An Interview: Matias Corea September 9, 2010

“To be able to really take advantage of the possibilities for communication and information transfer that exist online, you need to open your mind and start thinking about the overall systems at play.” -Matias Corea

Design Droplets, an online industrial design and product design Magazine, recently interviewed Matias Corea, Co-Founder & Chief Designer at Behance.  I’m a big fan of Behance and their mission to organize the creative world through three platforms, the Behance Network, the Action Method and the 99% conference, which I had the pleasure of attending this year.  I love his call to action for designers to lead the way in which consumers get information.  Enjoy!

Matias, Welcome to Design Droplets. Thank you for taking the time to chat, could you please give a quick introduction on yourself.

My parents are Argentinean and both architects. I was born in Barcelona, where I studied graphic design. My roots are in typography and print, but I fell in love with interactive design when I started Behance with Scott Belsky. I have lived in New York City since 2002 and I feel at home here. I’m a jazz lover, and I love driving my vintage BMW motorcycle around the city.

Can you talk about your influences and personal design philosophy?

In my school years in Barcelona, electronic music was omnipresent and offered many opportunities for design – flyers, posters, branding for clubs. That was a big source of inspiration for me, as it was a medium which gave me a lot of freedom and space for exploration. After class I would do my school and freelance projects at my little desk in my father’s architecture studio. All the conversations I overheard, the models being built behind me, the shelves packed with books and the work of the architects of the modern movement really left a mark on how I see and think about design.

To me, design is about solving problems, that’s what ‘being creative’ means to me. Limitations, boundaries, barriers, obstacles. I think that happens in every single creative project, even when we do personal work.

You are the chief designer at Behance, can you give a quick overview of Behance (what it is, where it came from, why it exists etc…) and share a bit about the development of Behance from a design perspective?

Behance is a company with the mission to organize the creative world. Everything we do serves that mission. We have developed the Behance Network, the largest Creative Professional community online, to help creatives present themselves and their work. We built the Action Method, a system for productivity on paper and online, and the 99% content site and conference, to share the best practices of the most productive creative people and teams.

We believe creative people have the most ideas, the most power to affect change, but the hardest time making those ideas happen. Design can play a huge role in helping people not just generate ideas but execute them. That’s why Behance is a design-driven company, always. Our audience is creative professionals, and we believe they are more likely to use systems they are attracted to. Design is also important in terms of usability – if our mission is to organize the creative world, then everything we put forward needs to be intuitive and incredibly easy to use, so that’s always a primary goal when facing a design challenge.

You are a fantastic example of design skills being highly transferable. You trained in Graphic Design, dabbled in Architecture through your fathers architecture practice, then jumped head first into web design with no prior experience, are involved in creating the 99% conference and co-created the Action Method products (product design). What are your thoughts multidisciplinary design and design skills being transferable to any field a designer puts her or his mind to?

I think all designers should be multidisciplinary. Design to me is a way of living and thinking, it’s about solving problems. In many ways, the process across fields is almost identical when we have a problem to solve.

The biggest challenge in jumping from print to web design was to understand that websites are basically visual databases. To be able to really take advantage of the possibilities for communication and information transfer that exist online, you need to open your mind and start thinking about the overall systems at play. Growing up in my father’s architecture studio helped me understand this. By looking at the blueprints of huge hospitals and other large, complex buildings, I learned to embrace dependencies between elements and to think about the big picture, not getting caught up in the visual details before the structure and flow of the system is defined.

While Behance provides amazing platforms and tools to empower designers and others to make ideas happen, what do you think designers can do to empower themselves to make their ideas happen?

We can provide all the possible tools in the world, but it’s up to designers to decide to use them. You have to want to change the way you work. What is it they say, that admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery? Scott, my partner at Behance, recently wrote a book on this topic called Making Ideas Happen. He talks about how creatives get “addicted” to new ideas, and then when it comes to executing, they lose steam and focus.

Choose one thing and stick with it until it’s done. The best way to get there is different for everyone, you have to find the system that works for you and that you will actually use.

You love typography, what tips can you give product designers and industrial designers on using fonts on products?

There’s a subtlety to typographic work that a lot of people neglect. That’s why most people don’t even know what a typographer does for a living. Anyone can put type on a bottle or packaging but only the ones who understand typography can make it belong to the object.

I don’t think there are set rules or tricks to good typographic work, I think there should be a learning process in which you develop a feel for what works and what doesn’t. Collaboration with an experienced graphic designer is the best starting point to be able to do typographic work on your own.

Irrespective of whether its graphic, fashion or product design, in your opinion how is the web changing design?

I find it more interesting how design is changing the web. At the beginning, it was all about the tech side, the coders, the engineers. But every day we’re realizing that innovation comes as much from the designers that are trying to push the boundaries and think of different ways to use that technology. In many ways, technology is now trying to catch up with the creative uses that designers are finding for the medium.

On the other side, the web is allowing people around the globe to get more exposure, which brings to the surface better work, which ends up raising the bar across all fields in the creative industry.

How important is organization for making ideas happen?

Essential. There’s an excess of ideas and a lack of good execution. Organization helps to prioritize, and that leads to smart resource allocation, from personal energy to monetary management.

Apart from the Behance family of sites and products, what reading (online or offline) material would you recommend for designers?

For those who want to learn the basics on typography and understand where everything comes from, I recommend The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst.

And, anything that is not about design – I really believe that inspiration and growth come from stepping outside of your ‘bubble’, your comfort zone. So I would suggest reading about other things. I think that it’s also very important to travel outside of your country. It may sound like a cliche, but different cultures and landscapes really do help open your mind. Most of my best ideas come from these moments of exploration and distance.

Matias, thanks for taking the time to talk with us here at Design Droplets. Do you have any final thoughts or advice for Design Droplets readers?

We need more designers that understand the web and can push it forward. Web design is no longer about applying the corporate color palette and making it look pretty. There’s a growing need for designers to take the lead in shaping the way we get information. Designers need to realize the role the Internet will play ten years from now, and trying to jump on it then will be much harder than starting now.

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