Work really hard. Seek out good work. Take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.

Please give us a brief bio of yourselves

Andrew: I’m an art director at Goodby Silverstein & Partners. I’ve been working with Simon for six years at various shops around the US and Canada. Before advertising I had a stint as a designer.

Simon: I’m a copywriter at Goodby Silverstein & Partners. Prior to advertising I worked as a computer programmer for a few years.

What’s worked well for us is the fact that we both came to working together from very different backgrounds. Because I have that technical background and Andrew has a history with art and design, once we find an idea we’re excited about, we can both break off different pieces to focus on.

What do you do for inspiration?

Try to get out and do stuff. It’s really easy to stay in the advertising bubble. While it’s obviously super important to stay current, that’s only half the story. So we make it a point to get out and do new things and live, like, real humans to see how those ideas bouncing around in our heads can actually be applied.

What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?

Both of us would probably point to things outside of our careers that we’re most proud of. But with respect to our careers, we are really proud of our work with “Talk Read Sing—Talking Is Teaching.” There’s a shocking stat that by the age of five, lower-income children hear 30 million fewer words than other kids hear. We were asked to help bring awareness about this to the Bay Area. Instead of just putting out something traditional, like a PSA, we teamed up with early-childhood experts to design a clothing line that actually helped parents talk more to their children and improve brain development. Some national organizations found out about it and took the initiative across the country.

How many hours do you work each week?

It’s tough to say, as it really varies. At times it can be pretty nonstop, but when we do have downtime, we try to take advantage of it. If only we were those savants who could come up with an idea in 30 seconds, then go back to bed. But sadly, we usually require a small, quiet room and a good amount of time staring at walls, hoping the other person says something incredible so we can go home.

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

We’ve worked over two full days and nights without any sleep and such, but often when this happens, it’s because something went wrong or the timelines were unrealistic to begin with. We really aren’t the types to pride ourselves on sleep deprivation and attrition tests. There’s a weird “earning your stripes” thing associated with the long hours in this industry that we’ve never really understood, because it takes so long to recover from these sort of sessions. Honestly, for a few days after, we aren’t good for any ideas beyond a fart joke.

What software could you not live without?

I wish we had sexier answers so we could blow people’s minds with how tuned in and futuristic we are, but really, it’s probably the stuff we use for work, like Photoshop and stuff we use to keep our eyes on news and trends, like Twitter.

How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?

As far as the entire company goes, I’m assuming it’s in the hundreds. But as for the two of us, we usually float somewhere between three and 10 projects at a time.

Who is your target audience?

It always varies depending on the project, but generally, you want to make something that’s interesting enough that it goes well beyond its intended audience.

Are there any websites that have shone through as being pioneering in the last 5 years or so?

One that continues to stick in our mind is Bear 71. It’s a site that we still talk about and bring up as a reference point.  It can be tough for digital work to evoke real emotions without feeling overwrought but this experience sort of nailed it for both of us.

When dealing with major clients, how difficult is it to meet the needs of such wide target audiences?

I think for us, the toughest part is about setting up boundaries and sticking to them. But when you do that in advance, it saves you a lot of time and helps focus your work so much more.

With certain audiences you have to be realistic about their technical savvy and level of interest, so while we may have an awesome idea that requires the latest, greatest browser and some innovative user interface, if it’s not the right audience—no matter how awesome the site will be—it’ll go down as a failure. Once you set those boundaries for yourself, you can get down to creating the best thing you can that your audience will actually want to use.

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

Simon: I remember in high school I was big into punk rock and hardcore, so I made a website that listed out shows in my area. It was out of control, with animated GIFs of flames. Thankfully, the Internet has since been spared from this GeoCities atrocity.

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?

This crossover is probably the most exciting thing to us right now. At the end of the day, it’s about coming up with the best idea and seeing where it lives. I think the bigger worry for us is to make sure we’re not falling in love with a medium and don’t have the idea that suits it. That’s when you end up with some augmented-virtual-reality-social-app-gamification monstrosity that serves no purpose.

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

Simon: I think it depends on what you define as a website. Already things are happening on mobile sites that used to be the domain of apps and such. If you think of a website in that context, a website can really be anything. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing the day when a website does successful heart surgery on me, only to wake up and discover my wife has left me for a younger, more handsome website.

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

It might be stating the obvious, but we’re really proud of OurTam. When people visit Mount Tamalpais, they can visit our site on their phones and explore the stories and landmarks around them through our 3-D re-creation of the mountain. We worked with an incredible team to get this thing off the ground and were really excited to do a project that was mobile first.

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

Andrew: I think people can absolutely get into the field without it, but it’s a lot tougher. Both of us came from midsize Canadian towns where we didn’t have any exposure to this type of career. Both of us went to portfolio school, and more than anything else, it gave us time to actually discover what we wanted to do and work superhard at it. I don’t know if either of us would’ve been able to get to where we are without those years of total focus. Also, taking on that student debt is a terrifyingly good motivator. 

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

Work really hard. Seek out good work. Take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.

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

We have a whole bunch of them. We keep a wall in our office of  crazy ideas we’d love to one day make . I wish I could say they were all noble initiatives to make this world a better place…most of them are not. Hopefully, Sergey, Elon, Buffett and all those other do-gooders have got the well-being of humanity covered.

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

Simon: By the time you read this, Andrew will probably have purchased an Apple Watch. Looking over at his computer, I can see he sort of keeps hovering over the Purchase button. 

Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?

Nope. Hopefully, this interview tricked you into thinking we’re smarter and more insightful than we really are.

It has been a privilege, thanks very much



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