolio cases makes you proud and your competition will look up to you :) When writing this I have won 13 FWA awards (11 web and 2 mobile), by myself and with agencies.
When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?
You need great insight in the audience to make good solutions for global brands. You rarely do this kind of work alone and you often get a lot of intel from the client before embarking on a job like that. You don't need to fall to the lowest common denominator to make good, broad solutions. If people like the brand already, they like it for a reason. Maybe they like the brand because of it's American values, so you don't want to globalize that part to fit the broad audience. Go with the flow and listen to your client, they have a lot of experience - but make your own conclusions, they hired you for a reason.
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?
Not long ago I helped make http://www.umwelt.dk. Their name means "the world around" and that inspired us for making a site that heavily relies on social media. All content on the Flash site is managed by their Facebook page. If they upload a gallery on Facebook we display it as a gallery on their site etc. Content is displayed chronological and it feeds in their twits as well. The site has no header or footer, it relies on a search area that is scattered around the content. It works quite well.
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?
The new currency of the world is data and this data can be displayed to the user via a ton of different interfaces - interactive or static. Working with insight and understanding of demography greatly helps us target the right users but also allow us to make some very clever new ways of communicating more locally, directly and precisely where the recipient is. I am sure you will see more campaigns going very local. Imagine a busstop saying that 54% of the people on the bus you are entering have this kind of phone and the most popular app is this and that, updated from data flowing in the air. All this melting together is very exciting.
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
Ten years into the future I predict things to revolve even more around unified logins like your Facebook account or similar, making it possible to tailor most experiences to you on your computer, phone, TV, in your car etc. I also think we will see more live content and I am afraid we will see a bunch of reality internet just as on TV. I think advertising will find great new ways of working online and I predict the death of banners - fingers crossed.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
My main advice would be to make the websites for the target audience and not to win awards. Make the best possible solutions that tells the story you want to tell and use the effects that underlines this in the best way. Strip it down visually to only a few effects that you make sure are spot on and sweeps the audience off their feet. Less is more but nothing is nothing, so don't forget to have a little eye-candy in there as well.
How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?
It is extremely difficult. Several thousands of people are educated to fill creative positions in Denmark each year, and from them it can be hard to find the few that really shines. Finding a more experienced person can be very difficult as well, many people have the same cases on their portfolios, and it can be super hard to determine who has done what.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
Over the years I have found that it is more a question of having confidence in your own style than looking too much towards others. You do get inspired by seeing so much good and bad work being done, but having confidence in picking the right trends and putting them together in new ways is the key. Like with fashion you see pioneering trends that over a long lifespan become mainstream and die out, and remember that not all clients have an interest in being pioneers!
There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
I want to make an interactive game using all the video billboards on Times Square... I even have a very good idea for it!
What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?
So many exciting things are going on at the moment. I am starting a small company around a single client as an experiment right now and I have just hired my first employee to I AM PELLE, and thinking of changing the name... I have in just one year gone from doing a lot of freelance for agencies to now mostly work directly with fantastic clients. I am not rushing anything and my goal is to make great work more than making great money.
What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?
I am still learning a lot from traditional advertising and I am trying to port those mechanisms into digital. I am also building a deeper understanding of human behavior online and in real life because I am positive that is the most important factor in making great concepts and solutions.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
You can follow me on twitter to get some potential pearls in the future. http://twitter.com/pelsen
You can also find I AM PELLE on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/pages/I-AM-PELLE/112386545477858
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
A real pleasure, thank you!