Jens and James
Hello Jens and James, it's been a long time since we interviewed you both in 2000. Could you, please, tell us what happened lately to you both?Well hello there. In 2000 me and James were running a small studio in the city of Kalmar, Sweden. We shared 150 square feet where we both lived and worked. There were 2.5 feet wide mattresses that we folded away under our desk during the day and at night we’d scoot our computers and desks over to make room on the floor.
After having waited for about a year to initiate a contract with a studio in Tokyo we both decided that we needed to consider something else. So Jens went off to LA to work for DNA studio and James went to Stockholm to work with our great friends at motion graphics studio Waytion. Jens worked on various websites for the Hollywood industry such as the site for the Hulk Movie, directed a striptease video and marketing campaign for a DVD release starring Carmen Electra, and learned that the weather in LA rocks. To name a few, James created show packages for MTV Accelerate, Fame Factory, Swedish Show “Efterlyst”, commercials for Silhouette sunglasses and found that nightlife in Stockholm might be the best in the world.
At the end of 2003 Jens moved home to Stockholm to start up Idiogroup with James, sharing offices with design studio Perfect Fools whom we completed projects for Ogilvy, China United, JP Damage denim and 1800 Tequila with. We also did various motion graphics projects including the bumpers for the Swedish Grammy’s. On the interactive side we also worked with WDDG and our old Kioken friend Peter Kang to create sites for Gateway, Clairol, Philip Morris, and supermodel Angela Lindvall.
2004 we both moved to New York to work as Design Directors for Brooklyn based design studio Big Spaceship and that’s where we’re currently still working. Some projects we’ve worked on in the last two years are sites for War of the Worlds, Underworld Evolution, MoMA Contemporary Voices, Batman Begins, The Grudge, Dark Water, Billboard Magazine, Gucci, Alfie, Electra, Silent Hill as well as a re-branding of Big Spaceship, and setting up a Broadcast department.
So you are Design directors now at Big Spaceship, can you please tell us about work process and how hard it is. How many designers you have and what you guys do there?Big Spaceship is a wonderful place to work. The talent pool is very diverse and the environment is playful and inspirational. As we’ve been expanding the studio the last couple of years we grew a need for a new office so last week we moved into a brand new custom architected space. We’re just short of 50 people here. 20 something designers, 2 strategists, 7 programmers, 6 producers as well as our two company co-founders.As Art Directors we work in project groups ranging from 3-12 people depending on the size of the project. As design directors we develop the creative direction with our team and are responsible for the final output. We also spend time with clients and our teams to generate ideas as well as overlook overall company design strategy.
On a movie project we generally bring in as many people from the company as possible to read the script and after that we sit down and brainstorm around ideas for features on the site. How do we bring the experience of this movie online? Can we expand these ideas into a marketing concept? E.T.C. Sometimes we present visuals along with the proposal, it all depends on our relation with the film studio. If we land the project we go through about 2-6 weeks of locking down visual concepts that the client signs off on before we start production. The challenging part is that we hardly ever get to see the movie before we create the online marketing for it. Due to many variables sometimes the marketing direction might also change completely and the editing studio re-edits the film to fit the current market at the targeted launch date. Having invested a lot of energy in creating art this can be slightly disappointing. But all the good sides of the entertainment industry make up for it. We get a lot of freedom in our creation process and the entertainment industry is very open to using the latest technologies available so there’s always something new to learn in the process.
The last year we’ve been diversifying our work a bit more, working with clients such as MoMA, billboard, Sony, Coke, LG, Food Network and just recently we started our first Nike project. We also launched a broadcast division, offering services across media channels and overall everyone here is really excited about the variety of incoming/ongoing projects.
Long time ago your sites were updated with lots of abstract images, motions and photography. Now it's mostly stuck. What happened? You decided do web mostly?Hang in there ;) We’ve just been incredibly busy with all sorts of projects and we’ve been saving up for a major re-launch of our sites. The illustration side of things has been slow but we have been working hard on various interactive, identity, broadcast and photographic projects. When you take a management/directing position with a company you need to fully invest in its success in order to feel comfortable at the end of the day. So until we launch new sites bigspaceship.com is where one should look.
Hey, the questions about Three Oh. Is that dead? Or is it going be rebooted on May 1?ThreeOh will resurrect one day. When? We don’t know yet.
Well, what are your goals guys? You both now work for one of the great companies in the world, doing sites for Hollywood movies, is that enough or there is something else in the future?I think our common goal is to progress, do ground breaking work, live life happily, fall in love, play hard. There’s so many opportunities out there and the future looks bright but I think we’re both very comfortable with life in NYC right now.
How do you think web design changed for the last 5 years and where is that going?5 years ago the medium was still immature, products suffered from lack of technology, there were less guidelines and regulations. The industry was also suffering from financial disappointment. As corporate interests influenced governments we started seeing a flood of investment in standardizing and controlling the web. The internet became a natural part of everyone’s life, most importantly across generations, and just like other media channels became an integral part of a company’s success. I believe we’re continuing in the same direction. Wireless internet will become even bigger, continuing to integrate with our lives in all forms of portable devices that all have the need to communicate with each other. These new devices and channels bring new challenges along for designers that need to figure out how to best operate them and make them logical, that was sort of always the most fun part of this field.Most web design students that enter our industry today are focusing on video production and I think that’s a market that will grow intensely as projection device technology is becoming cheaper. Electronic billboards with live feeds connected to the internet, LCD clothing, iPod and cell phone TV, increased broadband for advertising, it’s all happening and all the melodies fight each other for attention with mind blowing fast moving media. But on the other side of the medium is also the need to simply communicate to people that are searching for information and to do it well. “web design” will be a much wider term in the future.
Macromedia Flash rocks?Most certainly it has gotten to a point where we’re starting to feel comfortable with its output; most recently the great video features and especially how it treats typography better. We’re waiting for a unified engine that’s directly translated between Photoshop and Flash – and where all parameter values are the same. Nonetheless, it rocks.
How about your offline life, how do you guys chill and relax? Hobbies?We party and go out socialize with friends frequently, especially in times of summer. NYC is great for parties and dining, and there’s always something going on everyday!
Travel, I know you like travel. What is the last place you have been and why did you go there?Jens was last in Toronto and Barcelona speaking at the FITC and OFFF festivals, and previous to that in Stockholm and LA. We were also recently in Puerto Rico which was beautiful, and James took a solo-trip to St. Martin in the Caribbean and Stockholm. We go because we love traveling, and it’s nice to get away from all the cement in NYC. You get sucked in to this great vibe of the city, and you feel good, but sometimes it just feels great to get away from it. Not only is it emotionally inspiring to see new cultures and environments but to document them with photography has always played an incredibly important role in the work we produce. You look back at those photos, use parts of them, look at patterns, remind yourself of how you felt there, share them with others. Working with communication in our global world it’s also important to get out there and deepen your understanding of how different people are.
A little thing about your work process, can you please tell us how did you come up with the idea and how the project started? I’m talking about Underworld 2 site. Could you guys tell us the story behind the project you worked on? Outlined-Familiarize with Movie; read script. Research history.-Brainstorm and present outcome to client-Develop Visual concepts to be accepted by directors and film studio marketing team.-Revise Visual concepts-Produce experience-Trouble shoot and analyze
Underworld 2 was fun because we were working together with Adobe to beta test their Flash 8 software and were granted a chance to release one of the first products made with it. Underworld lent itself perfectly to pushing a new piece of software since the design we developed was so intricately detailed and naturally we wanted to transfer that aesthetic into animation. What we had most fun with was experimenting with video integration and dynamic control and reuse of video elements since we could control alpha channels, blending modes and color shifts. We wasted a lot of time over appreciating the capabilities of the new flash player but also saved a lot of time once we had sucked in knowledge from the mistakes we made. Technology aside, what we intended to do was to transfer the visual frequencies online and build excitement for people to go see the movie and from looking at only a few photos from the film set I think we managed very well. The movie got really high box office scores and everyone involved in the project learned much and felt proud of the outcome. A success story in many ways.
Jens and James, who are your favorite photographers and links to their sites please.
Jens:In no certain order. Photography is such an importand inspiration to me and there are way to many talents to mention but these are some great sites to browse through.
Do you guys till get weird emails? What is the most weird e-mail you got lately?Not so much lately. We have been representing Big Spaceship lately and not Idiogroup and Chapter3 so we don’t get to interact with the audience in that same personal community based way.
Well, that’s all… Maybe you can suggest to newbies something? Work hard, don’t forget fun, always listen to Rock’n’roll regularly, be humble, time will always come, your dreams are precious, too much coffee is relative, habits are dangerous, more money more trouble, less money more trouble, more work less creativity, more life more of it all.
Thanks for the opportunity to be interviewed, it’s always a pleasure.BestJens & James