AgenciesInterview

Clifford Boobyer

Clifford Boobyer is creative director at London-based Firedog Design, which he set up with a friend three years ago. “The market suited small agencies then,” he says.

With a degree in graphic design from Cape Town Technikon, Clifford Boobyer took his first job as an apprentice to master typographer Gerhard Schwekendiek. “Mostly the clients were distillers and wine makers and the design product was handmade mockups – two to three days producing a piece of artwork three-inches square, and they say today’s challenges are difficult, pah!”

.net: What got you into web design in the first place?
Clifford Boobyer: Does anyone intentionally get into web design? For me, it was really about being a young designer needing to create a presence online – there’s no client budget to speak of so you end up doing it yourself. I’ve always had an interest in digital design, yet the coding side is something that you pick up over a period of time. I have a great deal of experience with interface design, and I suppose what’s really egged me on, is the typical developer/coder response: “You can’t do that.” As with all spoken challenges from parties in the past, there’s a little benevolent gremlin inside me that says: “Say what? Let me try…” I suppose that’s where it all started. I think the trend in open source and web standards has been a long time coming because I think it’s high time that the code has caught up with the designers!

.net: How did Firedog come about?
CB: Firedog was born out of the last dotcom depression, budgets were reduced everywhere, and the market really suited one-man bands and small agencies. After trying to get into many agencies, I forgot about it and started up a small collective with a creative friend of mine out of his flat in Wimbledon. People often ask me what a Firedog is and, rhetorical agency-speak about passion and loyalty aside, it’s actually a Victorian-era metal construction with a grid on top to stop logs falling out of fireplaces (note to self: put description on home page to quell odd theories.) Feeling stuck between a rock and a hard place and feeling the heat in an impossible situation seemed so familiar, we decided to use it as our identity. We’ve grown from strength to strength from our no-bull approach to the design industry and reaped the rewards.

.net: A design brief is important, but is it still difficult to get through to some clients?
CB: You have to tread lightly here. Fundamentally, clients are people, and they can either be really difficult or they can be cool. It’s luck of the draw really.

.net: How do you handle disagreements with clients?
CB: We feed them to the tropical fish in our giant fish tank.

.net: What cool projects is Firedog Design working on at the moment?
CB: We’ve been fortunate in our client list. While we have some good bread and butter work that we create on a day to day basis, we’ve also had the pleasure of accumulating quite a few lifestyle-type clients along the way. Typically music, art or fashion businesses. It’s a completely different bag having these sectors as clients because traditional business formalities seem to fall away. I think conducting business under a green laser and expensive sound system in an SE1 trance party is more surreal and entertaining! I have real passion for music and the creation of music because it’s still not a commercial revenue stream for me and it’s great to get involved in something you love other than your primary trade. A recent web site we’ve done is www.londonparties.co.uk (still under backend development), which is a community-type portal for clubbers in London. We’ve also completed the branding for www.djdownload.com, a digital dance music store.

.net: What new tools and trends are you getting into?
CB: I must admit, I am a web creative director, strategist and planner. I leave the new technologies to ubergeeks such as our very own Gareth Knight (check out the geekery for yourself on page 90, it’s top-class – Ed). Having said that, I must admit I’m really interested in technologies such as Pandora.com. Okay, so it’s not rocket science – but the best ideas never are, are they? It’s just a music player that plays tracks that eventually help me discover more music.

.net: Have you looked into the new accessibility guidelines of PAS 78 yet?
CB: We have to keep really up to date in terms of legislation and guidelines as we do a great deal of work with software and digital companies. If you were to test our sites you could probably find something from the past that’s not 100 per cent compliant. That makes me feel kind of guilty.

.net: What are the essentials of a good pitch?
CB: Simply put: creative product, personality and passion. And maybe being the only agency on the list helps, too.

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