IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW: Joe Stewart of Huge

Joe Stewart is global creative director at digital agency Huge. In this interview he reveals where he finds inspiration, his favourite tools, and how he collaborates with some of the world's biggest clients.

QUESTION: What are you currently working on? Both professionally and personally?

"Professionally, so much fun stuff – our current roster of work is so exciting. We’re working on a mobile payment application that will be the largest distributed mobile payment app in history, so for many people it will be the first time they have ever paid for something with their phone.

"My current personal project is designing a re-issue of a record cover for Xiu Xiu. A European record label is redistributing one of their older albums, The Air Force, so I’m remixing the old design. It’s great working with a 12” LP sleeve – some of my favourite designs ever are record covers, so it’s a very inspiring thing for me."

Joe's mantra. Image credit: Jordan Knott

QUESTION: You worked on the Target redesign for three years. How did you stay enthusiastic?

"I flew to Target’s headquarters about 60 times in the first year alone. I got platinum status on Delta Air Lines pretty quickly. So, to answer your question, yes – it’s tough to run a marathon like that. There are two big things that kept it together. One was the people involved, both on our end and on the client’s. Target is an absolutely incredible client, and one of the best groups of people I have ever worked with.

I flew to Target’s headquarters about 60 times in the first year alone.

"Even when they’re rejecting your ideas, it’s ok, because after such a long relationship you trust that they know what’s best for their customer at that time. And in reverse, they end up trusting you in trying to push them in a direction you see as exciting, good for the brand, and good for the business. The people on Huge’s team are the other half of that point – we all got to know each other very, very well in those years, and I consider all of them to be very good friends at this point.

"The second thing that kept it together was we all had the same goal: create a great experience for Target’s customers. There was no debate that we all wanted to do something memorable, exciting, new and something that only Target could do. In short, we all really cared: client, agency, everyone.

I like to say that the unofficial motto for Huge is “Giving a shit for a living."

The official one is “Make something you love.™” …so – same thing and that was definitely the case here. Just knowing that the finish line was worth all the late nights and struggle was enough to keep spirits high."

QUESTION: What are the main challenges when working with large corporations such as Target and CNN?

"I actually really enjoy working with large companies. They tend to be very well organized, have good processes for making decisions on time, have a clear understanding of the goals, understand their customers, and tend to be a high calibre of individual. If you look at Target, for example, it’s one of the best places to work in the country, so they attract very talented people. I actually think that bigger companies are easier to work with than smaller companies. They work with agencies all the time, so they have good systems in place to ensure a good relationship and good work."

Joe was asked to create the pitch work that won Huge the account for the biggest news website in the world CNN

QUESTION: When designing for large corps what is your main consideration - the client’s brief, your concepts or the UX?

"The client brief, usually, is pointing out a business problem they are trying to solve. Typically, the client has identified a need that they see potential incremental revenue generated through a design solution. Our job, as an agency, is to understand that business problem first. Then, our philosophy is to create a solution that is best for the customer. We believe that if you can solve the business problem through the lens of a customer insight or need, then you can have a successful project. So, it actually doesn’t matter what Huge thinks, or really what the client thinks.

You just put your ideas in front of real people.

"If we nail that customer need, using the brand as a way to excite them, in a way that solves the initial business problem, we have a successful design solution. If the agency and the client agree that the customer will be the ultimate judge of the ideas, then it is easy to test the merits of the proposed concepts… you just put them in front of real people.

In the end, it doesn’t matter who was right – you’re all in it together.

If there are ideas A, B and C and Huge likes A and the client likes B, you simply test all 3 and see what real customers want. In the end, it doesn’t matter who was right – you’re all in it together to make something great for the person who is going to use it. And if that person is happy, if you have solved a need for them, and made some small part of their life slightly easier, or more fun, or faster, then you have succeeded. And that, to me, is good design."

Make sure you come back next week when we'll be interviewing professional photographer Henry Hargreaves

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