IN-DEPTH INTERVIEW: Joe Stewart of Huge

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

"I have so many influences, and I think it’s so important to look up to people and be inspired. Here are a few off the top of my head: Peter Saville, Massimo Vignelli, Michael C Place, Dieter Rams, Dietrich Lubs, David Skokna, Felipe Memoria, Michael Beirut, Yugo Nakamora, Stefan Sagmeister, Jordan Crane, Max Huber, Wim Crouwell, Joseph Mueller Brockman, Paul Rand, etc.

"Then, on the music side I mostly listen to two genres: early synth pop and hip-hop. So, I get a lot out of New Order, Depeche Mode, Gary Numan, Tears for Fears, Erasure, and on the other side, I listen to a lot of Jay-Z, I’m really into what Asap Rocky is up to lately, and that Drake record is pretty great."

QUESTION: How do you relax?

"Great question. Sometimes this is the hard part. I’m lucky enough to live in Brooklyn, which is gorgeous and there is tons of stuff to do, so going out to restaurants, enjoying the parks, just going for walks is a big one.

I also really love playing games of all sorts. Board games, video games, games on my phone

"I love taking photos. I watch a lot of documentaries. I’m trying to catch up on some classic fiction novels. I also really love playing games of all sorts. Board games, video games, games on my phone – I play a lot of chess (although I am not great at it)."

The view from the UX area of the Huge Brooklyn office

QUESTION: What do you enjoy most about your job?

"I love being excited by a great idea…. there is a moment of clarity when you see it, you have it, and you know it. That moment is what all the sweat and preparation and years of work are for. Usually, when I know we have the idea, I get very happy – I laugh.

If an idea causes me that emotion, I usually know we’re on to something.

"The pursuit of solving problems means there are answers – and it’s our job to propose the best answer we can come up with. Sometimes you just know that you have it, and nothing ‘is going to beat what you have. It’s just right. It’s the best feeling in the world, and I’ll spend my whole life chasing it."

QUESTION: When working, what's your favourite tool? Do you prefer traditional methods or digital tools?

"I’m a pretty big fan of sketching. My theory is that a good idea will work as a pencil sketch, just as well as it will work in beautifully letter-spaced Helvetica. Sketching, to me, can be a lot of things. I have a giant chalkboard in my office, which I use all the time.

Joe's office features a giant chalkboard, which he uses like a sketchpad to develop his ideas

"Whiteboards are great, paper and pencil, even just writing sentences in an email is a great way to express a concept.

My goal, as a creative director, is to express an idea as simply as possible.

If you can understand the concept in half a sentence, or on a post-it note, than it’s probably a good idea. If I have to write a 50-page essay for you to understand my idea, it’s probably not very good.

"Now, that’s not to say I don’t still design with tools like Photoshop (and I do love beautifully letter-spaced Helvetica) – but, again, I use it as a way to express the idea in as simple a way as possible. For me, I try to focus on the big picture, the over-arching concept, and I rely on a team of very talented strategists, UX, and graphic designers to collaborate with me to help flush them out. Or, the opposite – where my job is to look at someone else’s idea and help push it to another level – which to me, means having it be as simple & as gettable as possible as quickly as possible with the biggest potential reach to the target audience."