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Living Creatively: The Frontender, The Copywriter & The Art Director

We convinced three young creatives from different fields to spill the beans on their lives as web-based innovators.

We talked to Frontender Alberto, Copywriter Elettra and Art Director Tomas from creative digital agency AQuest.

And this is what we discovered about their inspirations, frustrations and when and where they found the creative inside themselves.

We talked inspirations, frustrations and quizzed them on when they found the creative inside themselves.

1. We would love to know more about where you find inspiration: Are there people you admire, books you read or blogs you follow? What other stuff moves your minds and gets you thinking creatively?

A: Hmmmmm, let me think… As for people I admire, the first names that come to my mind are Florian Morel, Jean-Christophe Suzanne, Addy Osmani, Paul Lewis and Luke Wroblewski… But I wouldn’t say there is a single person that inspires me, it’s rather the community that brings the new concepts and ideas I take inspiration from. Some of the websites I check on a regularly are CSSDA, Awwwards, SiteInspire, Codrops, Codyhouse and Smashing Magazine.

E: I draw inspiration from many different people doing many different things: not just copywriters.
When it comes to literature, I admire the work of writers from across different eras. Anything from, say, the 18th century through to the modern day. I also follow some websites and blogs that focus on creative writing. A couple of sites I check in with regularly include Pennablu.it and Pennamontat.com

T: I don’t tend to look for inspiration in blogs, magazines or websites. I find I get more by drinking in what’s going on around me. There’s so much to get from the world we live in. I find a real beauty in normality, in the everyday, certainly more than enough to put a creative spring in my step!

2. What really gets your creative juices flowing? How do you conquer the obstacle of the blank page?

A: Unfortunately I don’t have a “secret weapon” to spark inspiration when I am low on creativity.
Usually the best thing is to involve the team and put our heads together. My team rocks!

E: Sometimes the right idea can just jump out on you, totally from nowhere. It can often be when, really, you don’t think you’re close to doing anything at all. Then Wham! A lightbulb moment and you’ve got something you can really work with. When it comes to beating the blank page I often play around with words, taking stuff that corresponds to the concepts examining and building out from there.

T: If I’m staring at the screen, and my eyes tell me I’ve been doing it too long. So then I get up and go for a smoke. I take a break that way and come back to the task at hand. The thing is that I smoke a lot so I’m wondering whether I’m missing the creative boat!

3. Can you suggest a “Must Read” book for young folks starting in your field?

A: For anyone considering working in front-end, I suggest they focus on JavaScript (for css3 and html5 you can find a lot of examples and snippet arounds). A few of good recommendations are: “Learning JavaScript Design Patterns” by Addy Osmani, “JavaScript: The Good Parts” by Douglas Crockford and “Maintainable JavaScript” by Nicholas C. Zakas. You will learn how to build something “modular”, robust and well written.

E: Any book should be interesting for a copywriter! It could be fantasy, romance, biography, historical, educational or journalistic. All of them offer their own specific way of transmitting a message, a particular syntax and style of writing. You can always learn something. If I could recommend a book about copywriting, it would be “La parola immaginata” from Annamaria Testa, but I’m afraid it hasn’t been translated into English.

T: My suggestion would be the Vignelli Canon. It’s a short, but intense read. Basically it revolves around Massimo Vignelli – a famous Italian designer – and his understanding of good design, as well as his own views on aesthetics and the principles behind them.


4. What do you enjoy most about your job… and what drives you mad?

A: Studying new technologies and dealing with the new challenges they bring every day is probably the part of my job I enjoy the most. I get fed up with stuff like fixing compatibility issues with outdated browsers. I then have to track down some “old hacks” to help me overcome these problems, and that can sometimes drive me up the wall!

E: Searching for new ideas and creating a winning concept are definitely the parts of my work I love the most. Of course, there are those projects where your imagination is reined in by client expectations or a tight brief. These projects have their own challenges, but personally I do find them less enjoyable.

T: I love sitting down, with a blank piece of paper, and coming up with something great. Often, I’ll only be fully into this process for a day, tops. Still, it’s a great part of the job. I sometimes get frustrated with having to explain the “why-what-how” of my choices, though. That can be annoying.

5. Could you describe your common 9-5?

A: There is no such a thing as a “common working day”: one day you are doing “magic” with animations and another you are just (hopefully!) fixing the unexpected behaviour on an outed browser 🙂

E: I’m another one without a real set-in-stone, 9-5 working day. There are always forks in the road that can throw you off schedule or change the way you have to work. Maybe a re-brief or a new requirement for a project comes in. The key is to try and keep some sense of a working routine, maybe with daily rituals , such as morning “trends & inspirations” you follow whatever happens.

T: My normal day? Let’s say sometimes it feels like a trip to the psychologist’s office! Seriously… you can be seated on a couch for ages, just telling someone a story, sharing stuff and throwing some ideas around. And you just hope that someone is listening.

creatives aquest

6. We are often blow away by the new talent coming in to digital at such a young age. Do you think people need school or university if they’re digitally native and have that innate talent?

A: No, it’s not necessary, totally – but it is something that should be recommended.
Why? Because I believe that developers need problem-solving mindsets. I often think that studying mathematics at university is a great way to develop those skills.

E: School is always useful, regardless of talent. It’s mind-expanding and you see a lot of different things, very quickly and from lots of angles. You learn as many life lessons from school as you will academic ones. And you appreciate the impact of good work and effort as you get results from your exams. That’s really useful.

T: Well my own view is that art school isn’t a “must-do” to get into this industry.
In fact, I’d say it’s much more important to surround yourself with beauty, to really observe what there is around, open your eyes and your mind that way and appreciate things.

7. How and when did you discover the creative you?

A: I started as a back-end developer but it didn’t take long to find out it wasn’t for me. After gradually getting into skinning and web design later, I felt like I’d found what I wanted to do. With passion comes curiosity and you start watching videos, doing tutorials, reading books and over time you build your skills and get progressively more involved.

E: I can’t say I woke up one morning and was suddenly able to just be creative. That didn’t happen.
I think it was always something that was in me. I’ve always loved writing and listening to stories. For me that’s where it all starts and where everything else comes from.

T: I’ve never met the creative “me”. But if you see him, please pass on my contact details.

8. Do you have any advice in terms of how to find a job; how to build an impressive portfolio; and what to do to keep improving and gaining skillsets?

A: The best advice I could give is to find and pursue your passions: never be afraid of failure. It helps to have somebody you admire and you can learn from, but it really comes down to trying to do the things you like and never give up. The rest simply follows.

E: There isn’t a job in this world you can do for a long while if you don’t have the passion for it. Especially in the creative realm. For copywriters, I would always say: If you want to write, read! And read a lot!

T: Always keep going, no matter what. Persistence is a real virtue. But remember that mediocrity doesn’t matter. You need to be permanently curious, always ask, read, watch, listen, touch, taste – get deeply involved in what you are trying to achieve. Things are changing faster than ever, so being on top of those changes is vital.

9. How about the age-old battle – Client demands VS. Creative opinion? How do you reach the right balance between what a client believes is the perfect solution and what you consider works best?

A: Personally, I always try to avoid conflict where possible.
Ideally, a client should see me as a consultant – almost a creative partner in the process – rather than just a guy who makes stuff for web.

E: When you start working with a client, dig out as much as possible about his business and a story behind. You’ll see how the client has communicated so far, what styles have been used. Double-check that you understand the client’s objectives. I mean, it’s really important that what they ask you for is actually achievable! When you have this kind of background, you can begin to mould a solution to their problem.

T: I love this question, definitely my favourite! I would say that clients often react most positively to the things they like themselves, and can understand and react more sceptically to those elements they don’t know well enough. It’s usually work that comes across to them as being a little obtuse, or hard to fathom. That’s why, for any project to really fulfill its potential, there must be real trust between client and agency.

10. Can you think of a project you loved working on and why?

A: A website redesign for Assos. It’s about bringing to the table a fresher and more dynamic digital look for the brand. The original design concept was modified several times in an effort to meet the client’s requests, and showcase our own expertise and artistic direction. The reason I particularly enjoyed working on it, is that we were acting as consultants rather than just delivering based on requests. Both the client and our team are delighted with the final result.

E: We recently worked on a proposal for Samsung, and I loved the final concept we delivered. Copywriting was a vital part of the process. But I also enjoy those projects where I write for a client with less freedom, or less creative licence. That’s a real challenge and one I really enjoy.

T: I’m still waiting for THE Project! A bit common answer, I think, but it’s true.

11. Tell us about the culture at AQuest!

A: Creativity is a core value at AQuest. To give an example, the front-end team shares the same open-space with our designers so we discuss ideas and make conceptual decisions in complete synergy.

E: When I first walked through the doors at AQuest, I immediately felt that there the people here had real creative energy. This is a really interesting aspect to working at AQuest, and extremely important for a digital agency. Having that in-house creativity – that innovative edge – really helps us to broaden our horizons.

T: We feel it’s our duty to take risks in what we do. We don’t paint by numbers, Risk-taking is a key skill for people working in our world. Another thing I love about AQuest: you get some great work done when you are walking the fine line between what’s right and what’s wrong.

creatives aquest interview

So there are no hard and fast rules to the creative life. It’s all about dipping toes into different pools and finding the right moment to jump in. There is no such thing as a ‘normal’ 9-5, smoking can help you break through a creative block (not that we’d ever encourage it!) and the richest, most inspirational resources we have are often just sat in front of our very eyes.

Thanks, then, to Alberto, Elettra and Tomas. Catch up with their work by checking out the AQuest website!

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