Please give us a brief bio of yourselves.
I'm Hanna Wittmark (HW), 27 years old Art Director
Been working at Goodby Silverstein & Partners for 2,5 year. Before that I studied Art Direction at Berghs School of Communication and after that Interactive Art Directon at Hyper Island both in Sweden.
I'm Azin Ashourvan (AA), 29 years old, Art Director, from Stockholm, Sweden.
Got to Gooby, Silverstein & Partners together with Hanna about 2,5 years ago. We met at Hyper Island studying their Interactive Art Direction program. Before that I freelanced in advertising, graphic design, photography for about 1,5 years, after graduating from Forsbergs Advertising and Design school.
I'm Graham Lewis (GL), 28 years old, Copywriter from Wisconsin.
I've been at Goodby, Silverstein and Partners for about 2 years. Prior to that, I studied Psychology and Art History at the University of Minnesota and then Copywriting at Miami Ad School in both Minneapolis and San Francisco. I've been fortunate enough to work with Hanna, Azin and Anders (our CD) off and on over the last 9 months.
I'm Anders Gustafsson (AG), Creative Director at Goodby Silverstein & Partners. I've been in advertising for almost 13 years and done everything from print, TV, OOH to interactive and mobile. I've worked for traditional ad agencies, PR focused agencies and web production companies. I was a Creative Director at Crispin Porter Bogusky before joining Goodby Silverstein & Partners little over a year and a half ago.
What do you do for inspiration?
HW: See people.
AA: Live my life. Try to experience new things
GL: Keep my eyes and ears open.
AG: Talk to the brilliant people around me.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
AA: Google, Reddit, Co.create
GL: McSweeneys.net, CreativeApplications.net & HamburgerEyes.com
AG: google, ebay, craigslist
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
AA: Moving to the U.S. without even had a visit here before.
GL: Biking to and from school in Minneapolis through the winter. Actually that's probably the dumbest thing I've done.
AG: Working this close to Jeff and Rich ranks pretty high. Outside of advertising, getting endorsed by Jackson Guitars two years ago.
How many hours do you work each week?
AA: Same as Hanna
GL: On average, about 60.
AG: Oh dude. Every week is super different. Sometimes 46 hours. Sometimes 96.
How do you relax or unwind?
AA: Listen and create music, friends, hanging out in Dolores Park
GL: Read and hang out with friends.
AG: I write and compose music. I hang out in my backyard and BBQ.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
HW: Own a small coffee shop
AA: I feel like anything I do involves the Internet in some sort. Even if I was a full time musician, I wouldn't make it without the Internet. So I guess my answer would be—nothing much.
GL: I'd work on my photography but as Azin said, it's more or less impossible to create without the Internet that I don't think I'd ever be able to completely detach from it.
AG: Tour with my old death metal band. Or write amazing adventure books.
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
HW: Come up with a good idea is my favorite. But, It's also the hardest.
AA: Getting paid doing something I love. Hardest part is killing your darlings.
GL: I love having the opportunity to work with so many cool/talented people. The hardest part for me is figuring out how to balance life and work. When I get stuck I try to do something completely unrelated to the project and advertising in general.
AG: The best thing about being in advertising is that you're every industry. One day you're snacks, the next you're personal finance. It never gets boring like 99% of all other jobs. The hardest part is killing hundreds of great ideas every week. When I get stuck I talk to the people around me.
What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?
HW: 36 h.
AA: The morning of presentation
AG: No idea. Probably 48 hours or something. But I don't work like that anymore. You need to be focused and feel good to create good work.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
AA: I'd say studying at Hyper Island was a pretty good choice, that got me here today.
GL: Working at all of my odd jobs throughout college. You'd be surprised what you learn delivering sandwiches at 1 AM and working as a parking lot attendant.
AG: When I decided to start doing things I didn't know how to do. That changed everything for me. Exploring your areas of incompetence is important if you want to move forward. Us humans are quick learners you know.
What software could you not live without?
AA: The Adobe Creative Suite + Ableton Live
AG: Without Skype I would be on a lot more flights to Europe. Or have my mom living in my In-Law downstairs.
How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?
AA: A lot
AG: Hundreds. We're a big agency. I usually work on 4-5 different projects on 2 or 3 clients at the time.
In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?
AA: DMesh is pretty fun
AG: The Uber Cab app for ordering taxi in SF is beyond brilliant. The taxi service in this city is a joke, so it felt like the hand of God came down and handed us this heavenly software to get us home safe at night.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
AA: RBG6, Hi-ReS!, Sandberg&Timonen
AG: Pentagram London, North Kingdom and Slasher Designs.
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
AG: Simplicity in design, like on bandofbridges.com, definitely helps create a better user experience. You want to play with it because it actually looks cool, simple and fun.
Who is your target audience?
AG: Our clients are big American brands across all industries and CMO's who see the value of great storytelling in their advertising. Brands that seek simplicity and beauty in their work. Art serving Capitalism is our motto.
What area of web design lacks the most?
AG: Banner advertising could still be so much more. But it's still considered less desirable to work on by a lot of creatives, which is a shame.
Are there any websites that have shone through as being pioneering in the last 5 years or so?
AG: 5 years is forever in the digital space. Four years ago we were stunned over Papervision and 3D Flash. That excitement lasted less than a year. For the last two years we've all been talking HTML5. Platforms for content and creativity is far more interesting to me than trends. YouTube, Google Maps, Twitter or Craigslist. Where people are already.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
HW: Of course. I'm really really honored.
AA: It's a great achievement. I remember following the FWA from when it was called the Flash Website Awards like ten years ago. It's always been the "original" digital award for me.
GL: It's really motivated me to keep pushing my ideas but not at the expense of making them complicated. Not to mention it's a huge honor and put me in great mood.
AG: It's proof you know your stuff. And that you can create an online experience with a lot of heart and soul put into the craft.
When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?
AG: It's usually narrowed down in different projects, briefs and messages. But coming up with that one over arching line, handle or concept is a challenge yeah. There are no short cuts. It takes time and hard work. Simple, really.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
AA: Hah, that's nothing anyone should ever see. I don't think it's online anymore. Basically I programmed it myself in the Netscape Editor in 1998 maybe. Had some snowboarding photos, crappy techno music I've made and such. I was fourteen.
GL: Anglfire circa 1998. It was awesome.
AG: Ha ha, I had my own website for many years. Back in the late 90's. Whenever I learned a new java script or neat way to code something I just threw it in there. It had a lot of <blink> tags and on-mouse-overs going on. Totally pointless but it was fun. Not online anymore, thank God.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
HW: That would be a dream.
GL: No, but I'd love to make children's books. I feel like those stick with you the longest.
AA: No, but that would probably be a photo/illustration book
AG: I was a co-writer on the Digital Advertising book that Creative Social put out a couple of years ago. And I'm featured in their latest book "Best Piece of Advice" that just came out. I've also written a book on salt for a client.
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?
HW: Seeing new things.
GL: I really like to explore and be outside as much as possible.
AA: I think trying to do non related things as much as you can and not think about what you usually have to deal with working. Filling up your inspirational bucket.
AG: Drinking and running. Not at the same time.
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?
AA: there are a lot of awesome projects on Kickstarter, that never could've been done without crowd participation.
AG: If you look closer at the band of bridges concept you realize it's not only a visually relevant way to use the Google Maps API - it's also a campaign that literally bridges three social media platforms. A Facebook profile connected to a Twitter handle and on to a Google+ account and so on. I think that's pretty 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?
AG: Many times. If you allow some time and money to be based on iteration during the production or after the project has launched - this is a great way to start a story and then fuel it along the way, depending on what direction it takes. It might end up being an art exhibition, an event or a book. Those projects are usually the most fun to work on.
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?
HW: A strong concept can be adapted to every media.
AA: Usually, the ideas you get aren't necessarily rooted into a digital platform, but uses the digital in some aspect that makes the project great. Makes the ideas bigger and more interesting.
GL: I think it's important to focus on the idea and instead of simply focusing on the medium. Digital has become such a part of everyday life though that it's inevitable that an idea will expand into that space.
AG: There is no such thing as digital anymore. It's all just... well, life. Finding relevant platforms for interactive brand experiences is my job. But I have a hybrid background and have nothing against writing a little TV script now and then. Cool ideas are always gonna be cool ideas. No matter the media.
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
AG: It's just gonna be layers of content on demand. Whatever whenever. Those layers will exist in new formats. Just look at the Google Glasses or Leap Motion technology. That's now. In 10 years? Hopefully holograms onboard space ships. But I never worry about the future. I focus on the now.
Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?
AG: I honestly have no idea. How do you choose between your own children?
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
AG: No idea. Not online anymore for sure, probably something done 6-7 years ago.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
HW: No, I don't.
AA: No, it's definitely on the way out now with everything HTML5 can do.
GL: I don't think Flash will disappear entirely but it can't keep up with the way the Internet is evolving.
AG: It's here to stay. But not there to stay. And today you need to be both here and there.
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?
AG: Those projects does not exist anymore if you ask me. Finding a relevant platform and looking at context based on peoples online behavior is what we are doing today. We don't build destinations anymore, we adapt to where people are and what they are doing there. Band of Bridges might be a site in terms of a campaign URL, but it's really just a mash-up of existing platforms. Google Maps meets 3 social media networks.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
AA: You can definitely get into the field without the education, if you have the passion. Studying the fields gives you more perspectives and lets you get out of your comfort zone, which is really helpful. Also studying in general is just so much fun.
AG: Absolutely. The best developers I've ever worked with were all more or less self taught. Some of them had a very "duct tape" approach ha ha, but they always got the job done. Ad schools do a great job preparing you for the madness that is advertising but really interesting people usually have really different backgrounds. Artists, comedians, hackers, teachers or musicians. There's room for almost anyone in advertising. I like that.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
GL: Don't be afraid to start from scratch. A lot.
AG: Be relevant. Be super simple. Be in the details.
How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?
AG: Talent is just half of it. Attitude, work ethics and fitting the culture is as important. I've hired art directors and designers without really looking at their stuff. I mean, someone had looked at it already, but I only cared about chemistry and getting under their skin. Will this person work in our team? Designs can be tweaked, ambition and work ethics is a lot harder.
How do you keep up with the latest capabilities of Flash or do you rely on other members of you team to do this?
AG: I rely on others. We work with some of the best digital vendors in the world.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
AA: I love trains
GL: I agree with Azin, trains are great.
AG: A worn down late 80s Camaro. I'm thinking about buying one. Just gotta get my driver's license in order.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
AG: Talking at conferences, in industry press and always providing an opinion on where advertising is heading helps. But to be honest, clients can come from anywhere. Old colleagues or clients changing jobs, someone saw you won a FWA or ending up on a new talent list. As a startup agency you have to be all over the place and expose yourself to luck.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
AG: I'm not a designer myself. Sorry.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
AG: I follow certain people on Twitter and sites like FWA and the big industry magazines like AdWeek and Adage. Google+ is also a great source for the latest in geeky news.
What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?
HW: My home. Sweden.
GL: It's a tie for me between Brazil and Sweden.
AG: I would have to say The US. At least California. Moving to SF was definitely an eye opener. There are so many start up companies developing exciting new technologies here. Every time I get on a phone with some engineer to talk about licensing their latest mobile tool or technology, it always turns out they're right down the street. It's great.
There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
HW. BabyTalk. The first Hyper Island project Azin and I did together.
GL: A pro-bono project for animal shelters to boost adoption rates. Working on the logistics now so hopefully it will become a reality.
AG: I've got three projects right now that are total dream projects. Just have to get them produced.
What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?
AG: Beer. That answers both actually.
What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?
AG: I wanna learn how to edit my own stuff in Final Cut Pro. All other long term challenges will be met with more experience and less stress. Growing older is great. You chill out and never freak out.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
HW: X ray for my puppy. He broke he's leg.
GL: I rented a car for a friend's wedding I'm attending in New Jersey.
AG: New headphones. Again. I usually misplace a pair per week. They were 19.99 or something.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
AG: My girlfriend works for a mens fashion label that design wardrobes for bands like Coldplay, Rammstein and Smashing Pumpkins. So I'm hooked up with some great swag. Other than that I'm all T-shirts and jeans.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
AG: Talk to people. It's amazing how fast things can get solved if you just talk to others about it. And I don't mean via the Facebook chat.
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
HW: Thank you
GL: Thank you!
AG: Awesome. Thank you. Don't forget to add your bridge.