Q&A met Erik Jonsson

Volgende week is het zover: Emerce Dare staat voor de deur. En met een line up om te watertanden, mochten wij onze favoriete spreker interviewen. Erik Jonsson, art director van aard verovert de digitale wereld met prijswinnende cases waaronder Google Abbey Road. Een inspiratiebron die dus ook komt praten op het Dare event. Wij mochten hem vooraf even aan de tand voelen. In het Engels weliswaar, excuse us 🙂

1. Hi Eric, How are you?
Hello! I’m fine thank you

2. You’re speaking at the Emerce Dare event, what are you focussing on in your presentation?
I’m putting together a story that takes us through some of the more interesting considerations i’ve had to make working as a designer the past 8 or so years. What happened when flash came in and then left, what the grid system made us do, what mobile has changed for designers and how the scope of what’s considered good practice in design changes over time.

3. You worked with some wonderful, international clients and agencies. Which project you did is your favorite?
These past years I’ve worked with Google on a series of 360 camera driven sites exploring places like the favelas in Rio and famous concert halls around the world. Sites that uses new technology to allow people to visit places they would otherwise never have gotten too. My favourite location was the Abbey Road studios tour we did in London. It had so much detail and history to it and I was allowed to mix Googles brand design with the visual cues from Abbey Road. Things like mixer interfaces, felt texture, grainy footage etc blended very nicely with the primary colors of google. I’ve always loved designing interface for the museum-tour like sites Google has made. There is something very dignified in visualising utilitarian signage in an environment like that.


4. You’ve made some actual products (for example Da Records). Is that something that enriches you as an creative?
I started working as a designer in 1999 and took a very classic approach to the career. I spent several years making a living of making posters, flyers and record covers before I got a proper job as a web designer. Making something tactile like a record cover, clothing or anything that manifests itself physically is a great design outlet. Both because you have to consider things you wouldn’t otherwise like how light falls on a surface and how that changes its color as well as size and proportion when it moves from the screen to your hands. I also really love making these things because they tend to be, at least to my regular job much more open in terms of brief and style. Posters go up on peoples walls which is very humbling, record covers go all kinds of places which is also great. I’ve made cycling apparel and things like water bottles which took on a life of their own when people started putting them on Instagram. It’s a great feeling when something you made no matter how minuscule becomes a part of someones life. A website, as nice as they are tend to have a much shorter life span or presence in your life.

5. Your work has a high technical element. How do you keep up with all the digital/technical trends?
I used to do a lot of design research. I ran visual inspiration blogs and curated content for a variety of channels. At the time I thought it was worth all the effort. Knowing very well what design was popular a year or two ago, whats currently trending and what lies on the horizon enables you to look at a brief and know with great accuracy what the design should be. Once you have a good grasp on applied design in general the actual technology makes little difference, at least to me. Our formula in the advertising market is often to mix what’s cool right now with a suitable tech enabler and apply design that matches that. Spotify’s big data, ray-ban glasses and a new album launch. An android watch, a new energy drink and the design that comes out of that. Once you know the parts or tech that makes up a project the design is easily appropriated. Or at least the general style is, the details takes all the time.

6. Can you tell us something about  your way of working? How do you start? And is it the same for print as for interactive?
Interactive and print are very different for me as a freelancer. My interactive projects tends to be huge and my print commissions are usually very small in comparison. I typically come in when the client agency have digested the brief and decided on a general direction for the project. The contact me and I get tasked with bringing a few visual treatments to the table. I look at the immovable like assets we have to use, copy and platform and start pushing towards as strong a style I can find within those boundaries.
There is a lot of back and forth with a creative director usually until we land on something that satisfies everyone. Over time as i’ve become more senior there is less design of course and more talking/listening and compromising. In the early stages of a project I try and not look too much on actual design references. If I can distill a style out of the brief it self and the assets that comes with it along with knowledge of the platform and the client I think i can get a much more direct and honest result compared to if I set out from a style reference I found in someone else’s work.

7. Where do you get your (art directional) inspiration from?
I dont like outwards as much as I used to. I think there is an unconscious process where you look at stuff you see and like and save them in your brain somewhere without really being aware of it. And then when you get handed a brief or a problem to solve I think I draw on that bank of inspiration or ideas that has been dormant in the back of my head. Very often I see a brief and a direction or visual treatment instantly comes to mind. Even though I know that it’s not gonna sit well with the client or be 100% correct I have to get it out of my head and into photoshop. Very often I spend 5-6 hours getting that designed just to be able to allow my head to move on and design what we actually need. In terms of areas of inspiration I think I look at utilitarian design the most. Buttons, interfaces, signage. Also a lot of photography that carries heavy branded messaging. Not advertising imagery as such but what I like to call mood images. Work that heavily conveys atmosphere without having to draw on logos or copy.

I used to go on tumblr and ffffound a lot but much less these days. After a while you feel like you’ve seen it all. I hardly ever even do mood boards now unless its requested of me. The work should speak for itself and be as original as it can be without moving outside good design practice. There is not always need for custom and bespoke design. Sometime a problem just need the right standard interface applied.

8. What would be your advice to young advertising students if the want to make it in advertising?

Work all the time and make sure you design the way you want to. Getting work becomes a lot easier when you have developed a certain style that people recognise as a read thread in your work. Dont reinvent the wheel and spend too much time on problem solving. When you get better with details and style the problems will solve themselves. Very little in how we approach style and utilities have changed in the past 50 years so its all about appropriating design.

To me working with design day and night, working and interning with studios that had a high volume was definitely a good thing. Designing a few pitches a week in different areas makes you a great generalist and once you have that down you can do anything.

Erik is a Swedish designer that started his career as an illustrator. After graduating from Hyper Island in 2007 he moved to New York to work for Your Majesty and clients like Lexus, Canon and Hyundai. In 2011 he took up an Art Director position for Stinkdigital in London working for Adidas, Nike, Converse, Rayban amongst others. Still in London he also worked for Fantasy Interactive doing projects with Ferrari, Porsche, Sports Illustrated and Sony. Since 2013 he has been a freelance designer and director mainly involved with Google working out of a studio in Sweden.

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Michael is mede-oprichter van Pop the Campaign en werkzaam als creative lead in Amsterdam. Twitter: @mkouwenhoven

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