January 18, 2024

10 brutally honest pieces of advice to my former designer self.

I was not meant to be a graphic designer, or even less a creative director for real time interactive and metaverse experiences.

I majored in 20th century history at high school and then did one year of political sciences at university, when I realised that in a country such as Argentina, political career was not something I was probably cut out for. But perhaps I was wrong.

I did have love for films, videogames and the internet, but a major sweet spot for "Behind the Scenes" featurettes on HBO where the mixture of practical and visual effects and early computer graphics were shown. That was for me real magic.

My logic eventually was clear. I love movies, I love posters, what if I learn how to design one poster, as the basic unit of visual communication, then I multiply that 24fps and I get a movie.

I was young, and stupid, and it took me a while to find my path so here is a list of ten things I would tell my younger creative self and I hope he doesn't listen to me and repeat the same things, otherwise I wouldn't be the person I am today, and I kinda like it.

  1. All those sleepless nights paid off. But prioritize health.
  2. Do an apprenticeship. All the free work you did to get experience also paid off, everything counted.
  3. Save more. Pay yourself first and build a freedom fund.
  4. Document your work better.
  5. Spend more time mastering the tools.
  6. Learn how to draw & create every day.
  7. Make more friends (build an audience).
  8. Go all in. Live in a shity place and focus everything on your craft.
  9. Have technology always up to date.
  10. Have kids earlier.

1. All those sleepless nights paid off. But prioritize health.

Our job demands that we sit in front of the computer for hours.

It was very often in my university days to pull all nighters either working on a particular project, or studying for a particular subject.

This tendency only increased when I started working at the first motion graphics studio, pitching until the very early hours because volume only seemed to come the last 2 days of the sprint. I remember taking massive amounts of coffee, sugar, cookies. And I gained a lot of weight in the meantime.

It was not until I was about 27 and after a couple of health scares, that I started to get interested in the theme of longevity, started drinking orange juice and eating blueberries in the morning, and luckily now with 40 years old Im very glad those first steps that lead me to weight training, crossfit, and running, etc.

Still lazy at heart.

2. Do an apprenticeship. All the free work you did to get experience also paid off, everything counted.

If I would have to start again everything, I would do a sort of apprenticeship of sorts.

I've had many boss-mentors over the course of my career but I have never really done apprenticeship type of work for long periods of time.

I would today, try to find someone that is doing the type of work that I would be interested in, and go all in, work for free and dedicate all my focus and energy to learn as much as possible for as long as possible.

That could have also been done at a place where I would have started from the very bottom, for example at a game studio creating assets, learning all about the tooling from the ground up.

My first job out of university was directly as an Art Director, therefore I always lacked the technical skills on a core level.

3. Save more. Pay yourself first and build a freedom fund.

Im not talking about fuck you money, but many decisions I had to make during my career were for a lack of funding to take the time, think, make my personal project and reshape the career on my interests.

Sometimes it feels that where I am right now, it's the direct result of not having the capacity to take 1 or 2 years off to reshape where I would see myself in the next couple of years.

Either bootstraping a project or learning something new.

4. Document your work better.

I've had a lot of great and cool projects during my whole life, that there is no real record of them.

Some of my most successful friends, have always spent time creating proper documentation about their work. Creating nice renders, of photography of the finished product.

I tend to look at my work as some sort of flow, and hope that the best one will definitely stand out the test of time on itself, but that is wrong thinking.

For example, last year when we launched the metaverse experience in Las Vegas, I could've travelled with my DSL camera and record and document the whole launch experience and the car much better. Luckily my colleagues at Journee created this fantastic film, which I've never would've managed to do by myself and its a whole project on its own.

BMW Vision Dee - Created for BMW's Vision Dee Launch. Role: Creative / Art Director

It is very easy for to make even not so polished work just stand out using proper mockups and templates. The same amount of effort and energy should be invested into proper documenting and presenting the work to the world.

5. Spend more time on the technical side.

I definitely wish I would know how to code.

At least to understand the basic principles of computer science to be able to solve problems from a different perspective.

I always felt that my limitations were mostly due to my lack of proper depth and understanding of the tools and therefore I had to use what little I knew, and come up with creative solutions and my superficial knowledge of them allows me to communicate with more technical artists.

But definitely bossing around about how to use Houdini, Javascript or even Blender Nodes, I think would make a massive different on my visual output.

6. Learn how to draw & create every day

Drawing is thinking and seeing.

One of my mentors once told me, "the only tool a director ever needs is pen and paper".

I always regretted not having a more formal way of expressing my thoughts on paper. Not knowing how to draw was always something that behinderd me on my creative journey.

As a director, it sometimes pays off to show someone else that idea that you have on your head to someone else with clarity and drawing is the perfect medium.

Good use of perspective, human anatomy. All things that I would love to master.

I'm addicted to purchasing notebooks but they are all empty because I don't know what to do with them.

Photo of my notebook.

Recently I stole my son's pastels, and started creating, not every day but almost, and start to discover a new form of expression.

It still feels that not knowing how to draw properly is not allowing me to express the things that are in my head. Like not knowing enough of a language to talk to people.

That creative output, then reflects on my work, I take another look at color, texture, and the tangible aspect that is so missing on the digital space.

7. Make more friends.

I'm not a friendly person, maybe not even an likeable person.

The few people in my life that I call friends, are true friends. That I know I pick up the phone and they will be there, and even if i don't see them after 10 years, they will be there for me.

Nowadays, with the internet, you can build an audience of followers, and like minded people that you can have a shared journey together.

If that is something that you are interested in then, supporters, followers, or people that follow your journey, will come back to you if you are genuinely engaged with them. You can feel part of your own little community that can help you grow, or go independent one day.

But if that is the case, I want to be lucky enough that I connect with the right people.

8. Go all in. Live in a shity place and focus everything on your craft.

I went all in on adventure, but with a bourgeois spirit and soul.

I've experienced extreme discomfort and really extreme situations, like that time I was struck by a rare vascular disease that turned my skin red for months alone, in the middle of a dark winter whilst trying to make a big job come across because I needed better health insurance. I cannot say that I left everything behind and dedicated my living self to my craft and soul. Maybe in that case I would've become an artist.

I tried to "balance" things out. Go all in on something, but making sure I got paid for it, and not reinvesting always that money on myself or my craft but to enjoy things in life, go out exploring Berlin's techno nightlife and wasting a lot of time trying to "find myself".

9. Have technology always up to date.

A bicycle for the mind.

Your tools should always be sharp, clean and up to date.

Business will run smoother if your tech stack is up to date and it allows you to create the things that you want with ease. Tech should not be an impediment for you to express yourself.

They should actually give you an edge. Allow you to work faster. Become a bicycle for your mind.

10. Have kids earlier.

Controversial, but, to be honest, when you are young, you have the energy and stamina to go through things with higher rates of recovery. Not only kids give you purpose, but they give you a sense of responsibility and real growth that nothing else delivers in this world.

Your lens and priorities will permanently change, but also, if you would have kids at you early 20s, you would have the energy to go through parenting and career, and when your kids can start taking care of themselves and become more independent you will be able to focus on the best years of your career without sacrificing their formative years.

More kids please.

January 14, 2024

Creative Productivity

In this post I will reveal the things that I have found to boost creative productivity and help you scale your creative output. Bear in mind this are just frameworks that I have discovered for myself, but at the same time you can learn and apply to your own process. I try to incorporate and blend computer science and logical breakdown of creativity, redefining cliches and old archetipes of what does it mean to be a creative, ready?

Legacy Thinking

All productivity books start the same, there is a claim of a past chaotic self, then there is an event, a rebirth of sorts and finally a study or two that are cited to support whatever worked for someone and give them a bit of a scientific backing. The following is merely anecdotal brain dump.

All the online gurus will tell you to wake up, do your 5 minute journaling for gratitude, cold plunge and calendar blocking, but in the creative industry, all that is nice and good if you like to do it, but it will not really translate to anything but perhaps, give you a bit of structure or prep your day.

I have to admit, I have a sweet spot for these things. Love testing new productivity software and ways to keep track with all my information, tasks, to-dos, etc. But I always fail. I think I'm on to something interesting with the Bullet Journal method, but I just started very very recently. Let's see if I manage to survive the 2 week test.

Creative productivity has been the main driver of traffic to my website. So I will do a typical word vomit here with some random thoughts, and my future self can pick this up when he is creatively producing the book that will never be a success.

Productivity Basics

Productivity is simple in the end and can be universal. That means, we just need to be industrious about our approach to output.

More output = more productivity.

But that is only one part. Volume does not equate quality. The truth that I have found is quite simple. And if you are worried about originality, I would add also that it is within this process that originality appears. When you start to apply your intelligence to how you see your work and manage to get in and out of it. Let's break it down.

  1. Quick Start Sprint - Reduce the time that you need to think about something, put some pressure, and do quick MVP releases of your output.
  2. Test it with reality - Post it online or seek feedback.
  3. Detach - Look at it from an outsider perspective, be highly critical
  4. Iterate - And be scientific about it.
  5. Challeng It - Take notes, male a plan.
  6. Deconstruct - your next steps and prepare your next iteration.
  7. Repeat

There is no improvement without intelligence.

It doesn't matter the volume. That will help you generate muscle memory.

There is no formula we are all different, and have our quirks. Some people can only do with 4 hours of sleep, others like myself, can sustain 6.5, but 8 is best for pure mental sharpness.

Intelligence also plays a pivotal role in pattern recognition. As creatives, we often find ourselves in a tangle of ideas and concepts. The ability to discern useful patterns, connect disparate ideas, and foresee potential outcomes is a product of honed intelligence. This skill is particularly crucial in times of overwhelming creative choices or when faced with the daunting blank canvas of a new project.

A key aspect of maximizing creative productivity lies in the intelligent reflection on past work and the intentional planning of future steps. This process is not just about producing more but producing better with each iteration. It involves a keen sense of self-awareness and the ability to objectively analyze one's own creations.

The first step is to develop a habit of regularly looking back at your work. This isn't just a cursory glance but a deep, analytical dive. You need to detach yourself from the emotional attachment to your creation and view it with an objective lens. Ask yourself critical questions: What worked? What didn’t? Why did certain elements resonate more than others?

Detecting and Correcting Errors Once you've reflected on your work, the next step is to detect specific errors and areas for improvement. This is where your intelligence plays a crucial role. You need to understand not just the superficial aspects of what needs to be improved, but also the underlying principles and reasons. For example, if a design didn't resonate with the audience, go beyond the surface level 'it didn’t look good' to understanding the principles of design that weren't effectively applied.

Intentional Planning for Iteration Armed with insights from your analysis, you then move to intentional planning for your next iteration. This means setting clear, achievable goals for improvement. There will be a point where you will incorporate this directly into your brain, but in the beginning it pays off to be extremely conscious about what your intentions.

Iterative Improvement As you produce more, each iteration becomes an opportunity to apply what you've learned. This doesn't mean every new piece will be perfect, but it should be better than the last. This process of iterative improvement is akin to sculpting, where each stroke is more precise, informed by the strokes that came before. It's a cycle of creating, reflecting, learning, and improving.

Intention is your superpower.

I don't want to sound like your next-door productivity guru. I apologize for being prescriptive or cliche. But whenever I fail as a creative, its because I am completely ignorant about what I'm doing.

Nowadays its really easy to start something, draw some cubes if you are into UI, sketch something fast if you are into concept, throw some things around to get a feeling. This also relates to my consistency of vision post of maintaining intention and discipline towards creative success.

Part of this warming up process is fine. But my biggest lesson from 2023-2024 is the following: Quality (Clarity) of Briefing = Quality of Output.

The Clarity of Briefing My biggest takeaway from these years is the direct correlation between the quality of the briefing and the quality of the output. This might sound straightforward, but its implications are profound. As a director, the clearer and more intentional I am in setting the brief for my team, the closer we get to achieving the desired results, faster. And people get surprised and self esteem rises when they see how much they can create with such level of quality. I wrote about this before also how to improve productivity when working with creative teams.

Direction and Intentionality Artists and creatives, no matter how talented, require direction. This isn't about micromanaging every aspect of their work but providing a clear, concise, and well-thought-out brief that they can build upon. The more intentional you are with your brief, the less room there is for ambiguity, leading to more focused and effective creative efforts.

Harnessing Intention as a Leadership Tool As a leader in a creative team, harnessing intention is about striking the right balance between providing guidance and allowing creative freedom. It's about being clear on the 'what' and the 'why' while being open to the 'how.' This approach not only leads to better outcomes but also empowers your team, giving them a solid foundation to unleash their creativity.

Intention and Creative Problem-Solving Intentionality also plays a crucial role in creative problem-solving. When you start with a clear intention, every decision and every creative choice is made with a purpose. This doesn't mean there's no room for spontaneity or organic development, but it ensures that these creative explorations are always aligned with the core objectives of the project.

The Feedback Loop of Intention and Output The relationship between intention and output is cyclical. Clear intentions lead to focused outputs, and the results of these outputs, in turn, inform and refine your intentions for future projects. This feedback loop is a dynamic process that fosters continuous improvement and adaptability in the creative workflow.

The Power of Intention in Personal Creativity On a personal level, being intentional about your creative work means understanding your motivations, goals, and the impact you wish to make through your art. This self-awareness not only guides your creative process but also helps in articulating your vision to others, be it team members, clients, or your audience.

Artificial Intelligence is like cheating - embrace it.

It's not going anywhere. So stop with the techno-doomerism and go for it. I recently saw, within my industry some tests generated with AI that would make my job obsolete, in the next 6 to 12 months. It felt like a splash of cold water to my face. But on the other hand, I truly believe on the unlocking power of this technology and also:

"Creativity and knowledge and explanation are all fundamentally impossible to define, because once you have defined them, then you can set up a formal system in which they are then confined"

David Deutsch - https://twitter.com/DavidDeutschOxf

This is not the hope, but the wall, that should give us confidence in the beauty of the human mind. And how there are still things that we can control, our brilliance, in the pursuit of creative expression.

I recently did a gigantic pitch in two days, only using Midjourney and chat GTP, this allowed me to scale my creative vision and saved me a lot of time. The more intentional you are with what you want, the clearer the AI will provide you with the images and text that you need. But here is what I did, I used those images to brief one of the artists in my team, and the output, because it was so clear, because I could just focus on the outcome that I needed, saved us so much time of exploring.

Integrating AI with Human Creativity The true magic happens when AI-generated concepts meet human creativity. In my project, I used AI-created images as a briefing tool for the artists on the team. The clarity and specificity of these AI outputs provided a solid foundation. This integration not only saved us time that would otherwise be spent on exploratory phases but also ensured that the creative direction was focused and well-defined from the start.

Focusing on the Outcome By leveraging AI, I could concentrate more on the desired outcome rather than getting bogged down in the initial stages of concept development. This approach streamlines the creative process, allowing for more time and energy to be spent on refining and perfecting the final output.

AI as a Collaborative Partner It's important to view AI not as a replacement for human creativity but as a collaborative partner that enhances it. AI can handle the heavy lifting of generating initial ideas and concepts, freeing up creative minds to focus on higher-level aspects like conceptual refinement, emotional resonance, and aesthetic sensibilities.

Embracing AI for Competitive Advantage In a rapidly evolving creative industry, those who embrace AI will find themselves at a significant advantage. AI tools can provide a wealth of inspiration, generate diverse ideas, and offer solutions that might not be immediately obvious to the human mind. This technology is a catalyst for innovation, pushing the boundaries of what's possible in creative expression.


Finally, the magic word: Focus.

There is no way around this. I constantly have it written down in my notebooks because I need a constant reminder. Yes, a creative needs to juggle multiple things at once, but but but, the lack of focus will destroy you. You can scale focus with proper planning and blocking times for work. The industry is getting faster and faster paced, particularly with AI accelerating that change.

With more distractions, the ability to come back to the focus of the main thing, is so critical. It's easy to get your head around the next new technological shiny object. But trust me, going back with a simple plan. The plan not to get distracted from the task at hand, will put your creative output to the top 1% of creative professionals out there, and don't forget to aim to be world-class.

December 3, 2023

Consistency Of Vision

Im just a guy that loves this work too much. I spend more hours in front of the computer than I spend hanging out with my family and that is a fact that probably a lot of us share in this industry, or that is even just the reality of the working conditions of intellectual workers in this century.

Today, I was lucky enough to be part of a extremely high level conversation between two of the most important creative leaders in this business. And a phrase came up that struck a never on me and that was the title of this post: Consistency of Vision.

I can only write from my own experience, and I believe this is, by far the main differentiator in business success that you can have in the creative industry.

Vision, is the most important trait of a creative individual. Not only this, but also on a human level, in any industry, craft or anything for that matter.

It the ability to connect to the imagination, with vivid clarity, imagine things and articulate it to someone else and create something out of it.

One can say there are different manifestation of vision, one can be a visionary storyteller and write amazing books that keep readers engaged and motivated to turn the pages, others can be more visionaries in terms of ideas and communicate things to the world that make you see things from different perspectives and points of view, perhaps convince you and even change your mind about things.

Visionaries, worldbuilders in the creative industry are the ones that can tap into a world of unseen things, environments, atmospheres and creatures, and can imagine realities where the rules are made by us. How do these worlds look and feel? What type of details we get to appreciate, smells, sound.

The more you can connect and enrich this inner world, the richer your visual output will be. The more you think and work to expand the resolution of the things that you are experiencing in your imagination, the more interesting your work is going to be.

There will be challenges that arise, that seek to put you away from your vision, voices and opportunities that want to influence the way you see things. Some will enrich you, some will make you lose time.

And time is running out. Keep the vision clear, and consistent. You will get there.

November 19, 2023

I recently discovered that the fastest way to improve productivity working with creative teams.

Unlocking maximum productivity within creative teams is about a combination of clarity of vision, perfect communication and preparedness. Let’s delve deeper into each aspect to harness their transformative power.

Clarity of vision

It is very easy to fall prey on the fact that you feel you have a clear vision, and are communicating it to your team perfectly but trust me, the opposite is the case, or at least you should always assume that. If you actually manage to put yourself in the place of your direct reports, producers and clients, I bet each person has a different understanding of what you have in your mind — and probably you don’t have it as clear as you think you do.

At the core of productivity lies a crystal-clear vision. This means having an end in mind downloaded from your brain to “paper”. Make sure your references are on point and not confusing and for that Midjourney is an excellent tool. Sometimes looking for references and crafting beautiful moodboards can confuse your team.

Have a hero image that your team can follow and you will make sure that you are not improvising feedback or focusing on the small details that do not make an impact on the final work. Think of it as the compass guiding your team’s journey, it prevents distractions and ensures alignment among team members.

A good hero frame that defines — Mood, atmosphere, setting, design & composition, hero object and environment.

Perfect Communication

Communication isn’t just about talking; it’s about transmitting ideas precisely.

Flawless communication means setting explicit expectations and fostering an environment where ideas flow freely. Miscommunication can derail projects, wasting valuable time.

This means that you have to communicate and get into an arrangement with your team of what you want and the decisions that you make. Bad communication leads to misinterpretations that makes the work go into wrong directions costing time to steer back.

Ensure that every team member understands their role, the broader vision, and the decisions made. Regular check-ins and adaptable communication styles cater to individual team dynamics, fostering clarity and cohesion.

In a best case scenario, you train your team to be able to make their own decisions that fit your vision and your studio’s culture.


Preparation is the secret sauce. Take your time and don’t rush things. Having even 20 minutes to prepare to communicate your vision to your team can make a huge difference.

Anticipate questions and foresee roadblocks, arming yourself with solutions in advance.

Mental scenario planning ensures you’re ready for any curveballs thrown your way. This preparation allows for smoother interactions and immediate problem-solving.

These things are really powerful, they might sound like superficial prescriptions but nailing them all together do make a difference. In embracing the power of clarity, communication, and preparedness, you’re not just enhancing productivity within your creative team; you’re fostering an environment where speed and efficiency can really unlock incredible results, giving you extra time to focus on making the final product better, and iterate more.

November 7, 2023

The secret to infinite creative productivity.

In this post I will show you how you can increase your productivity 10x and get to better results faster in any creative discipline. We'll uncover the essence of perseverance and the iterative process in the realm of design and creative problem-solving.

We are all grownups here: We know the secret to success in the creative industry does not rely on the genius, or the talented, or even the...well genius. The secret is really that the ones that want to solve the design problem the most, and by want, I mean, REALLY want the thing, they will solve it. At any cost.

The Importance of Persistence in Design

When facing a creative problem, the designer that manages to create more value per output, is the one that will get closer to success. Design is a process of discovery, you will start doing something, and it will not match what you have in your head, so you need to iterate over and over until you start discovering that little seed, that little thread that you need to pull until you figure out what that thread is.

It is in the repetition, in the exploration and in the discovery that you will find what tool, technique or driving force actually starts to multiply the output. That is for example, the essence of style.

The Significance of Style

Style is a set of choices and decisions that are repeated over and over forming a pattern that is recognizable and over time, it starts to mature its coherence.

The Dual Approach to Problem-Solving

The formula is on one side understanding the problem and on the other side trying to brute force a solution, eventually you will manage to marry both. The more experienced a designer you are -more library, more tools, more skills- the faster you will transform overclocking your brain and trying to bash through a problem, but everything starts on those two energy demanding edges.

Application of Principles Across Creative Disciplines

Here is the thing, that principle can be applied from developing a custom set of brushes, to drawing circles in order to learn how to draw basic shapes and also if you want to learn anatomy in order to complement the foundations, and you manage to repeat this every day until it becomes second nature, then you will start finding solutions faster.

This happens also when you are trying to solve hyper complex design problems, in real time for example, working on a landscape or an environment, you need to understand your foliage brushes, distances, landscape design, scale, composition, etc. Then in order to get to a perfect frame, you need to go through hundreds of iterations.

In concept art, usually before starting drawing, people do thumbnails, and they do sheets of dozens of them until they find that seed of what they are looking for.

Same applies to character design, character designers go through many iterations until they find the right curves, the right colors, the right expressions, etc.

With photography its the same thing.

The Art of Discarding

Bear with me with this one... In philosophy, via negativa is used to explore the nature of existence and reality. It emphasizes the limitations of human language and understanding when it comes to describing complex or abstract concepts. By focusing on what something lacks or what it is not, philosophers aim to clarify the boundaries of what can be known or defined.

We judge design, by what its not, and so, we try to define what it is, since designing is bringing something useful into this world (serving a commercial purpose then digital design has intrinsic value), we poke, challenge and stress test design and see where it fails.

Some designers value their work too much. They believe that their output is something that comes from the gods, and treat their work. But its the other way around, you can create divine work only if your decisions translate to an end result that solves the design problem.

Therefore, like evolution, the strongest designs, meaning the ones that are judged by stakeholders, will eventually be challenged, morphed and adapted to fit that particular need that the design is trying to fulfill.

Therefore, you have to get used to discarding your work, to try millions of iterations until you learn something, until you find something that is useful not to satisfy your ego, but to solve the business problem and provide value.

The Path to Infinite Productivity

You cannot brute force your way without an intellectual understanding of a problem, but the secret, in the end is not too complicated. Start. That is 50% of the battle, then keep going, repeat, try something else, repeat again, gain confidence and speed, iterate as much as you can and have as many options as possible, have a backup plan and be a master of your craft. Be open to examine your work, as if you were an ice cold judge, poke holes and challenge it, be brutally honest with yourself and make sure that the only thing you are mostly aware of is your own ignorance. If you ruthlessly apply this principle to every single stage of the process, no matter how small, it will mathematically push you forward in your discipline.

November 6, 2023

Brief Essay On Originality

I don't think I can write something truly original today, I'm tired. And I have to admit that, sometimes I use chat gpt to get rid of nuances, but I obviously hate the final output, I tweak it a little bit and try to make whatever corny text I got back, to make it more human. More myself. Soon enough, the nuances will be picked up by the LLM and get my writing pattern. I will just have to say dumb things to the voice recognition software, and then process it and get some decent text out of it.

Now, back to the header topic. Originality comes from many different places. You have thousands of theories, articles, and pop books about how everything is recycled, or you have to copy the masters, and eventually you will come up with an original stlye. That is not incorrect.

But what truly makes something original. Particularly in this day and age where, digital, a medium made for ease of replication seems to allow for very little originality in the creative output. The NFT promise enabled a generation of artists to find a sense of originality in their post, but, what became more popular is not the original visual style -think punks, and apes. There's literally a million of other projects out there with more original content, stories, and visuals than those project.

I am of the belief that true art, is just an expression. A mixture of mastery (or luck) in a certain domain that manages to bring something new to this world. Art does not reflect but expresses truth. Right? There's no more absolute definition.

But originality can be found in many places, design, physics, mathematics, sports.

What makes something unique? Is it a stamp? A marketing campaign?

The important here is the differentiating factor. Something original is a mixture of something that has a new way of expressing something, and idea, a picture, a car. But not necessarily, expressing something truthful to this world.

It is as if, we need to process, process and process a lot of information, chew it, replicate it, find a way to express it, copy what is out there, and slowly by boredom or intellect, we decide to create something that is not quite. Something different to what is out there. With a twist, perhaps.

Why do Apple products obsess me so much? The iPhone is the first and only smartwatch, everthing else is just a copy. Does that make it a piece of art?

Then how do you create something original after that. Its closest competitors either copy them, or focus on a completely different type. But the experience and of the iPhone (and almost entirely of its ecosystem) is unique.

Crafting Originals

How do you craft originals? In storytelling, for example, we revisit always the same patterns. The hero's journey, rise and fall, sky beams final battles.

Tech Edge

There's always an edge to be found in technology. Back to the iPhone example, the new tech that the product enabled, allowed for a new and original product. In tech, the NFTs, the apes are popular partially because they were piggybacking on a new tech, and an economic bull market. They found product market fit, almost by chance. If it was not going to be the apes, it was going to be some other similar project. But the guys at Yuga, figured out original ways to foster and develop their community and looked for new approaches to ownership and IP expansion.

Creating a new product - not so long ago- I was chatting with a girl in a small party, and she was telling me that she was working at a startup that was training an LLM to create a better Siri. It just struck me, why do you want to invest your time copying two existing products and make a worse version of whatever it is that Apple or ChatGTP can potentially already have in their roadmaps?

Cross Polination

There is always this belief that cross pollinating ideas or concepts is a formula for creating original content. Think Sharknado (Sharks + Tornados), Godzilla vs King Kong, Pocahontas + Blue Man Group (Avatar).

But on the other hand, you have Ridley Scott pitching Alien as 'Jaws in space'. What worked there, is not only the script and the noir take at sci-fi, but brining in a crazy person such as H.R. Giger to design the alien and the overall aesthetics.

Originality is that rare combination of factors and circumstances that give birth to something new.

Solo Originals

The best way to be original is being yourself to the absolute max. I speak mostly for designers and maybe some artists. And yes, its the cheesiest advice ever. I don't consider myself original, but I feel that the more library I build and the closer I am to new tech the more original my content is. And at the same time, the more hours and discipline I put on something, the more I get rid of the obvious. Some people get there faster, I just do not.

The best way to achieve originality is, actually, getting faster to getting rid of the obvious. Some people develop conscious processes for that, and sometimes those processes just randomly stop working.

The secret, is to keep going, be consistent. Go to the masters, copy, imitate, try to master the tools to express what is in your head, and always aim to be world class because you are competing with the world and the world needs more original content.

November 5, 2023

Love, Death and Designing the Metaverse

Metaverse Design

A frame from Joytopia 3 created at Journee

I love the metaverse. I would read of metaverse design in those consulting forecasts, or blog articles about "10 future jobs unleashed by the web3 craze" and thought it was all BS. Sure Beeple opened a whole new market for 3D artists, but the web3 craze in the art world, meant that a lot of the creative class could now imagine completely new sources of income, new jobs being generated. I had friends working at decentraland, and there were other very promising projects out there that were trying to combine blockchain technology and NFTs to be able to create these unique metaverse experiences.

Let's also not forget that we were just fading out some heavy lockdowns and a crazy amount of these companies got a lot of traction, because a lot of the marketing or tradeshow budgets had to be allocated for something and people were craving experience on one side, but also a little window of opportunity was developing.

A lot of blogs started raving about how 3D designers, architects and coders would create a whole new market for these virtual experiences that people would use, even create their own economies. I was reading The Sovereign Individual by James Dale Davidson and William Rees-Mogg and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson at the time and everything made sense: The future of work and money, the future of creative work and the new ways of experiencing the internet.

But the crypto markets started to collapse and the intoxication of all these new ideas started to fade off. But not at Journee –where I work– they were thriving.

Think Again

Metaverse Design is a completely new discipline. The new advances with Pixel Streaming technology and web interactions make it possible to showcase triple A gaming experiences directly in the browser, with e-commerce integrations, web layers and cms backends that make it extremely easy to create custom virtual experiences with very little technological knowledge.

This took me a lot of time to understand and it is a strong shift in the way that I've approached my work. We are not building video games, we are not building full scale CG projects. We are building unique custom experiences in a video game engine, we are also trying all the latest AI tools to include in our pipeline, even if they are clumsy, we get excited because we know 6 months from now they will be doing things we cannot even believe. Midjourney a great, obvious example that has evolved exponentially during 2023, and has become the best tool to enhance the art director's role within the company.

What is this new discipline?

The process of building metaverse experiences is fairly new. We are somehow in uncharted territories.

On the first hand, you have experiences like Decentraland, or Sandbox that are open world platforms where you can customize your avatar, purchase virtual land, etc. These experiences are locked to their unique visual styles and ecosystems. There is a certain degree of flexibility but the world is essentially locked as it it.

What we create at Journee are custom virtual experiences that are enterprise ready to be deployed for brand and artists around the world. I know it sounds like a boring sales pitch, but I can't contain my excitement to the work that we are doing, it is truly groundbreaking.

This discipline is a mixture of high-end 3D design, combined with video game design, combined with strategy, e-commerce, interaction design, cinematics and storytelling.

Metaverse Design

A shot from Mstyle Lab for Macy's created at Journee.

Let's call it the discipline of Metaverse Design. As always, it all starts first with an idea, a story that we want to tell, some client's objectives that need to justify the investment. As any part of the creative process the idea is the leitmotif for what should happen through the whole experience. A bit of dramaturgy, theatrics and attraction design needs to be complemented and married with the latest and most accurate visual aesthetics that one can find around.

Being able to construct everything possible, metaverse design usually demands that our worlds are always in a sense surreal, extraordinary.

Furthermore, If your worlds are not convincing, then, the whole illusion falls apart and people very easily close the window-tab, and all those months of effort die after 30 seconds.

The biggest challenge is to get your aesthetics right. This is what the users buy in probably the first microseconds of entering the worlds. Designing real time graphics means we can move really fast, but at the same time we need to design in 360 degrees. That means that our decisions and designs need to work from all possible angles, plus adding the fact that we need to transition from area to area and that needs thought too.

As a creative director, or as a designer not only you have to consider the visual look, you need to also think what set of logics and interactions your user will face.

Usually experiences are exploratory, micro-stories that help brands promote a new product launch. Other times the experiences can be educational, or even tailored for interactive commerce.

Therefore how the user interacts with the world requires a lot of thought processings.

User Experience Design

Let's add more complexity to the whole topic. We need to craft an experience that has to work on desktop, mobile, vertical and horizontal format. We need to make sure people from different ages are able to understand to navigate this new format. It's not like web design, where most people know what a hamburger menu is and thinks are pretty much thought through.

Being able to move around and interact with things require a lot of investment from the designer towards the user. It's a little pain tradeoff, to educate the audiences how to interact with the world, and it usually involves a first onboarding session done with a landing area and a micro-onboarding tutorial.

Consider also that these experiences can be crafted not only for young, gaming savvy audiences, but also, for middle aged executives. Usually the people that sign-off are top management and we can't afford that they don't fall in love within the first seconds of running around.

To ensure a user-friendly experience, we aim to minimize any potential difficulties. This means we steer clear of overly complex tasks or challenging puzzles that might overwhelm users. Instead, we focus on straightforward and easy-to-grasp micro gamified interactions, ensuring that the main points of each section are clear and easy to understand. Simple logics that help us make sure that the user leaves the interaction with the key takeaways from each area.

We also need to recognize that users employing web 2.0 style of media interactions typically spend more than the average time, between 3 to 7 minutes, exploring these type of metaverse experiences.

If they quickly lose interest, they are likely to disengage prematurely.

What is our goal? Ensuring that the user enjoys the experience while we simplify the intellectual effort required for each of these encounters, making the process easily navigable and incorporating an element of amusement, alongside stunning designs.

Typically, we commence with ambitious ideas, often complex in nature, but ultimately distill them into the most streamlined interactions for the experience.

Avatar design

Rey Loves Life - A virtual influencer project that I started and never took off.

Online expression has long revolved around presenting an idealized self, irrespective of the circumstances and as some sort of shield against the troubles of the outside world. The internet gave its anonymous users in weird IRC chat rooms, a place to explore social interactions, find love or even become someone they would never ever dared to become with a high degree of psychological safety.

In this realm, individuals can project their idealized selves, showcasing the embodiment of their aspirations.

Consequently, when fashioning avatars for our immersive metaverse experience, we regard avatar design as a pivotal touchpoint, treating it with utmost significance, and in some cases it becomes almost a parallel project on itself. There's artists that specialize only in avatar design, and I personally believe this will become a sub-discipline of this new frontier.

We always have to consider factors such as refraining from engaging in divisive discussions pertaining to gender, ethnicity, nationality, location, and age. What we strive to offer aligns with the demand for gender-neutral, enjoyable avatars, constantly seeking to defy conventions and introduce novel forms of self-expression within the metaverse, offering an extensive degree of customization.

Each aspect of the avatar undergoes thorough scrutiny, interpretation. Given the metaverse's unique nature, we often work with unexplored materials and unconventional combinations, leading to an extensive process of trial and error in designing features, material combinations, impossible fabrics or physics.

To help us facilitate this unique design process, we utilize a service known as "Really Player Me." –or RPM if you are in with the cool kids. This platform offers a system for grading and preserving one's digital identity online. Their concerted efforts to achieve cross-platform compatibility have been instrumental in establishing an interoperable metaverse experience, representing a significant milestone in the field.

Advantages and advantages of real time design

Our real-time design methodology allows us to work swiftly and efficiently, enabling the rapid development of complex and immersive environments. We can bring to life expansive landscapes, and cityscapes, all within remarkably short timeframes, all really exciting stuff!

As our clients and partners begin to comprehend the dynamic pace at which we navigate these projects, the creative iteration process takes center stage, undergoing countless transformations and refinements. This is not always great because you can get lost always trying to improve and improve things, and there is a time to freeze, and start putting everything together. This accelerated creative cycle fuels our passion for pushing the envelope of what's conceivable but it's a double edged sword.

One of the challenges we encounter is the harmonization of various elements into a finished product. We find ourselves occasionally prioritizing the pursuit of exquisite visual aesthetics without due consideration for the intricate web of interactions that sustains a truly engaging and user-friendly experience. This often leads us to grapple with the intricacies of balancing visual excellence with practical functionality, recognizing the fine line between artistic expression and usability constraints.

Optimizing and launching the project

Once we conclude the design and logic iterations, our focus shifts to optimizing these projects for online deployment. While pixel streaming technology offers great potential, the associated server costs pose a considerable challenge, particularly given the temporal nature of many of our projects.

Ensuring that our projects remain playable at sixty frames per second becomes imperative. Regardless of the visual allure, it's essential that our creations operate seamlessly on our servers, often demanding a trade-off between visual quality and performance.

This continual push for visual innovation occasionally overshadows considerations of practical functionality, prompting us to find a delicate balance between visual splendour and interactive efficiency. Our experiences with complex natural landscapes featuring abundant foliage or expansive urban environments highlight the cost of intricate detailing, necessitating careful optimization strategies.

Fortunately, the extensive expertise of video game designers and optimization artists comes to the forefront, guiding us through the process of balancing aesthetics with performance. While adhering to established best practices in 3D design and polycount management, we often find the creative process challenging these norms, resulting in striking visuals that warrant careful consideration and compromise.

The finished product as an immersive experience

As we near the completion of our experience, the culmination of our design, implementation, logic, user experience, optimization, and web integration processes, we finally hold in our hands the definitive metaverse build. This build not only encapsulates the experience but also serves as the end product.

This is an exhilarating phase, where the crafted experiences become unique platforms for users to engage with, offering insights into user preferences and behaviors while providing a delightful, interactive, and 360-degree brand immersion. The metaverse transforms the brand narrative, evolving it beyond mere advertising to an interactive storytelling experience with an unparalleled potential for user engagement and shared human–yes human experiences.

Forging new disciplines

Skytopia a huge metaverse experience designed for Shiseido.

Our journey into uncharted territories represents a pioneering effort, redefining the landscape of virtual experiences and forging new paradigms for future exploration. With the trust of forward-thinking brands willing to navigate the uncertainties of this new internet, we are not only shaping new best practices but also paving the way for a new discipline in itself.

This process spans a wide array of sub-disciplines, encapsulating design, branding, user interface, and virtual aesthetics.

These efforts extend beyond the creation of virtual worlds, encompassing the establishment of corporate identities within the metaverse.

It reflects the growing realization among brands of the necessity to embrace virtual experiences, recognizing the potential for fostering intimate, persistent brand ecosystems that enable interactive engagement, customizations, and transactions within a singular, brand-centric environment.

Anticipating the inevitable convergence between virtual and physical realms, we find ourselves contemplating the intricate details of foliage, the nuances of architectural design, and the harmonization of diverse brand presences within the metaverse. These endeavors not only shape the metaverse's visual aesthetics but also establish a new standard for interactive experiences, transcending the realm of novelty and emerging as a fully-fledged platform for meaningful, immersive interactions.

As technology advances and computational power becomes more accessible, the convergence of the physical and virtual worlds is no longer a distant vision but an impending reality. This paradigm shift positions the roles of metaverse designers, creative directors, and architects as integral components of a booming discipline, one that is uniquely positioned to bridge the gap between the virtual and physical realms, shaping the fabric of our future interactions and defining the landscape of our digital experiences.

October 31, 2023

The Designer class will rule the world.

I can't get enough with these clickbait titles. I want to perfect them so that you can get in and read my AMAZING content. In this post I will explain you how there is the rise of a new creative class that is meant to take over every aspect of society.

OK - Let's go down memory lane.... once upon a time, when the first iPhone was released in 2007, I remember being at University as assistant professor at the Universidad de Buenos Aires (FADU) and the head of staff just came back from Miami, and in between his rants about how it is a city without culture and how easy it is to just arrive there with some street art project of sorts and make it, he also came with a little 3.5-inch screen device called an iPhone.

As a nerd that he was, he was fascinated by it, and said to me something I will never forget.

"From now on, design problems are going to be logical problems, problems of interaction, not aesthetics."

He was insanely right. At the moment, websites and motion graphics were all the rage, and the term UI-UX designer did not even exist. My students were struggling printing slides from Photoshop and Illustrator, and I was hot-stuff just because I was doing 3D motion graphics using the cloner with Cinema 4D.

Mr. Jobs creating infinite and true prosperity to a whole new class of creatives.

As I developed my career in Europe, I started to see with time, more and more a couple of terms that became more and more popular. One was User Interface and User Experience designer. In the beginning I thought they were only fancy names for website designers.

How much has the web and mobile market exploded that designers started to become more and more part of the hierarchy of organizations big and small. Gathering importance as they started to solve bigger and more complex interaction problems. And because one could argue that form follows function, those that managed to enhance the UX via fantastic and delightful UI were growing stronger, becoming essential parts of these startups and corporations.

Nowadays, we have rising stars "Chief Design Officer" - "Chief Creative Officer". And those designers that managed to cross-pollinate creative problem solving with creating business value, from an agency and also within every aspect of the value chain, start to prove their value more and more.

A new term also that surfaced at that time was "Design Thinking" a problem solving methodology that was popularized by IDEO that came as a sort of productized framework to solve problems from product to service placing the user at the center of the problematic.

Problems, problems, problems...

Designers are problem solvers, and those that can properly articulate, propose and build solutions, will sooner or later will be transitioning more into higher leadership roles. Sooner or later designers will start replacing engineers and business executives as CEOs of Fortune 500 companies and that will be the dawn of a new era for humanity: global warming will revert, wars will stop and the world will finally transform into a better place.

A 2019 McKinsey study found that companies with strong design capabilities outperform their peers on financial metrics by 32%. (Yes Mr. Consultants!) A 2020 study by the Design Management Institute found that design-led companies were more likely to report innovation success, revenue growth, and customer satisfaction. Finally a 2021 study by the Boston Consulting Group found that companies with CEOs who have a strong design background are more likely to outperform their peers on both financial and non-financial metrics. - some of these papers can only be accessed via subscription, we will have to trust Google Bard for its word.

  • Jony Ive, the former Chief Design Officer of Apple, is widely credited with helping to make Apple one of the most successful companies in the world.
  • Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, is a former designer who has instilled a design-centric culture at his company.
  • Sundar Pichai, the CEO of Alphabet (Google's parent company), is a former design engineer who has overseen the development of some of the most popular products and services in the world.
Johny Ive spent 4 years after leaving Apple perfecting this typeface: LoveFrom (more info)

These are just a few examples of designers who have achieved success in leadership roles. As the world becomes increasingly complex and interconnected, the skills and mindset of designers are becoming increasingly valuable. As a result, it is likely that we will see more and more designers rising to the top of the corporate world in the years to come.

October 29, 2023

From Designer to Creative Director in 5 easy steps.

This is a basic how to guide to become a creative director. Besides the obvious clickbait title I will break down how you can become a creative director in no time, even starting as a dumb designer at the bottom of the food chain. This text tries to be less of a prescription and more of sharing some mental models.

  1. Develop you own ideas.
  2. Find a style that you can scale.
  3. Present, present present.
  4. Own the responsibility.
  5. Aim to be world class.

Develop you own ideas.

As the titles suggest being a director, means directing projects, people, teams. You set the vision and you bring everyone together where to go. You can't do that dry, empty, or copying everyone else. Your position only generates value if your vision is unique and clear. Solve problems, bring new ideas to the table that you can execute and always be developing and nurturing your vision and ideas. Collect them, share them, mix & match, go to the past and bring into the future.

People will take you in for your unique way of seeing the world. Do you have great taste, can communicate ideas clearly and also be business savvy enough to deliver value to your clients even from the early days? Then you are on your way.

Find a style that you can scale.

Similar as before, your style, is the personality that you bring into the table. You like clean and minimalistic things? Let that be your forte. You want to make the world a better place? Then focus on the projects that you feel are the most meaningful. Strive to be unique and find that which separates your from your peers. I remember one of my first assignments at the university, I had to design an energy drink. And everyone of a class of 300 people where coming with skinned versions of Red Bull cans. I got the highest score because I brought a bottle, at the time - a radical idea. But I wanted to differentiate myself of everything that was out there in the competition and it worked. That small lesson made me focus on always trying to be different, finding a style that I can scale.

I try to work so that my style becomes - timeless. I hate looking at Pinterest and seeing that everyone is doing the same type of work over and over. There are shape languages, color palettes, ideas that might change, but work that considers the fundamentals of design, composition, light and storytelling -and obviously- your unique (justified) spin is guaranteed to be successful in the short and long term.

I don't feel one ever masters this, but being aware is definitely a differentiating factor.

Present, present present.

For many, many years, I was always the guy making presentations at design studios. I used to design them, prepare them, and eventually go to present them. This is a very underrated task, many people fear the spotlight. Looking back some of the presentations I had in the past to clients are nothing compared to the ones I get to do on a daily basis directly to global clients, where I get to joke and convince people that the work that's been done is what was asked for and delivers value to them.

Offer always to create the presentation deck early one your career, use it to get your foot in the door the big table, be part of that meeting, see how the masters present, learn from them. And to our previous point, see what they are not doing and where there is room for improvement, but also, see how other people react to the jokes, the pacing, the editorial, the story beats. The more you present the more you will get to be yourself at the top. Obviously - try to do more public speaking and a bit of theater doesn't hurt.

Own the responsibility.

Directing projects and teams, means that you will be looked as the vision holder, and you will make decisions, and sometimes you will mess up. You will make someone on the team unhappy, you will not consider production needs, or you will make that bad joke that someone go offended. Own it. Be able and be ready to defend all your work, designs and ideas at each granular level. If you are insecure, be honest about it, maybe take more time to become more confident. If you fear things will be delayed or are heading into the wrong direction, open up, let people know. Some designers, artists, are happy just being on the other side, waiting for direction, masters of execution, the risk is easy to mitigate, but if you give bad directions, you are responsible of the output, and also for their wellbeing of your team. If you are just getting started, own each aspect of your work, and your decisions and soon you will be the one making decisions for teams and projects.

Aim to be world class.

Can't state this strong enough. Like it or not, in the era of the internet, you are competing with the whole planet, so, aim to be world class. A world class designer, with storytelling aspirations to grow, should look at whoever is on top of you that you admire and, in the beginning try to figure out what they do, that you can apply to become better. So simple. Compare your work with the whole world. Challenge yourself and be honest, own the responsibility of being self aware of your strengths and weaknesses so that you can double down on fixing both. Do you need to be more curious? Are your ideas the best in the world? Compare yourself with the best, and endure the pain of competing against the world and yourself. If you manage to tolerate that pain, understanding that it's just making you a better creative, then there is no way to fail.

You will only fail if you stop.

Photo Credit: Magda Ehlers via Pexels

© Ivan Flugelman 2022 Creative Direction, Design & Strategy in the Metaverse.