Probably the handshake over a double cheese and bacon burger. That's when we started rehab.

Please give us a brief bio of yourself.

Tim: We're both from Belfast (so our roots are quite technological) and although we didn’t know each other, we both started multimedia/tech degrees but ended up pulling out, as they weren't really keeping pace with the 1990s digital revolution. I was unsettled to find myself first in the year; I'd never been first at anything! We both realised we'd maybe learn more out in the world and working. So I went to work at the BBC in their 'Imagineering' unit around 2002- they had a bunch of cash to investigate future content and devices. Meanwhile, Jurgen was setting up TEK2, a technology firm that was winning massive clients and awards.

After a Mediterranean odyssey- doing digital and graphics projects across Europe- I set up DFA+, a creative studio. That’s when we became party friends who shared a kind of work-hard, play-hard life creed. One day over a late night/early morning burger we decided to combine strengths and join our two companies to make rehabstudio in 2003. I've been heading up the creative side from London, while Jurgen's been in Belfast taking care of the technical wizardry, ever since.

What do you do for inspiration?

Tim: Music. Loads of it.

Jurgen: Book holidays in far, far away places; short breaks put the fast pace of our business in perspective. This sort of work gives you a rush but it can be tiring, and a short pit stop gets me fired up again.

Please list 3 of your favourite sites.

Tim: Music, fashion, design and randomness tend to be my flavour of interweb:
- www.hypem.com
- www.awkwardfamilyphotos.com
- www.newshelton.com/wet/dry

Jurgen: It's way too nerdy for me to reveal my faves.

What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

Jurgen: I guess the company itself; having a friend like Tim, who becomes a business partner and still remains a friend.
Tim: Particularly considering our beginnings in Belfast. We're handling major clients around the world, but still take our time over work, handcrafting the design and tech to produce sites that people want to play with. We call the kind of crafted work we produce Hand Built Digital. Still having the same pride in what we do and being as into it all as much as when we started.

How many hours do you work each week?

Tim: All of them in one way or another.

Jurgen: Tim does not work by the traditional calendar; he believes in the 26 hour day. I still try to get Sundays off, (unfortunately, I think in Tim's calendar, Sunday is only an 8 hour day).

How do you relax or unwind?

Tim: I guess one of the best things about doing this is that I genuinely get a kick out of producing really cool sites, finding solutions to problems, hanging out in the office with people that feel the same. Whether I'm in the studio all night or not- it's not really stressful and it doesn't wind me up. I also travel a lot which is a great way of re-setting.

Jurgen: Socialising, although my friends have to keep me away from internet-enabled devices as I usually end up showcasing our latest work or road testing some of our experiments. When not boring my friends, I'm walking my German Shepherd on the beach; she’s a good listener, although I've learned not to take her advice on user interaction or information architecture.

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

Tim: Smoking kippers, possibly.

Jurgen: I'd be supplying the wood chips.

What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?

Favourite part - I guess the pitching process, the chase, is pretty exciting. Coming up with ideas, working out how to realise them, and then selling that to a client, is awesome.

The hardest part - See above.

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

Tim: Probably the handshake over a double cheese and bacon burger. That's when we started rehab.

What software could you not live without?

Tim: Spotify.... Music is a big part of our studio culture, here's a selection of our play lists (in degrees of intensity):


Work - GIT, Capistrano, PHP frameworks, the gifts of all good APIs and the all-singing, all-dancing CS4.
Fun - MAME & retro games; I'm a total geek.  I've even got the X-Arcade, for authentic experience.

In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?

Tim: Unity3D- freaking awesome, it's like having an Xbox in your web browser :D (And iphone and Wii...)

Jurgen: Got to be iPhone apps- too many to mention- and anything blending online/offline like augmented reality.

Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?

- Big Active

- tha ltd
- Winkreative

Who is your target audience?

The clients of our clients. Could be anyone; teen corn chip munchers, mature whisky buffs, 8-year-old rock legends in the making, lovers and haters.  Although a luxury of the kind of work we do is that it tends to be aimed at young, urban, media-friendly folk like ourselves. As an ideal, we want people like us, that spend all day obsessing over new digital stuff, to be impressed by our work. If we like what we've done, normally we're fairly confident that our target audience will. And chances are if an idea is fun or funny, most people will find something to like in it; whether they're tech friendly or not.

Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?

Tim: Yeah totally- winning website of the day for Doritos got us enquiries from the States, Russia, Australia, all over. (Thanks Rob!)

What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?

Tim: Ha ha ha - Digital Boogie (use your cursor keys :D)
DB was a fortnightly club run by my mates Timmy Stewart & Mark Bell. It was one of the classic club nights in Belfast, inspired by David Holmes' legendary Sugar Sweet parties at the Belfast Art College. I designed the DB site as a sort of virtual bedroom- with a Space Invaders type of game, a MiniDisc jukebox, and a load of compilations. I still think it's quite cool. Well...cool for 1999.

Jurgen: After digital boogie the DB guys started another night called Tsunami - Tim and I used to VJ there.

Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?

Jurgen: You have to work for rehabstudio to have had the privilege of reading my existing publications, among them fascinating short volumes "Advanced DNS management " and "Everyday GIT".

If things work out the way we hope, Tim and I could anticipate producing the self help title "How to succeed without killing your business partner".

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?

Tim: Doritos iD3- This was one of ours, an experimental interactive movie we produced for AMVBBDO. We used Facebook Connect, in fact it was one of the first uses of it in this way, to connect users to the story, and let them control the action, based around identity theft. We scraped the users' Facebook profiles, and used that data to immerse them into the experience- with three episodes mixing fully interactive 3d scenes, sound recognition games and a fairly complex decision tree. We didn’t do as much as we wanted to do in this project, but there were some nice, fairly pioneering, uses of social media.

Jurgen: Totally agree, millions of pack codes, reporting tools, and one hell of a back-end management system. Plus, the collaboration with so many excellent agencies to make it all happen.

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?

Jurgen: Aside from Doritos, we've done a lot of projects that cross media channels. In fact everything we do is thought out across platforms. Cadbury Creme egg (by Saatchi & Saatchi London) was an interesting campaign we worked on last year. We produced a game, installed into interactive bus stops across the UK, which gave people waiting for their buses 20 seconds to smash as many eggs on screen as they could muster.

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?

Tim: We're not hindered by it; We did a beautiful concept for AMVBBDO a couple of years ago that was like a digital river. We produced embedded touchscreens within pieces of furniture, which people could touch, freeze frame and use to navigate inspirational images, sound and campaigns on. Users could then 'throw' content from the screen to appear on other screens in the building. That's a nice example of how you can use the user, objects, sounds and images, to create a digital experience.

Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?

Tim: I really believe sites are going to absorb all other media- social, apps, television, ads, devices. I also think the user is going to shape the storyline for a whole community of users. You'll see the next version of Lost where the user can hone the outcome of the game.

Jurgen: I think we'll see a convergence of devices/applications, in the way major manufacturers have started embedding Skype into their televisions. I can also see applications using hand-held 3D projection, and sonic audio beams, most probably in gaming (or porn).

Of all the websites you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?

Probably our work on the stellar T-Mobile Dance campaign in Liverpool Street (by Saatchi & Saatchi London). We worked on the YouTube channel (the most viewed channel of all time on YouTube) and created a bunch of cool features including a dance video aggregator, and an 'elf-yourself' style video app which put your face on a dancing robot. We wanted to move this elf yourself concept on a bit so instead of replaying the animation back to your friends as a flash link, we actually rendered the flash movie on our server and automatically uploaded that into YouTube.

This was super successful. It turned out to be a really tangible piece of social media content as our users (Sample video) had typically not uploaded or created a YouTube video before. (Sadly this project is offline now)

Do you think Flash is here to stay?

Jurgen: Not if you believe Mr Jobs! The whole flash vs HTML5 debacle is a little like the early days of Commodore vs Amstrad; in a few years we will wonder what all the fuss was about. Public clashes between Apple and Adobe do little to serve the consumer, and create a headache for techies like myself.

Tim: There's always going to be a difference between something that's more functional, and something that's experiential and beautiful. You're always going to need flash for the experiential stuff; That said, we're very much into DHTML, which for a more accessible user experience and multi compatible platform DHTML is awesome.

How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?

As a company we have an internal blog which we post ideas onto. It's become a bit of a melting pot of new ideas, tricks, releases; things that we're excited by, that we all use. We'll pick a few ideas and then incubate them.

What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?

Ireland, of course!

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

Tim: I'd like to build an incredible user experience of some sort. One thing I'm playing with at the moment is shooting a movie with two hundred + variations, where your social media footprint will shape the outcome or a digital treasure hunt around town using QRcodes.

What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?

We’re looking at studios in the US, and we’re thinking of streamlining our output a bit- to do a select number of projects a year but do really incredible ones that involve a complete online/offline user experience, and tell an amazing and truly innovative story.

Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

Keep going, never stop.

It has been a privilege, thanks very much

Thanks Rob - J&T X



Doritos - iD3 for AMVBBDO, London
Doritos - iD3 for AMVBBDO, London

Fisher Clinical Services - Global re-brand (Photographer Christoffer Rudquist) for FCS, NYC
Fisher Clinical Services - Global re-brand (Photographer Christoffer Rudquist) for FCS, NYC

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KangaROOS - What's in your pocket for Pentland, London

Toyota - The next Prius for Saatchi & Saatchi, Brussels
Toyota - The next Prius for Saatchi & Saatchi, Brussels

Cadbury - Creme Egg for Saatchi & Saatchi, London
Cadbury - Creme Egg for Saatchi & Saatchi, London

Doritos - Guitar Hero for Initials/ AMVBBDO, London
Doritos - Guitar Hero for Initials/ AMVBBDO, London

Digital Installation - Beta For AMVBBDO, London
Digital Installation - Beta For AMVBBDO, London

Amouage.com for Amouage, Oman
Amouage.com for Amouage, Oman

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