Pay attention to all your details. If not, they will betray you.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
I'm a 37 years old Swede who has been working as an interactive art director since 1998. I love to work within design and new technology, crazy ideas and to spend time on details. I spent my first five years in the business at Paregos in Skellefteå before I started up North Kingdom 2003 in the same town (together with Roger Stighäll) where I’m still working today.
What do you do for inspiration?
Travelling and meeting interesting people. I have so many ideas inside me but it's when I'm away from my daily work most of these ideas pops out and eventually time will test them. When I can’t travel 24/7 I love watching new breaking design solutions, typography, movies, illustrations, 3D and architecture using Google Reader.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
Facebook - because I’m using it way too often and how this site has set new standards on social behavior on the web is amazing. Even my mum, born in the early 40s, is using it frequently.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
The making of North Kingdom. Talking about awards it’s maybe the Black Pencil we received for Get the Glass and the two times we won both FWA SOTY (Site Of The Year) and PCA (People’s Choice) the same year. But, to be on “The Creativity Top 50” list by Ad Age and Creativity, both 2008 and 2010, is maybe the biggest achievement so far.
How many hours do you work each week?
When it goes smooth I try to do 40 hr weeks at the office plus of course some hours from home. The first 2-3 years it was double, or more. These days I'm not so fond working nights and weekends when it’s so important to have a balance between work and regular life. At least when you become a little older like myself ha ha! My life philosophy was totally different 10 years ago when my job also was a part of my education. You need to work hard to get somewhere, but don’t do it for the rest of your life.
How do you relax or unwind?
I'm with my non-designer friends, watching movies, exercise or illustrate/paint. To work with side projects can sometimes be very relaxing, as long you do not have a deadline.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
I’d most likely be an architect when I still can dream to become one. I have always loved math and combined that with designing physical elements like buildings, would be amazing. Or a product designer, which is more flexible.
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
The best is to work with the handcraft, the design, when you set the whole visual treatment. It's very inspiring to have a great conceptual idea where I have to find a visual solution that can take that idea and the concept to the next level. The hardest is to work with the conceptual ideas when it takes so much energy. When I'm stuck? Well, then I take a cup of coffee and work a little bit harder.
What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?
I did some crazy hours when I was younger. Once I was at work seven in the morning and stopped working after noon the day after. I'm working much smarter today thanks to my experience so I would never do the same today. It’s important to sleep when creativity is the first thing that goes if you do not. To stay up too long is just stupid.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
The first point would be that I chose working at a digital agency instead of an advertising agency 1998. Thanks to "Garbocorp.com" which was the first flash site that was actually spread and successful. Next point would be 2002 when I decided to leave Paregos to try my own wings. The last point would be 2005, when I, after some really hard working years at Paregos plus the first three crazy years at my own company, gave myself two options because of the work hours; do something else or start hiring people. Luckily we chose the later option.
What software could you not live without?
How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?
It depends on the size of the projects of course but I would say 3-4 big ones. We want to have our teams dedicated as much as possible.
In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?
I'm struggling to learn Cinema 4D and want to learn ZBrush. It's the famous time issue that stops me.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
I don’t follow the industry that well so it would be wrong to do any ratings. I like more to focus on the work I have on the table. But I can be very inspired to see what comes out from Snøhetta from Oslo and Teenage Engineering here in Stockholm, even if they are not doing digital. When I was younger I loved Designer’s Republic and Büro Destruct.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
One part of our job is to make a difference in the traffic so if it wouldn’t be an increased number of visits, we haven’t succeeded. It has happened that servers have crashed due to unexpected traffic and I remember when we did Vodafone back in 2004 and the bandwidth on their global site peaked with over 100% within 24 hours of the launch. When I launched Designchapel for the very first time, it brought down our entire IT network as well, which was very unexpected to us.
Who is your target audience?
People who like design, craftsmanship and those who pay attention to details. I hope :)
What area of web design lacks the most?
Typography. It has always been an issue. I don't know why when designers at advertising agencies are superb at it. Maybe we should blame the school?
Are there any websites that have shone through as being pioneering in the last 5 years or so?
Mmm, well, if we are talking about design I have seen very few sites that points out the last years. I love what R/GA have done with Nike Plus during the years and UNIQLO have also done some nice projects that have taking design into new directions. Dreamkitchen for IKEA (by Forsman & Bodenfors) 2006 was a pioneer back then.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
Yes of course. All kind of awards gives your company good PR which is great both for finding new clients but also new talents to the agency. Internally it is also great, so we know we are doing stuff right.
When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?
Not hard at all. If you just have it in mind from day one it's never a problem. Even though it makes a lot of limitations, but it comes with the job. It's better to see it has challenges then limitations.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
My really first website was a HTML portfolio I did 1997. No, fortunately it's not online. One of my first flash site for a client is still online thou; the playful Mosquito for Tomas Gylling and the Swedish Television from 1999. Looking at it today if feels little crazy that it won both Prix Italia 1999 and Excellent Swedish Design (Honourable Mention) 2000 at Svensk Form.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
Not yet, but I have actually started to work on one this week and hope to have it ready next summer. It will be a book mostly for designers where I will collect some behind the scenes from my 13 years as art director, talking about North Kingdom, side projects and stuff like that. Designchapel will become 10 years next winter so it will be nice to close that chapter and open a new one.
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?
I always try to keep in shape. I have played soccer almost my whole life and I think it is important to exercise, both to clear the head but also for your heart.
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?
Mini Getaway Stockholm did a great campaign last year where you could download an app to your mobile phone and compete against other users in Stockholm to win a car. Very simple idea but still very clever.
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?
Adidas Soccer (Germany) from 2009 had the net as the center of the campaign. Well planned.
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?
I have never found it a problem. To know the campaign could or should work in other mediums makes it just more interesting. Variation is always something good. It's about design and communication. How it's presented doesn't matter, it's what you communicate that's important.
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
Haha, wow, I would love to know. I definitely think we won’t have websites like today, it will be more as applications around you. "The web is dead, long live the Internet" was an interesting article in Wired last year. Just look what has happen the last years with iPhone and their apps. The digital world has entered our pockets and it's just the beginning. Websites will take another shape, more easily reached. New techniques will give as a lot of new usability challenges so it's hard to predict what will work and not, what people actually will find useful. So how far a website can go in 10 years I have no answer. It won't be the technique that will be the limits though, it's our creativity. My wildest guess is that we have both contact lenses with digital content and chips under our skins. Why not?
Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?
I think my first "real" portfolio Designchapel from 2002 is one because it gave so much traffic and so many new contacts, which come as a little shock when I personally had no expectations whatsoever. The site become later on the fundamental for the building of North Kingdom. Vodafone Future Vision from 2003 is another one. Not for the design but for the huge success and we were so few in the team. It was the world's most awarded website in 2004 which was great when we, for the first time, worked with a direct client.
Yes I’m pretty sure it is, when they have tools that no one else can compete with, but I guess the last years have been confusing for them. Apple who has been rejecting Flash in their devices, Facebook’s break through with the social media aspect and Word press with its plug ins and themes. Much is happening and it feels like many agencies and brands are little bit disoriented what to focus on. But Flash will still be there, when we are talking about gaming, video and applications.
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?
Yes Flash will, and does, suffer, but I think Adobe is strong and clever enough to find ways to stay as a leader. And yeah, it has been a trend to get more and more simple interfaces which make sense. Lot of these old huge productions have lack of usability and they are not available on iPhones or iPads. Future experience will not be on one platform, you will find fragments on all different platforms. HTML5 for example is interesting, but it still nothing compared to Flash as a developing tool. I also think Apple is a key player in this question. As long they are shutting out Flash from iPad and iPhone, Flash will hurt, even if we already can see apps that allow flash, we need to get it inside all browsers.
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 do, as long you have a great portfolio, you are friendly and can work in a team, the whole world is open for you.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
Pay attention to all your details. If not, they will betray you.
How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?
Not hard at all. They can call themselves whatever they want. Their portfolios will quickly tell us who they really are. I would say less then 5% of the portfolios I looked at during all the years have been good enough for a second review. And then I don't care what school they have been at or what title they have. Sounds maybe hard but that's how it is.
How do you keep up with the latest capabilities of Flash or do you rely on other members of you team to do this?
Yes of course I do. When our projects have grown in size, it has become natural to me to focus more on the visual. When I started I used Flash 2 which was super basic and then very natural to have control over everything. Today, Flash is way too complex for me. We have such a great tech team at North Kingdom so yes, I totally rely on them in all aspects. My work in Flash these days are only interface design and to mock up animations.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
Thanks Rob and congratulations on your wedding!