The internet is directly changing who we are.
For this issue’s pick of the best sites and apps to be featured in Lürzer’s Archive Digital, we invited Andy Sandoz of Work Club to select his current favorites. In the interview that follows, he submits to a brief “interactive grilling” at the hands of Michael Weinzettl.
L.A.: Hi Andy, could you please introduce yourself and tell us about Work Club and the services it provides?
Andy Sandoz: Hi. I’m Andy Sandoz, Cre-ative Partner and Innovation Director of Work Club in London. I’ve a design background and a passion for how the internet is changing our world for the better. We founded Work Club about four years ago to focus on the opportunities digital provides to business and brands. We have a strong commercial and strategic focus coupled with innovative creative answers, i.e. “We sell more stuff in better ways.” We see our role as helping brands build and maintain better relationships with their customers.
L.A.: How did you get into digital? When did your interest in this field start and what were the first steps you took in this direction?
Andy Sandoz: I’ve grown up with computers, so it’s in my blood, or I’m in theirs. I tried to ignore them for a while and became a painter, but using an airbrush is really hard and there is no ? z key so I switched to the early digital art packages. There is a logic and principle to the way computers think, and whilst I don’t write code, I do share the same values. We seem to get on.
L.A.: Where did you get your training, and what were the first jobs you landed?
Andy Sandoz: I studied
all kinds of tech-nical drawing, visual communication, animation and 3D over my early years but really started learning with my first job, making games and branding channels for interactive TV. The tech was really quite dumb so we had to be really inventive and charming to do anything great. It really strengthened my respect for technology and also my human sneakiness to get it to behave better.
L.A.: Your bio says that for two years, from ‘97 to ‘99, you worked as an illustrator. What was that like?
Andy Sandoz: It was tough. The internet wasn’t “ready” yet so it was hard to show off, and someone literally had to die for you to get a regular job with a magazine. I really wanted to be a social commentator with my work, I was just too young to know what the right commentary was.
L.A.: Who were the people you particularly admired when growing up? From the field of design and beyond?
Andy Sandoz: Initially Gillray and Daumier, C19 political cartoonists, who had a certain unique way of looking at the world. More, or perhaps less, recently, Descartes and Newton for the scale of their ideas and beliefs but also willingness to experiment and, in Newton’s case, to stick things in his eyes to see what happened. I was also a big fan of Hajime Sorayama’s “Sexy Robots.” As a designer, I was heavily influenced by the early work of Attik and TDR (The Designer’s Republic) like many others, but my favorite was Me Company, who did some amazing work in the late 90s.
L.A.: Were you interested in advertising at all? Do you remember any ad campaigns that you admired from the time when you were growing up?
Andy Sandoz: Nope. It was just advertising telling me about things I wanted – like a Big Trak or a TV Watch. I think that capitalism, brands, and digital especially, has opened up a rich vein of work for designers such as me who want to make interesting things. Maybe we’d have been carpenters or political cartoonists or engineers, or just had a shed and a hobby outside of our bank job otherwise. But advertising, or whatever that becomes, has boosted the possibilities and outlets of creativity enormously. Thinking about it, if advertising, which is so often poorly associated in society with manipulation, is to have a good side going forward, perhaps that will be its contribution to creativity; it’s now breeding the creative minds that will design much of the future.
L.A.: What are some of the changes of web-based communication we can expect next? Or have all the major changes arrived by now?
Andy Sandoz: The major changes have not happened yet. The internet is just starting out. It’s still so young and not even traveling at top speed. Three that come straight to mind: 1. Data is clearly the next big shift as all businesses adapt to the live knowledge that all kinds of data can provide throughout the whole business. It will change business verticals into horizontals, into Bézier curves, into feedback loops. Smarter, faster, leaner, richer, and repeat. 2. Ubiquitous computing will be the big brand/customer shift where the conversation is always happening because the channels are always open. Brand/Businesses better be good. 3. Also Robots! Lots of them. The growing blend between humans and technology is beginning to impact and change society the way Hollywood said it would. Google, “The Singularity.”
L.A.: In May, you gave a talk at Creative Social Presents called “Is the internet about to punch you in the face?” What was that about? What were the main points you covered?
Andy Sandoz: The title is borrowed from Iron Mike Tyson, who said: “Everyone had a strategy until they are punched in the face.” I think the internet is like this: no matter how nice you are, someone will troll you. My main point is that the somewhat dark behaviors learned and honed through anonymity on the internet are now prevalent and unhidden in society, meaning that culture as a whole is adapting to the internet. What I may have thought rude is, perhaps, now acceptable behavior. It’s just progress. Much of what you do is shared or open; someone will disagree with you and tell you. You’re going to need thicker skin. The internet is directly changing who we are and how we interact with each other in the real world. I find it hard to imagine life as a teenager now.
L.A.: You said, “... Digital will/may influence what you can do with your ideas and, importantly, digital will/may influence the type of ideas you can have.” Can you elaborate on this and perhaps give us examples from your own work?
Andy Sandoz: It’s a very simple thought. As the internet has grown, it’s been a place where ideas ended up and evolved. The Bookshop (Amazon), The Marketplace (eBay), etc., and this was the same for advertising: Here’s my idea and my TV advert. Can you put it online, please? But, as digital matures, the thinking, mechanics, technology and culture formed through the web begin to play a bigger conceptual role at the beginning of ideas and within society. This will lead to completely new kinds of thoughts. Thoughts that start out digital and not just end there. Exciting to think what this will create.
L.A.: Reading through your blogs at sandoz.co.uk, I frequently came across the term “digitally cultured.” What do you mean by that?
Andy Sandoz: I mean ideas that have digital principles enthused within them from the outset. If you spend enough time thinking about and using the web, you become adept/intuitive at understanding what makes it tick. This, in turn, influences your thoughts and ideas. Digitally cultured ideas are ideas that are formed with digital principles as an input, not a media output, regardless of where they end up or what they do.
L.A.: And how far “digitally cultured,” is, would you say, the advertising scene by now?
Andy Sandoz: Not at all. Yet. But it’s a natural growth curve. The world turns and is a little more digital every day. With that, digital culture enthuses more thoughts. So it goes. At least it’s accelerating, and those without realize they are missing something important and are trying to get within. For many it’s quite a jarring change in thinking, and embracing ideas like feedback loops or cause and effect does not come naturally.
L.A.: Do you think the importance of social media in brand communication today is a fad that will pass and give way to something different in the future, or is it here to stay?
Andy Sandoz: If you elevate it to behavior, not media, then it’s here to stay. But, confusingly, it will give way to something different too. All ideas stand on the shoulders of the previous. It has given the consumer a voice and therefore power. Brands are responding more directly to their customers’ needs. This is healthy and the pattern will continue to grow. What social media is, or perhaps moreover where it lives or the form it takes, is harder to predict. By the way, some bright sparks used to think computers or the internet would be a fad too. Don’t listen to this kind of blind nonsense. Look at the cultural shifts the technology creates rather than the tech. The plough didn’t just turn earth; it allowed volume in farming that created trading, and that created all kinds of new skills. Similarly, social media isn’t just inane chatter on Twitter; every word has a currency way beyond. Just look at its nascent and raw revolutionary power around the world at the moment.
L.A.: Please tell us about some of the work you’ve done over the years that you’re really proud of, and describe it a little please.
Andy Sandoz: My favorite projects are ones that really provided a sense of utility and interactivity for the customer alongside a clear message for the brand. Working with BBC Radio 1 some six years ago, we created Musicubes, a very early widget for MySpace that allowed users to make their Music DNA and therefore a statement of their tastes to their friends. This, in turn, doubled a bespoke personal radio player streaming their music tastes: first of all, helping them get to the music they liked. Secondly, making them reappraise the station to discover that DJs were playing the music they already said they liked (the brief). Thirdly, advertising the station & DJs to others through advocacy and a cool tool. Very hard working, fun and social. Very early on. It’s kinda like traditional advertising in reverse. Another project I really enjoyed was an interactive site where the user could feed a cocktail of drugs to a guy at a nightclub and watch what happened to his body. Rather than patronizing or scaremongering, it educated and respected. A much better strategy. Creating the McLaren Pit Wall last year was cool too. A live, second-screen point of view for McLaren fans to keep up to pace with what their team is doing. Helpful and exciting. It adds to the sport of F1 whilst bringing fans together to enjoy the race.
L.A.: I was impressed by Work Club’s project for Ballantine’s Facebook page, the first digitally animated tattoo. Can you tell us a bit about that and the concept behind it?
Andy Sandoz: With Ballantine’s we creat-ed the “Human API,” which is a feed into a person who does something unique, someone who
“Leaves an Impression” which is Ballantine’s great active line. Through sharing this feed, we hope to inspire others to live with more uniqueness and creativity. So we’re going to look through the eyes of interesting people to see what they do and how they do it and also allow the user to effect that by being inside their “digital” brain, so to speak. Leave their own impression on the story. Secondly Ballantine’s competitive set and customer growth is not other drinks brands – it’s Google or Uniqlo. It’s brands that use technology and digital influence to make statements in the world. So the Animated Tattoo is just that. It’s a chance to follow K.A.R.L. as he creates a digital tattoo that launched an animated film that brought the tattoo to life. It was all shot live into Facebook with interactions from the audience during the tattoo itself and then turned into a film that raced up 1m views in a week. We’ve since shot two other “Human API” projects and will be creating more soon.
L.A.: What is your attitude toward awards, and isn’t it problematic to judge digital entries the way they are now frequently judged (namely by putting everything into a two-minute film that is shown to the jurors)?
Andy Sandoz: Awards used to be benchmarks and reference alongside reward. However the internet gets there first nowadays, so they need to look hard at their relevance in the world. Education and the championing of creativity in the world are the key areas. The films are frustrating because they are slow and patronizing. Useful for complex projects but not great in telling a fast story. Really, I want to go at my pace, which is fast as I’ve got a lot of experience, not the film editor’s pace. There are better and simpler ways to tell the story of your project, which will mean I will get the gist faster. If it’s interesting, it gets more time. More simplicity in the storytelling would help immensely. Hit me with the idea then back it up with the brief if you need.
L.A.: Where do you get your inspiration from?
Andy Sandoz: Everywhere. Creativity is very suggestive. The more you fill your brain up with stuff, the more references you have. It’s a biological thing, and probably a temporal thing. White brain matter connecting grey brain matter. So I think the more interesting things I have in my head, the better. I think I collect things that feel culturally interesting and, more often than not, they come in useful a few weeks or months later on. Also, I think I have a point of view on the world that is mine. So I feel that, rather than trying to cover everything, I just follow my heart, knowing that the next person to me has a different path. If we talk and share ideas, then it gets better because of that diversity.
L.A.: Do you think there will be a role for print in the future (and, subsequently, a role for print advertising)?
Andy Sandoz: Only on an elective basis. I think interruptive advertising is illogical in a digital world. There will be better ways to announce messages and talk to people. So print advertising is going to suffer or become very specific and premium. Plus, content will be increasingly tailored to me, so will the advertising. Although, to come at it from another angle, what is print? Digital ink is advancing rapidly. All “print” will be smart and interactive soon enough. That will do more to change it as a medium than anything else. Everything is flowing together towards ubiquitous systems, so the verticals of TV, print, digital will cease to exist and perhaps be categorized around the customer demographic and location instead.
L.A.: How do you unwind?
Andy Sandoz: I play golf. I don’t look at my phone for nearly four hours! Plus, it’s outside and good for me.
L.A.: What would you be doing if you hadn’t gone into digital/visual communications?
Andy Sandoz: Pro golfer. That’s a hell of a nice life.