A tangible achievement though, and I’m not just saying this, is to win an FWA.  This is a organization that I have followed since college.  And when you’re in college, you look at stuff like the FWA and say, man hopefully one day I can get in there.  That would be awesome.

Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

Nick Agderian – Creative Director
Andrew Hess – Art Director
Matthew DeSimone – Senior Interactive Producer

ClickFire Media is an interactive design studio specializing in multi-platform, media-rich creative campaigns. CFM partners with agencies and entertainment industry clients in the conceptualization, design and development of fully-integrated, consistently branded experiences. Through insight and innovation, CFM combines that latest interactive technologies with the best design, video, animation and live action skills from Click 3X to deliver integrated solutions in the ever-developing media landscape.

Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

-NA: Buzzfeed.com – To me, buzzfeed is the connected to collective silliness of the world. It has everything from late breaking news from every area to latest Internet memes.  There is truly never a dull moment there.

Deadspin.com – I have an unhealthy obsession with sports and Deadspin talks about sports like my friends and I talk about sports.  The lesson here is that you should talk to your audience like they talk to their friends, otherwise it seems too academic.  People will listen because they have to, but even then, they will just relay information in their voice.  Deadspin does that and I can’t get enough of it.

Ytmnd.com – ytmnd, is an acronym for “You’re The Man Now, Dawg” is a famous line awkwardly exclaimed by Sean Connery in Finding Forrester.  The site is a weird subversive trip through short stories made of two simple ingredients, one sound clip and a looping animated gif.  Most are stupid, racist, homophobic, or worse.  But, not all and if you look through, there is actually some real genius buried in there.  Luckily they make the good ones easy to find.  Many internet memes were born at ytmnd.com, yet it still remains somewhat underground.

What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

-NA: I think my ultimate achievement is to have been able to be in career that allows me to entertain people and utilize boundless creativity.  Especially in the moment we are all in right now.  Our fundamentals and practices are changing so rapidly that many don’t realize that we are in the middle of a revolution of communication.  People that don’t believe that are probably the ones that are too busy and immersed in it that they don’t realize that what are doing will be talked about in history classes decades down the road.  

A tangible achievement though, and I’m not just saying this, is to win an FWA.  This is a organization that I have followed since college.  And when you’re in college, you look at stuff like the FWA and say, man hopefully one day I can get in there.  That would be awesome.

How many hours do you work each week?

-NA: It varies wildly.  It can flex from 37 hours to 80 hours.  I’ve slept on a few conference room floors and a greasy couch that smelled like hot ass and hack advertising.NA: It varies wildly.  It can flex from 37 hours to 80 hours.  I’ve slept on a few conference room floors and a greasy couch that smelled like hot ass and hack advertising.

How do you relax or unwind?

-NA: I have a deck that looks out over New York, where I can just sit, have a beer and look at things going on.  It’s a point when you don’t have to talk or make any decisions.  You are basically exposed to millions of people at once, but none of them can see you.  It’s like being functionally invisible.  That’s nice sometimes.

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

-NA: I would most likely work in some other form of storytelling media. For some reason I feel like I will always end up there.  There was a point when I almost went to USC for film.  But, instead I went to Kansas State for business because I didn’t understand how being an artist could be a career.  After not enjoying it and almost failing completely, I ended up in the art program at Kansas State.  The art program there was more of a fine arts program with very little to do in digital.  Yet, it still led to me to where I am now. The point is, I feel like I will always end up somewhere near here.

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

-NA: 48 hours.  And this has happened many times. Almost every time, you identify benchmarks where, had you done them differently, you would not have had to be up for two days working on a project.  You devise ways to handle those benchmarks differently.  But ultimately, it happens again.  If there is a lesson to be learned, it’s that you should just surrender to the fact that it’s going to happen and find some solace.  Mine has always been that almost every time, a good story came out of it.

If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?

-NA: I have three big ones.  The first was in college when I was in the school of business.  I wasn’t doing completely awful, but I was at a point where I realized that I was stuck.  I had been at Kansas State for three and a half years and was not doing well enough to finish a degree in Business.  I had contemplated several changes in my major from Computer Science to Public Relations but wasn’t doing hot in any of 101 level classes.  One day, a professor had told the class to schedule an appointment to go over notes with him if you had a C in the class.  Of course I did, but I was supremely nervous because my notes were filled with sketches and topic headings had their own typography.  I was really embarrassed when I went in to talk with him.  He was sitting there looking at my notes and there first thing he said after meticulously studying my notes was, “what major are you in?”  I told him that him that I was in Business, hoping to get into his Public Relations program.  “No,” he said sort of laughing, “You’re in the wrong place.  Have you ever considered Design? You know, being an Art Director.”  At the time, I though Art Directors worked in museums, choosing which paintings went where, something was not interested in at all.  So, I told him no.  I didn’t want to choose art to hang in museums. That’s when he really did change my life by saying, “Look, just go over to the art office and show them this, trust me.”  My options were very narrow at the time.  It was either continue this awkward spiral into nothing or give it a shot.  Two years later I won an award for Outstanding Senior Portfolio.  I seriously do not remember that guy’s name, but it was obviously a massive turning point in my life, not just my career.

The second was getting hired right out of college.  In my first interview at an upcoming digital shop, the ECD looked at my resume and said, “KSU, huh?  They’re not really known for this type of work.”  After the cordial interview wrapped up he said that they weren’t really hiring at the time, but thanks for coming in.  I went home and went to sleep because I was just out of college and 9am was very early for me.  When I woke up at my normal time later that day around 3pm.  I had a phone message from a CD at the agency saying that he wanted me to come back in.  When I did, he told me that they weren’t hiring, but he saw my book and wanted me.  I was hired that day and month later I held my first award on his team.  In the span of a day, I went from being rejected to being hired.  I don’t know how my book got in front of him, but thank god it did.  He and I remain friends to this day.

The final pivotal moment was coming to New York.  The agency I worked for was well established in the Midwest, but they had aspirations to go global.  One of the many steps in that process was to establish an office in New York.  They relocated myself and a few others to New York get the ball rolling and work closely with an established agency partner.  I was coming from a place of pure execution, pure technical advertising.  We were more interested in creating the coolest button known to man, with little attention paid to why anyone would want to push it.  When I came to New York and worked closely with creatives from the ‘big agency.’  They were so concerned with narrative and thought we were just adorable computer nerds there to make a banner out of their print ad. This was well before big agencies had an interactive team.  Soon, it clicked for me, though. If we merge beautiful narrative with the technical side, we could blow these guys out of the water with ideas.  Which we did and still do.  That was a large turning point for me creatively.  For too long, I had been wrapped up in pyrotechnics, I had forgotten why things were blowing up.

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?

-AH: I'm constantly interested in staying fresh and inspired. In any design field when you are uninspired, it quickly shows in your work. I flex my creative muscles by doing anything ranging from weekly viewing tutorials on design and 3d programs to reading a book. Everything you do can spark an idea that you can use in your next project, or a project you'll do 2 years from now. Having a sketch book at arms reach at all times is also very important. You never know when an idea is going to hit and if you don't write it down/ sketch it, you WILL forget it.

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?

-MD:  I think every project that comes in we envision it living on as many mediums as possible.  One of the great things about being in a creative field at this time in history is that people are truly beginning to think of what “multimedia” really means. Finding the common thread in an experience between print, broadcast, and interactive can be a challenge but when you’re given the tools, and the talent to execute with them, it really provides depth and texture to the whole experience.

What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?

-MD: It was a hub of links to band and artist sites that my friend Nicole and I made one night around 1995/1996.  In my opinion, it’s use of black and lime green design was groundbreaking in its awfulness.

Mercifully, even the Internet Way Back Machine has decided that that page has no merit and has released it to the sands of time.  I have a screen shot floating around in archive somewhere that I pass around from time to time as a joke.

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

-AH: School has it's place in helping you make it in any design industry. You learn how to take constructive criticism and you get to work on projects freely, uninhibited by real world constraints like deadlines and budgets for the most part. You also get to meet a lot of interesting people (hopefully) which can help you learn how to be a social person and work well with others if you aren't already good at it.

That being said, your portfolio and who you know is what gets you into a job in the end. There's plenty of online learning available if you want to go the self taught route and I've never been asked what college I went to in an interview. If you aren't interested in the college experience or you don't want to spend the cash, it is still 100% possible to get into a design field without design school. Just bare in mind that in design fields you can never stop learning and if you do stop, you become obsolete fast. So, whether you go to design school or not, continual learning is the name of the game. Visit art galleries, check out museums, go to lectures, take trips, read books, do online tutorials, be inquisitive about how the world works, and stay inspired!

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

-AH: If you are trying to design something to be award winning, it usually ends up falling short, and you put a lot of unnecessary pressure on yourself. Concept, design, animate, model, code, and strategize passionately; if you put your all into every piece of work, something will get noticed.

How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?

-MD:  I think it’s less difficult than you would think.  In the end no one comes through the door that hasn’t had some sort of online portfolio review by a member of our team.  So be they a designer, programmer, or producer we’ll have a good sense of what they’ve worked on in the past and it’s quality.

After that it’s a question of beginning a dialogue about style, technique, and most importantly their passion for interactive design.  It’s pretty easy at that point to start finding the right people, which we’ve been lucky enough here at ClickFire to get in spades.

What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?

-MD:  The fact that anyone would answer anything other than the Millennium Falcon for this bothers me.  Maybe the Batmobile.  But only if it were transported into place via the Millennium Falcon

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

-MD:  There’s a brand or two that I personally am loyal to and speak directly to me that I’ve always wanted to work on something for. Coincidentally, we’ve just booked a project for one of them!   More details to come in the fall but I think it will change some people, myself included, permanently.

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

-AH: I discovered and awesome site, jackthreads.com. Sorta like gilt.com but with actual clothes I would wear. I definitely developed an expensive online shopping addiction because of this site; bought 3 pairs of shoes off it last week alone. But I mean, they are sick shoes, they were crazy discounted, and I hate real world shopping.


Nick Agderian- Creative Director
Nick Agderian- Creative Director

Andrew Heiss- Art Director
Andrew Heiss- Art Director

Matthew Desimone- Senior Interactive Producer
Matthew Desimone- Senior Interactive Producer

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