IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW: The Mill's Rodrigo Sobral

QUESTION: What work are you most proud of to date and why?

"Difficult to say! I’m proud of all of them for different reasons.

I think maybe Nike football+, because it was a complex project that involved creating a product, campaign and utility. It was a football training platform that I’m crazy about anyway and the team were brilliant fun to work with. Ultimately, I’m proud of it because it was a challenge to create the product from start to finish through concept, prototyping UX, design, launch and a process that involved constant user feedback.

I’m proud of all of them for different reasons

"It was a massive job and the pressure was on, but incredibly rewarding. When you put the consumer in the centre of what you’re doing, you generate invaluable data that helps to really improve what you’re developing and you hear their positive feedback directly, which is a great feeling."

The Nike+ football project involved creating a product, campaign and utility

The Nike+ football project involved creating a product, campaign and utility

QUESTION: Your work has won many awards, which was the most significant to you and why?

"What’s more important to me are results. At the end of the day, we’re in the business of making brands more successful and when you know that you’ve hit the sweet spot and helped your client to prosper, that’s what makes it all worthwhile.

You never forget your first time right?

"There is one award that has special meaning for me, of course, and that's my first Cannes Lion. You never forget your first time right? This one was special because I could share it with my father who inspired to do the work I do in the first place. As I said, we used to sit together and watch the Cannes awards on TV when I was a kid, so on an emotional level, winning that first Cannes was both a proud and ‘isn’t life funny’ moment for both of us."

QUESTION: What do you enjoy most about your job?

"Working with great people and being able to tap into a variety of different skillsets in a collaborative way, not many careers enable you that luxury.

"What gets me excited is breaking new ground and coming up with fresh ideas. Ideas that are still authentic and can also help to make peoples’ lives better.

What gets me excited is breaking new ground

"It’s all about enabling your audience, it’s that point when advertising isn’t just advertising anymore, it’s when you’re creating stuff that helps people to do something better or become someone better. At least this is what I tell myself when I go to bed at night."

Sobral says the best part of his job is working with great, talented people

Sobral says the best part of his job is working with great, talented people

QUESTION: How do you approach new projects? Can you explain your working process?

"First and foremost I make sure that I have a complete understanding of the brief and look at the problem or challenge we are need to solve. That needs to be crystal clear in my mind and I have to ask all the right questions. Then I do my research to find a hardcore audience or product insight that drives me to the answer this is central to delivering a truly successful brief.

"Strategy is obviously crucial; it’s the secret to success. You need to understand your clients’ business and their audiences. Do your research, test your hypotheses and put forward the best solution through the most rigorous thinking process.

Strategy is obviously crucial; it’s the secret to success

"When you finally kick off the creative process it’s really not that glamorous. You have a blank piece of paper in front of you and a pen in your hand. Over the years you learn not to be scared by the empty page - in fact this drives me to transform the blank page into something exciting, where it’s a rush to see that white space again.

"In terms of reference sourcing, I try to be a purist, not just going to other ads and campaigns, but stepping outside the bubble into the things that I love and that inspire me from music, art and literature, the real fundamentals of design and aesthetics. The fun part is assembling all these elements into what will grow into the big idea.

Craft is a given, it’s non-negotiable

"When you’ve made it through all this preparation, it turns into instinct and experience and you know when you’re on to a great idea. But to turn that initial creative spark into a great idea takes a lot of hard work and careful shaping. Craft is a given, it’s non-negotiable."

QUESTION: Can you name any designers and artists that inspire you or have had an influence on your work?

"I’ll probably do an injustice here and forget to mention a lot of names. There are so many people that inspire me, some of them passed away a long time ago, some I never met, some I’ve worked with and some are good friends. The thing is, I’m a curious guy, so sometimes even the work of a young gun designer just out of uni will inspire me.

There are so many people that inspire me

"Here is a snippet of some of those people...Wassily Kandinsky, Picasso, Otl Aicher, Saul Bass, Josef Müller-Brockmann, Bruno Munari, Adrian Frutiger, Stefan Sagmeister, Jonathan Ive, Peter Saville, Robert Lindstrom, Alex Trochut, Joshua Davis, Mcbess, Hugo Nakamura, Caio Lazzuri, Myoshka, Kakofonia, Masaya Nakade, Andrew Tuffs, Duan Evans, Pablo Marques, Athila Armstrong, Thiago De Moraes, Ricardo Figueira, Eco Moliterno, Piero Frescobaldi, the list goes on..."

Sobral also spent some of last year as creative director on the much-loved Compare the Market advertising campaign

Sobral also spent some of last year as creative director on the much-loved Compare the Market advertising campaign

QUESTION: What three tips would you give to budding designers?

"Read the copy you are designing with. The first bite is with the eye but the message is just as important as the design.

"All the work you do and every document, behaviour and communication should be an example of excellence.

Leave egos at the door

"See your work through your client’s eyes. Understand, anticipate, advise and serve. Leave egos at the door."

QUESTION: If you could speak to one person, who would it be, what would you say and why?

"Sorry I left the oven turned on Granny."

QUESTION: How do you relax?

"Mainly watching films! I think I’m probably a frustrated film director underneath it all.

I lose myself in the world of the movie

My wife doesn’t get to relax much though because I’m constantly analysing everything we watch unpicking stories, thinking about the framing, the art direction, the cinematography, critiquing the acting, working out shooting techniques and so on. For me it’s like reading a book on a screen, I lose myself in the world of the movie."

QUESTION: What are your main sources of inspiration?

"For me, it’s people who have the drive and stamina that allows them to go the extra mile and do great things in the face of adversity."

QUESTION: What's the most useful thing anyone has ever said to you?

"Never take life for granted."