Interview with Designer: Anton Repponen
I’m a New York based interactive designer with architecture background. Currently I work as a Global Creative Director at Fi (Fantasy Interactive) and I collaborate with a very talented team of designers, developers and ux designers. I’m responsible for delivering creative solutions for clients such as Google, USA Today, HTC, Microsoft, Porsche and Sony. I’m honored by the multiple awards and recognition I have received for the work I have done at Fi (FWA Awards, Cannes Cyber Lion, Webbys, etc.).
– Hi Anton, how did you like Japan in your recent travels? I think it’s very cool to notice the little things that you see in different countries. What interesting things did you notice when traveling?
– When I travel I am mostly interested in how people live and how the location and culture effects their being rather than the “top 5 places to see”. I remember my first time in Asia years ago, I visited Hong Kong. I was completely blown away by the city. The first morning I woke up at 6AM and walked to a spot where people get off the train and use that elevator to go downtown for work. I got myself a cup of coffee and literally sat down there for 2 hours just watching people rushing to their jobs, having breakfast on the way, bringing kids to school. And obviously the picture like that would be completely different in different locations.
Japan is not an exception. A lot of things are very different there in the way people live and work. Architecture, street traffic, the way people have dinner and where, public transportation, work ethics all those things fascinate me. I red a lot of book by Japanese authors prior coming there and finally it was extremely unusual to see everything with my own eyes.
– According to your Travel Map, you have already visited many interesting countries. Could you pick 5 photos that you consider the best at the moment, and describe where and when you took them?
– I think by top 5 would be:
1. This photo of a small girl was taken during some Japanese traditional festival in suburbs of Tokyo. When I came to Japan for the very first time couple of years ago I was purely relaying on my Lonely Planet guide and walking around the Tokyo City. Then I reached out to one of my friends who I went to school with back Tallinn, Estonia; who actually lived in Japan for many years by then. She met me and my friends on the train station somewhere outside of Tokyo and took us to this summer festival. Tokyo city is extremely awesome and authentic, but the moment you leave it and go a little further away, where there are no tourists and just local people have their own celebration, the atmosphere is extremely special and unique.
2. This photo was taken on Maui Island in Hawaii form the top of the Haleakala volcano crater. I think this is the most magical place I’ve been so far. It is hard to describe how powerful and big it is even through photography. You really feel like you’re on a whole different planet when there. My friend who lives there took me up the summit very early in the morning to see the sun rising from the Eastern part of the island and that’s when I took this photo.
3. This photo was taken on the streets of Mumbai, India. I’ve spent a lot of time in India when I was still studying in college and at some point stayed there for a while interning at architectural agency in Delhi. India is an amazing country for traveling, one of the most diverse and different in comparison to the other places I have been. Last time I was there and went to Mumbai that impressed me a lot. I took this photo on my way to the Gate of India on one of the streets. I just love the charm of colonial buildings and the man in white taking care of his glossy Ambassador car.
4. The next one is from Rio de Janeiro. Brazil was the country I wanted to visit since I was a kid. The “Two Brothers” mountains that raise at the western side of Ipanema beach was engraved in my memory from various photos and illustrations I’ve seen from RIo. The geography of Rio is truly amazing; I don’t believe someone would ever decide to build a city nowadays at a place that is so rocky with such a diverse landscape.
5. The last photo here is from Nazare beach in Portugal. Back in 2010 I was part of the volunteer project in Portugal. With the group of people we stayed in tents living in the woods near Pedrogao beach cleaning up the forest. Almost every day after work we would travel around the coast to the new beach and relax. I took this picture of the boy jumping into the sea from the cliff on the northern side of Nazare beach.
– Is it intentional that you don’t use 3D editors? In many of your videos, you talk about pseudo 3D techniques using Photoshop. Tell us about your attitude toward 3D.
– I constantly blame myself for not knowing 3D. I really want to learn it and had about 3 attempts to get into 3D software and I failed.
In one way not knowing 3D software forced me to work on my Photoshop execution to fake it, to make something flat feel realistic enough that you would want to touch it. Pretty much all my personal experimental projects in portfolio are done in Photoshop. All the watches, shoes and other objects.
At some point I really needed 3D to create one of my designs as it was quite impossible to get all the perspectives right. So sometimes I am using SketchUp software to get the shape of the object, so I get all the right angles, perspectives and even shadows and then trace it in Photoshop where I add textures, lighting and materials.
Using SketchUp to get the right angles for the “drawers”, then Photoshop to blend it with the real suitcase.
– You must get a huge number of job offers every day, including some that pay a great deal of money. What does money mean for you and what do you spend it on?
– It’s a cool thing to say that I don’t care about money, and in a way I really don’t. But I agree with a quote I read somewhere in the blog a while back “Running out of money is one the worst stresses”. You really don’t want to be stressed whether you can pay the rent next month or whether you can afford a good dentist when your tooth is driving you crazy; and then make irrational decisions under the pressure.
I just need to be comfortable and feel financial independence. If my laptop breaks for example I should be able to go and get myself a new one, exactly the one I want, without thinking twice that it will be a significant amount of money. Or I need to buy expensive plain tickets to go somewhere next week.
I didn’t grow up in a reach family and I know value of things. I own very little amount of stuff and hate buying something that I already have. I am not the guy with multiple iPads or who buys a pair of black shoes if I already own a pair of black shoes already :D One thing should go away in order for me to replace it with the new one. I recently moved apartments, and in fact all the things I own fit into 6 boxes.
I spend money mostly on my rent in NYC :D. Traveling that include tickets, hotels etc. Camera equipment; photography is one of my biggest passion, and I actually take photos for much longer time than I design. Lately music equipment. At the end of the day I spend money on “experiences”: as cameras and lenses as well as music equipment allow me to create and learn new things. Same story with traveling.
Home apartment in Brooklyn, NY.
– Novice designers dream of self-realization, and of visiting other countries and working as a super-designer at a large company. I think you have already achieved a lot from the standard list of designers’ dreams. You are already in New York and work for a great company. Where do you go forward and what are your future plans?
– I have never seen the “standard list of designer’s dreams” haha! I don’t think I ever had certain goals in my design career, as I was never planning on becoming a designer. It somehow just happened, and I got sucked in. I always had that “temporary” feeling about what I was doing and at this stage I think I was wrong. I am a designer. It’s just medium does’t really matter for me anymore, it happened that I am an interaction designer right now, but if things would have gone differently, I think I would still become a designer, just doing different things.
I really don’t think I have achieved a lot to be honest. A little bit of this and a little bit of that; but nothing that I would be extremely proud of. So I hope all the good things are just ahead of me.
– You have a lot of interesting concepts. The first thing that comes to my mind is your watch, a Red Dot Awards winner. Are you interested in developing the concept?
– I would love to produce the OZO Watch that was awarded with “Best of the Best” at Red Dot Awards in 2010. But in my head it’s quite an undertaking at this moment. I would love to connect with people who have any type of experience producing watches and start a conversation. I am not a product designer, I just came up with the concept for watch, with the way it can look, but definitely need help on understanding what goes inside :D
– At one time, F-i made a great progress not only thanks to your sites, but also because of great presentations. After that, a significant number of similarly styled presentations, components deployed at another angle, etc. appeared on the web. How do you feel about the “borrowing” of ideas in design? Does this help design move forward or, on the contrary, make people run around the same trend for a few years?
– It’s hard to answer what exactly borrowing does to designers who borrow ideas. I personally don’t mind when people “borrow” my designs. Obviously not ripping off and making money of it, as it happened with 2 of my personal projects.
Borrowing is not bad. A lot of people learn from that. Though borrowing can also have a negative effect, when people are not thinking why the design was done in a certain way in the first place, and just “blindly” copy the work.
The Fi Case-studies, that you refer to as an example, we create to “celebrate” the launch of the project at Fi, and it’s idea didn’t come out of nowhere. It was a design process and evolution that made case studies into what they are today. Basically at some point we have completed the projects for Google, and it was one of the very first HTML5 projects we did. Our Fi website back then simply didn’t allow to showcase HTML5 within the framework, as it was just old. So we decided to put together a separate page where we can showcase an experience we build and talk a little bit about the project. That was our very first case study.
We liked the idea that it was a stand alone piece, the flexibility of the layout and other things we were able to do without the contains of old Fi website’s framework. So after we have completed the next project for Google “Messages for Japan” we decided to take the study a little bit further by showing the design process and rejected designs to explain visually how we got to the final look and feel and and final project. Then there was an HTC case study where for the first time we added a chapter about how we wont the pitch and UX part to show that designs also doesn’t come out of nowhere, but there’s a whole process behind it.
The very first Fi case-study for Google’s College Hoops.
More recent case-studies from Fi:
Sony Connected World case-study.
– Have you registered a blog at SquareSpace? It can be difficult to choose a simple and convenient platform for your blog, portfolio, and photos, and everything in one place. What options did you have and what did you choose?
– Yes, I used SquareSpace to launch my English blog recently. My portfolio (or multiple portfolios) are all on Cargo platforms under different URLs. So kind of all over the place. And I wish there would be one place, where I can keep everything under one umbrella. It is obviously possible, but as of now requiters quite some work and time.
All platforms have their own advantages and disadvantages, different agendas. Unfortunately the ideal one is not yet created :(
– Are there any resources you often visit for inspiration?
– Not really. If you’re asking about online sources, I am not a good internet user. One day I would get excited about blogs or recently I learned how to use RSS :) and then the next week I just forget about it and don’t have any interest. I don’t browse the internet that much anymore and don’t have specific resources that I visit on a regular basis to be inspired. Except maybe Wikipedia and FFFFound. I do use apps though sometimes; Flipboard for example to catch up on news and other content I might be interested in.
I get my inspiration from thinking about stuff and looking around mainly. Pretty much all the ideas I came up with for my personal experiments (www.repponen.com) are inspired by looking at items with a different angle. Sometimes I like to look at the object and it’s shape and think if it can look like something else, like molecular culinary, where food doesn’t taste the way you think it would just by looking at it.
In general I am usually inspired by the things that don’t work or have bad user experience, then I can very quickly come up with ideas on how to fix them or something completely different and unrelated.