When I meet someone that enjoys music and design as much as I do, I am usually intrigued with what goes into their minds. What creative process do they follow? What inspires them? What motivates them to excel in their chosen field? “Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.” by Charles Mingus reminds me of @thomasmarzano.
Thomas works as the Creative Director for Philips Design, which is the design department of the Dutch multinational Philips, and he directs the online communication design team. Together with this team, they design the overall brand experience of Philips online. You can also find him on Twitter. He shares information on design, photography and art that he feels his followers would love to read and learn from. I asked him if I could interview him, and lucky for me, he obliged.
What are you passionate about and why? Well, I think at the core of this lies an essential characteristic which I probably share with most creative people, which is sensitivity. Ever since I was a child, my perception of the world around me was amplified. I, of course, did not know that I was a minority, but every experience always left big impressions on me. So to come back to your question about what I am passionate about, this is everything that inspires my thoughts and emotions… and this can be anything really… from music, photography, cinematography, books, art, design. However, I find myself mostly captured and inspired by anything that provides an atmosphere, a mood. Atmospheres and moods that evoke emotions and feelings always capture me a lot, like in music or in film where you’re being taken through a narrative of moods.
You mentioned that everything you experienced left a big impression on you as a child, can you give me an example and how it has molded you into who you are today? My parents used to have a nice record collection with records of the Stones, the Beatles, Janis Joplin etc… and ever since I first heard music as small toddler this hypnotized me. I could sit in front of the speaker just listening to music for hours… and imagining the emotions it triggered within me, and music still does that to me. For example, when out for drinks with friends… if the music is too loud, I cannot think anymore and not listen to people anymore…. I get absorbed into the melodies and rhythms and my mind starts floating. Music has a very unique characteristic compared to other forms of cultural expression, especially music without words. It is abstract and changes over time. It evolves…. it tells stories through moods, atmospheres and emotions and always takes you through a journey. When the words are not there… it is really up to the listener to interpret those melodies into emotions… and therefore making it a unique experience to every individual.
How many songs have you composed? Have you ever had the chance to record them or play them publicly? A song refers to music with lyrics… and of those maybe 5, but I have composed somewhere around 80 musical pieces over the course of the years I think. I used to play in band. I was 20 years old back then. The band was called Cheyenne, and we used to play every weekend. We had a few quite big gigs.
What happened to the band? After 3 years I wanted to go in a different musical direction than the rest of the band. We all grew up and the band was dissolved. I wanted to explore more electronic music at that time… making drum&bass and ambient minimalistic electro.
Here is a sample of what I wanted to move into directionally.
“Still” is more the direction of me now… more simple… pure… I went through many musical experimental phases over the years, to come back to the simplicity of the guitar.
In terms of your music, what are your plans for the future? Well, as teenager I was convinced that music would be my way to make a living… and I was pressuring myself to get it to that level… I composed a lot of music for media productions… but never really got anywhere… and I must say that since I have put the ambition aside to make music professionally… I rediscovered my real passion for it again… which I lost during the years of making music for commercial goals… I have no ambitions, just to compose when I feel like it and to play it to people who are interested in hearing it. It is really a way I express myself and give emotions a role to play in my life.
Aside from music as a way of expressing who you are, is there another venue that you use to express that? Your mood, your feelings, your creativity? There are many random things I do to express myself, none of them as consistently as I do with music but writing, drawing (doodling) and photography are other ways for me to indeed express myself. But with those last 3, I do not pretend to be at any great level of skill, but I really enjoy doing them.
You mentioned photography, I know some friends who are into photography and they take extra care in choosing the camera that they use. Do you have any special camera or equipment that you particularly enjoy using? I am a Nikkon boy :) and I also like using my iPhone. I love the Hipstamatic iPhone app which allows me to automatically apply certain settings to the shots I take. The whole point of the iPhone camera is to quickly grab a moment and share it on twitter, something beautiful, or something funny… like our #analogtweet.
Can you share 3 of your favorite photos?
I have a habit of seeing weird signs or strange things… which I just find hilarious. This is in Amsterdam… and I see it every time I walk from work to central station… and this just cracks me up every time! I call it Death to Stickman.
I was walking around in New York during Halloween and this just was amazing. I did some very simple Photoshop work to make it slightly more dramatic, so I made it black & white and only left the orange of the pumpkin there. I call this one Pumpkin.
Well, this was an afternoon in the park and these massive concrete tubes were there, so MAX started playing inside of them and as you can see on the expression on his face, he was a little scared. Also, I had my Nikkon SLR with me with a 14mm wide angle on it. I call this one Tunnel of Time.
And you also write, you have a blog “Digital Thoughts”, do you intend on doing that more as well in the future? I sure intend to, yes.. although time is not always on my side but I try to write 1 article every week, which I have failed so far every time ha ha!
For aspiring designers or musicians what is your advice for them in terms of self expression and creativity? Design is applying the same craftsmanship we see in the arts, but design is a process to reach a goal… just to make an example… you don’t make a design, you make a design of a chair. Where music is the actual goal, when making music, the goal is the music. For designers, I would say that the most important thing is to understand the purpose and the context your design will be used in and who will use it. In general, designers start their profession because of the aesthetic reasons, craftsmanship and their passion for that. This great talent is then applied for specific purposes, like for example when designing a chair, a chair is an object which we use to sit on, if a designer goes mad aesthetically he could make the chair twice the height of a normal chair (and some flashy designers do)… but the chair is unusable. So focus on people, and the context.. and use that always as your inspiration and starting point for your design. When it comes to designing online experiences the same counts.
While for musicians, I would give the opposite advice, don’t think about anyone, just yourself and your emotions. Let go of any outward expectations you might project on yourself and just get in touch with your creative spirit and let it go and let whatever comes out of your fingers play.
Thank you Thomas for allowing me to get a glimpse into your creative world, your insights and your inspiration. If you want to connect with Thomas, you can through Twitter @thomasmarzano, via LinkdIn via his blog Digital Thoughts and via Flickr.