Above: Founders Alexandra Jugovic and Florian Schmitt
With studios in London, New York and Hamburg, digital agency Hi-ReS! led the development of the Web Age back when all of us were still on dial-up. Fast forward 13 years, and they've worked across a range of fields from developing websites for iconic films, to collaborating with some of the most revered fashion brands in the business. We caught up with Florian Schmitt (one of the founders of Hi-Res) for 10 minutes in order to gain some much needed insight into his pending talk at Auckland's Semi-Permanent this coming Friday and Saturday.
DF: What is Hi-Res?
Ha, that's a difficult one - we're constantly trying to define this ourselves... The short answer would be that we are a digital agency. For the long one you have to come to my talk.
DF: Tell us about one of your first collaborations, creating the website for director Darren Aronofsky's (Black Swan) movie Requiem for a Dream?
It was our first commercial project. We had created a self-initiated project before called soulbath.com. The site was about surprise, malfunction, decay - the opposite of what a website should be. Darren saw it and thought it was in line with the concept of the film and contacted us. It's pretty much the project that defined who we are and set us off on the path we are still on.
DF: Do you feel this helped launch Hi-Res successfully into the international market?
Absolutely, although I would attribute even more importance to the self-initiated things we did before. Around the same time we were working on Requiem, we also worked on the Beatles website and this was also based on the work we had done previously.
DF: What were a couple of the initial challenges of setting up your studio in London from your native Germany?
The beauty of being young and naive is that you don't see challenges, you don't really plan ahead. In hindsight, everything we did was a gamble and could have gone wrong. We just came to London without looking for proper jobs, just trying to set up our own thing and we worked really hard on it, but without much of a plan. I guess it was just right time, right place and a little bit of talent.
DF: Having received the highest accolades for digital media including D&AD Silver, Cannes Cyberlions, Clios, BAFTA and Webby awards, what do you feel are essential elements in achieving success in this arena?
I am not a big fan of awards really. The only ones that really mean a lot to me are the D&AD award and the Ars Electronica award we received. It's always great to be recognised for doing good work, but I feel the awards have changed quite a lot over the years and we have stopped entering.
DF: In a few sentences, what would you say are the highlights of working with international fashion brands Chanel, Helmut Lang & Dolce and Gabbana? How much creative license do you get with these brands?
There are quite a lot of differences between project and definitely between brands. With a brand like Chanel, you have to be respectful of their heritage and DNA, so it is more limiting than say working for Helmut Lang or Edun, who are newer and still trying to define themselves. DG is somewhere in between, we are always respectful of their roots, but we get enough license and do enough special projects with them to be able to reinterpret those roots.
DF: In one paragraph, what does a typical day for both of you (founders Alexandra Jugovic and Florian Schmitt) involve?
The only constants are our kids - getting them ready in the morning and taking them to school and putting them to bed at night. Everything in between is undefined. Usually a bunch of team meetings about different projects, quite a lot of emails, client calls and we always aim to have at least an hour or two of play in there - time where we are trying out things, be it shooting something in our photo studio or checking out new software or making music or building something... we don't always manage, but we try. I also travel a lot so I am usually on my way to the airport at 5am once a week.
DF: Tell us about Nanika - is this an off shoot of Hi-Res, or does it offer something different entirely?
We set up Nanika to explore human - machine interaction beyond traditional input or output, so thinking away from screen, keyboard and mouse and focusing on more natural interfaces like body movement, voice, facial recognition. It's also much more about creating objects that have a digital component. It complements our screen work very well, especially with our retail clients.
(Kasabian world tour 2011 interactives)
DF: Lastly, what can we expect from Hi-Res at this year's Semi-Permanent?
My talk is always a mix of giving insight into our studios, the people, the thought process and the way we work. It's also partially about giving advice, and mainly to myself. I look at my talks as a public reminder of how I want to work, so it's kind of like therapy for me. [END]
View more of Hi-Res' work here.