Andreas, Smpl’s Head of Design, on how to make or break a digital project, why impossible ideas matter, and being mistaken for a pirate.
My father was a digital pioneer
In the ’80s he set up the first digital ad agency in Norway. He was this eternal optimist and never afraid to try really ambitious projects. He had to be with the ad agency because none of the software we take for granted now even existed.
We’ve moved on a lot since then; there’s nothing left from those early days. Everything is new. Everything except ideas, that is. Great ideas – and knowing when to take a chance on them – will always be what determines success. My father taught me that.
If you want to win you’ve got to focus
I’ve worked with so many different clients who have great ideas but then pile so much on top of them we need to go digging to find that focus again.
Your product or service needs to do one thing extremely well. All the extras can come later. I’ll never stop saying it: if you want to succeed, you’ve got think ‘focus, focus, focus.’
Impossible ideas can be the best ideas
I love doing workshops. It’s a chance to get hands-on early and make sure I’m helping the client make the best possible version of their Big Idea.
The crucial thing is to create an environment where people can share ideas, no matter how crazy or impossible they may sound. And sometimes it’s the impossible ideas that lead to the best solutions.
I like to think hundreds of years ago an explorer, looking over the horizon, said: ‘Wouldn’t it be great if we just flattened the earth so we can see where we’re going?’ and instead of laughing at him, someone took that idea away and invented the map.
Beware designers who design for designers
A good designer should give you confidence they can quickly get their head around your goals – no matter how complex – and that they can make them simple and work for your audience.
That might seem obvious, but I’ve seen far too many designers who create things they think will win them an award. Very often what will win a design award is not what the audience for that product needs.
It’s a pirate’s life for me… sort of
I had to take over captaincy of a 20-ton sailboat after it broke its mooring one night and crashed onto a coral reef near Fiji.
If that wasn’t bad enough we got arrested while on land and accused of smuggling (which we weren’t, I promise!) Then the captain decided he had had enough and went home!
I had to take charge and get us from Fiji to Australia… in hurricane season. When we eventually appeared out of the storm in Newcastle, Australia, the locals were amazed we’d made it.
Sailing through the storm taught me a lot about leadership
Those lessons are ones I use in all our projects today. For me, leadership is all about having clear goals, about inspiring and motivating people, and being willing to get stuck in with everyone else.
It’s about being able to communicate openly, mustering up positivity and energising people even when things are really tough… like when you’re on a boat that’s taking on water in a huge storm! (That was really scary. Still, I like to think the crew didn’t realise quite how scared I was…)