I always had a simple concept. Do great work and the rest will follow. I pride myself for not doing pitches or any other spec work. If you do great work, great clients will follow.
I'm a designer originally born in Germany, raised in Austria and currently living in New York / Brooklyn. Currently leading up product design for new product development at Spotify NYC. I'm also the founder of les Avignons, a network agency based in the heart of Austria.
Prior to that I had the privilege to work on great products & projects with companies such as Red Bull, BMW, Google, Wacom, Stinkdigital, Fantasy Interactive, Sony, Ralph Lauren, Bwin, Toyota & many more.
I consider myself a designer who works in a lot of different fields ranging from traditional graphic design, print design and brand identity to more interactive projects & product design across multiple platforms.
What do you do for inspiration?
I read a lot, I try to travel as much as I can and I get inspired by smart people who surround me. Inspiration is really something you can't really force, but you can put yourself into the positions where Inspiration is most likely to hit you. I actually wrote an article about this a couple of weeks ago on my personal blog.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
From a "most used sites every day" perspective
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
Still being passionated about what I'm doing & being able to shift my focus and adapt to different markets & requirements throughout my career so far.
How many hours do you work each week?
I work on so many things and can easily say that my job is my life, and my life is my job. I'm here to create. I stopped counting hours a long time ago, they're melting with my personal life too much that I couldn't separate them anyway. In a good way of course.
How do you relax or unwind?
The things I do for relaxing are simple: Reading books, sleeping 12 hours, Skateboarding & eating a lot of good food. (New York makes it especially easy with the last one)
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
My dream as a kid was always to be either a tailor (which would fit my last name Schneider, which is German for tailor) or making watches. I'm fascinated by micro/nano mechanical engineering which was actually the first job I applied for after I dropped out of school.
Unfortunately there was only one company in the whole country that was hiring these kind of positions, and they only hired just a few each year. I ended up working as a computer scientist & software engineer in my early years. I thought this was the closest I could get to my original plan.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
Well, obviously the ability to go online changed a lot of things for me & pretty much everyone around me. Being able to connect to many like minded people around the world gave me the confidence to start my own company, build my own products and move around the world to chase my dreams.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
This is an interesting question, especially knowing that "Design" is such a broad term that it is almost impossible to make a final decision here. But in terms of interactive & digital design projects I'm currently always impressed by HelloMonday, NorthKingdom, Cartelle as well as Rally Interactive. It's the consistent level of quality they deliver over the last couple of years that makes them outstanding.
But besides the usual I see some upcoming diamonds such as Wondersouce, Work & Co, Modern Assembly in the realm of interactive & digital experiences.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
Yes of course! Since the early days of the Web the FWA was always setting the bar in terms of design & technology for interactive experiences. Winning an FWA or seeing others winning FWAs motivated me to keep pushing and pushing. That's what it's all about. The FWA simply serves as a benchmark tool, it should motivate you to push it even further & always questioning the status quo.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
I wish it was still online. I might think about publishing some of my early works sometimes on my personal blog. I just have to find that huge old 20GB hard drive that I had for a very long time.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
I haven't, but it's something I'm definitely looking forward to. I'm using my personal blog with many (also unpublished drafts) right now as a collection of thoughts that might go into a Book at some point.
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?
It might sound strange to you, but I force myself to not hang out too much with like minded people such as other designers. Designers tend to hang out only with other designers inside their what I like to call "Designers Bubble".
Even though I appreciate the feedback & opinion from my designer peers, I'm well aware of the fact that too much "living inside the bubble" is not getting me anywhere. This is one of the most important things I learned personally since working in this industry.
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?
Yes definitely, now even more than ever. Now is the best time to think outside the Box, re-think what we understand the "Web" really is and re-defining the term "Website". In terms of the medium itself we're actually getting more and more into digital, just that the "mediums" within the digital realm are changing as well.
I believe in the future of "The Web of Things" - It's about smart connected & integrated experiences in every single part of our life. Analog becomes digital when it can trigger & manipulate digital experiences, and digital becomes analog when it's aware of it's pure existence.
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
One of the most exciting things about our world & universe right now is that no one really can foresee how the future looks in 10 years. Isn't that amazing? But looking into my glass ball I'm confident that the term "Website" will slowly fade away (at least it's definition) since "The Web of Things" will take over. In the future I see a lot of different touch points for one specific core experience which isn't necessarily a website anymore.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Flash as a technology is probably not here to stay. But the possibilities & dreams Flash gave us are here to stay. Flash for me was one of the best things that happened to the early web. The creative freedom and possibilities not only shaped our industry in the early days, but also defined great benchmarks for the future of interactive experiences, entertainment & platform independent gaming. (from a pure OS standpoint)
Even now with new evolving web technologies we take a lot of inspiration from the early Flash days. But now it's time to take it further where we stopped with Flash.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
I'm confident to say that a traditional design education is not necessary as a practicing designer nor is it necessary for being successful. Probably the main reason for this is that I dropped out of school with the age of 15 after middle school. I don't have a degree or anything like that.
One of the great benefits or our current generation as well as the rise of the Internet is to leverage what it brought us. A few years ago I would have described me as completely "Self-Taught". In the end I'm not, I learned from the Internet. In the end I learned almost the same way as people within a traditional education system, just that I was sort of platform, community & network independent which of course gives you great freedom and many possibilities.
Especially in our industry I'm confident to say that if you're good, passionate and crazy enough you can do whatever you want without having a bit of traditional education. Even though there might be little things where you wished to have one, but also those things are fading away with shifting generations that promise new mindsets across many industries.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
The key about everything is just about Showing up & Consistency. It's not so much about the Big Bang Effect & Winning Awards in the beginning. Showing up, patience & curiosity is the secret.
How difficult do you find employing the right people in a world where everyone calls themselves a web designer?
It becomes harder and harder. But the best will always stand out. After years of experience (and failing hard) you can clearly see the difference between those who are what I call "web stylists" and those who are actual designers. In the end there's nothing bad about it, there is a high demand for each of them and it just comes down to what you're looking for.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
Of course a Spaceship.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
I always had a simple concept. Do great work and the rest will follow. I pride myself for not doing pitches or any other spec work. If you do great work, great clients will follow. And the great side effect is that those clients really want to work with you which will often result into fantastic outcomes as well as great client relationships that go beyond the initial project brief itself.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
That's easy, it's Twitter.
What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?
Besides knowing that rich countries naturally lead with innovation (Like Switzerland, Sweden, Netherlands) I'm always impressed by of course the USA & China but also Germany, Finland, Japan and Austria.
What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?
There are 3 things that I'm most excited about and I ultimately want to influence:
1. Building a sustainable future on our planet earth. Our nature is important and it's the only planet we have (at least right now) so we should be conscious of how far we can go with it, or how much we can ignore it.
2. Innovations that will help us to be better human beings. Things that will help us to get to know us and each other better. Improve communication tools & make sure that we stay human with all the great technology around us.
3. Pushing Space Travel & Space Exploration. We're driven by curiosity, and what is more fascinating than our endless universe and the chance to find other living creatures?
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
It was a pleasure, thanks a lot Rob for having this interview with me.