You have to live a diverse, inquisitive life to do compelling creative things.
“We believe it’s important to do non-design work… You have to live a diverse, inquisitive life to do compelling creative things.”
Q: Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
Erik and I are a walking Venn diagram; overlapping enough to share in a joke, but different enough to know when to let the other take the lead. We have similar backgrounds and professional trajectories and that’s perhaps why we were led to form HUSH together. Right ingredients, right timing.
I flipped my professional life by bailing on a potentially lucrative finance career to go to architecture school, which I also bailed on. After an MFA at Art Center College of Design with a focus on film and media design, I immediately began working for notable interactive and design studios in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. During this time, while directing, I crossed paths with Erik and the rest is history.
Erik was an artist from the beginning and had the credentials to prove it after graduating from SCAD in Savannah with a degree in Design and Animation. Diving headfirst into the world of advertising and design, he found himself deep in projects at JWT, the notable interactive company Heavy.com, and Charlex’s digital division. Later, as a hired gun Technical Director and CG star working at A-list companies, we collaborated for enough time to know we were a good pair.
Q: What do you do for inspiration?
The matter-of-fact answer is that we are feed-crazy; everything from design and tech blogs, fashion feeds and pinboards, we overload ourselves and our team with visual inspiration.
The more important answer is where we get inspired outside of Design. We both watch our young sons play – which is an amazing thing to behold. The sheer joy in the smallest of discoveries resets our own expectations and reminds us that inspiration doesn’t need to be of epic proportions. Appreciate the little things and find inspiration in the details that are often passed over
Q: Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
Haw-lin.com – the anti-interface, just the facts.
Designpiration.com – it just feels good, and the big type search field is great.
Crane.tv – check out some of their content; I pretend to be cool by citing the latest bands, artists, architects and design projects I find here.
Q: What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
Balancing work, family and personal interests for approximately 1 hour every week.
Q: How many hours do you work each week?
50 on the books, in studio, and another 20 or so off hours, weekends or in bed.
Q: How do you relax or unwind?
Screens off. Good food, good restaurants, great wine.
Q: If you weren’t working on the internet what would you be doing?
Psychiatrist – most of my day is spent figuring people out so I can get the best out of them. Everything we do, online or off, is about the human mind and people’s perceptions. If you don’t understand that – if you aren’t “listening” – nothing good happens.
Q: What’s your favourite part of your job? What’s the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
I enjoy the feeling when working with other people, scribbling on pads, voraciously searching for that image reference, doodling and challenging each other – and then BOOM, it happens. You feel the idea take off. Everyone is on board, everyone is feeling it. It’s like a DJ teasing you with the hint of the next track. You’re aware that’s it’s happening but it’s unshaped and a little cloudy… but then you feel the power of the idea and the speed at which it wants to grow.
The hardest part is that most ideas have been done, and most ideas suck.
Q: What’s the longest you’ve ever stayed up working on a project?
The first day is actually quite fun, and a camaraderie forms among your team like never before. The second day is the hump day; it’s ugly and you power through by any means necessary. The third day is delirious. There’s nothing left after that except crappy work product.
Did I mention I need at least 8 hours of sleep every night?
Q: How many projects does your company juggle at any one time?
As you know, projects come in every shape, size and color. As our company has grown, we’ve been able to migrate away from the small “fire drills” to the longer form, concept to production, projects. That means more time, more budget and more opportunity for great work and great relationships. That being said, we always have a portfolio of projects in pitch, production and launch at any given time. It’s fair to say we have 3-5 going on simultaneously, lead by several key talents, on any given month.
Q: In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?
We’ve been working with OpenFrameworks and Processing to harness video and translate the motion from that feed into interesting visualizations, or sensory effects. Many of our installations have been built with OF but more and more, we’re using it as a development tool to gauge interesting ideas and prototype quick, compelling sketches for installation and experience design.
Q: Who is your target audience?
People who want to feel, not people who want to do.
Q: What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
I coded it by hand, no WYSWYG, so I was proud of that. But visually, it was terrible and I cringe when I think about it. Somehow it worked– I got a job.
Q: 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?
We believe it’s important to do non-design work. I can’t tell you how many people we interview who don’t bring much else to the table other than their portfolio. You have to live a diverse, inquisitive life to do compelling creative things. I hate referencing design problems with other design solutions. You need to bring in other, outside experiences in order to inform your design process and thinking. Travel, sports, eating, playing – these are things that are indirectly related to the day to day work, but are inextricably linked. We’re fortunate to work in an industry where these things create value in our work product and aren’t outside, unrelated experiences.
Q: 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?
We’ve never been in or out of the web. We’ve treated “design” and “interactivity” in both very literal and very abstract ways since our start. Solving cross-platform problems has been core to the HUSH DNA from our first day. We have a sort of “fear nothing” approach to any project and believe that our training and ways of solving visual problems allow us to play on or off the web, and then some.
Q: If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
Everyone likes the praise of his or her peers. But if you’re doing it for awards, you’re screwed. Make sure you get innate pleasure from the work you do so that criticism, lost awards, late nights and struggle don’t matter a bit.
Q: When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
At the start, it’s not about the work – because, effectively, you have no work under your new brand. It’s all about finding people who trust you and are willing to make the bet that you and your new company will be successful. We had a few of those people show up at the right time – and they are still great clients, collaborators and friends. Look to your inner circle.
Q: What does the future hold for your company, or you as a person?
Somehow, the powers of the commercial design and advertising industry often have the unfortunate effect of separating the “thinkers” from the “makers” over time. Our goal is to buck that trend, and to build a company that has powerful conceptual thinkers (people who have inspired, blank-canvas ideas) as well as powerful makers (who bring those inspirations to life, within the constraints of the real world). There are a few renowned companies who seem to have successfully done this; we aim to follow suit – and we are.
Q: What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?
Lots of red wine for a dinner party. I’m more of an experiences guy than a “things” guy. I spent lots of money on things that disappear, leaving only memories.
Interviewed by: Rob Ford
Date: February 9, 2012