5 Minutes with… Andy Sandoz
It’s been some year for Work Club co-founder and creative partner Andy Sandoz. The agency, which has garnered awards and headlines for its pioneering work for brands like Ballantine’s, was acquired by Havas in 2014. They also teamed up with a Guardian journalist at the height of ‘Corbynmania’ to design a hypothetical new left wing party from scratch. Oh, and as of October 1st, Andy’s the new president of D&AD, an organisation that he cares deeply about.
But as well as big moments, Andy Sandoz is also a man of big ideas whose creativity blurs the line between science and science fiction. Work Club recently created the first zero gravity whisky glass (which we reckon Matt Damon might have appreciated when he was up in Mars with Ridley Scott), for example, and Andy is brimming with smart, exciting thoughts about robotics, bio-engineering and experimentation. LBB’s Laura Swinton caught up with him to find out more – come along for the ride!
LBB> What were your immediate thoughts when the D&AD came to you and proposed the idea that you might become the next president?
AS> Oh y’know rampant pride, followed by a fake expression of humility and then a chemical upsurge of excitement counterbalanced by a cold slow knife of fear.
LBB> Each D&AD president seems to have a ‘thing’ – a cause that they champion, something they want to get people talking about. What’s yours?
AS> Experiment with ideas. If we use technology to empower creativity we might discover how to save humanity. Breathe in technology. Breathe out creativity.
LBB> Your first big event as D&AD president was the launch of the annual at Village Underground – what are your highlights from this year’s annual?
AS> This was actually Mark’s event, and his annual so I’ll leave the chat to him around it.
LBB> You’ve been part of the D&AD for years and have been helping shape it’s ‘digital vision’ – what has that role involved?
AS>The role of the Exec at D&AD is to guide the business forward. Help it make the right choices, follow the right path. For me that has involved helping D&AD to innovate and modernise. I provide digital strategic and creative input into where we can go and how. Creativity has a bright future, if we can release it. I try to help D&AD help us do that.
LBB> What’s the most frustrating thing about the industry right now?
AS> We don’t release enough work. It’s all so considered and planned. Not energetic and experimental enough. We’re paralysed by justification and codification, and therefore have no experimentation.
LBB> And the most exciting?
AS> The potential for meaningful work. The world needs what we do. Not what we currently do now, but if we can sail the right course we can have significant and positive impact. That and what technology can do for us. Oh and the fact that I’ve no idea what is going to happen next. Totally making it up, like everyone else. That’s exciting.
LBB> How did you get into advertising – was it something you actively pursued or was it a bit more organic or accidental?
AS> Total accident. I did what I wanted to do, and still do, it just happens to be that the place that allows me to do that best ¬for myself and hopefully for others ¬ is currently advertising. I feel that advertising has the potential to really influence the world. We work with brands of huge influence. If we can use that influence for positive outcomes we can start to solve big problems rather than cause them.
In fact we have no choice. We live on a planet that cannot take any more, whereas we’re an industry that entices people to have more. That’s not a sustainable future. That’s why I work in advertising. We’re well placed for great answers, if we can re¬define ourselves.
LBB> What advice do you wish you’d had when you were starting out?
AS> The pressure to fit in is very strong ;¬ it makes sense as you need a job. But it’s completely the wrong way. Stand out. The best jobs recognise that a team isn’t a bunch of people that fit in; it’s a bunch that compliment each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Your difference is your strength. Express yourself. What’s your thing? Also we need different ideas. Not the same ones we’ve already tried.
LBB> Work Club has been a real success story – what principles or practices do you think have been key to guiding it to its success?
AS> Well, thank you. We’re going ok. Lots to do. The guiding principle of the business is Club. The future is complicated. No one person has the right answer. We need help. So work together.
The guiding principle of creative is Don’t Fuck It Up. It reminds us at all times to have something fuck-uppable in our work. Something dangerous that keeps you on high alert, treat it carefully and never let it get the better of you.
LBB> Work Club has been part of Havas for over a year now. What was the initial transition period like and what has being part of Havas brought to the agency?
AS> I’ve been thinking of digital as Mars. It looks great, and is really interesting and different. But if you are not careful you could get stuck there and the atmosphere is really shit. So Work Club is an ascent vehicle and Havas is the Mother Ship. Together we’re gonna sail off to a new universe. Havas gives us scale, afterburners and holodecks.
LBB> I’m really interested in the idea of digital ‘craft’. Within the industry, the word ‘craft’ is still almost exclusively used to talk about film, print, design (for example, award show categories) but I’m interested to know how you at Work Club make sure that the ‘craftsmanship’ of a project is as good as the idea?
AS> Craft, specifically digital craft, has been paramount in my career.
There is a way of executing in technology that is able to create emotional transference, and technology is often best with a little emotion and fairy dust. Design and craft is part and parcel of this. We touch our tech; we feel it, wear it and soon will be it. Craft is hugely important here as it is everywhere.
Digital oddly follows trends too much. I find that people start designing the same. I would like to see more individual expression and rule breaking. Less copy, more craft. More diversity and challenges in UI and experience. The medium is a little too purist and dull for my liking. Work Club tries to fuck with it a bit more and invent new ways to communicate.
Where craft is a challenge is in Beta. It’s hard to craft something that is in flux and in most cases doesn’t know what it is yet. Here craft is less important, learning and moving is more relevant. Craft will come later. In this instance we need to consider how we judge work, because an idea that trying to learn how it will work should not be judged like it’s the finished article. Unlike a piece of print or film, a piece of digital work is open and alive. It will and can mutate into other things. It’s hard when it’s moving to have the same level of finish ¬ and arguably not as necessary. Craft is vital, but not always so in early stages of ideas. Good fucking question.
LBB> I’m SO fascinated by your project with The Guardian, Platform, about building a ‘new party of the left’. Can you tell me a little about it? How on earth did that come about? And what was it like working on such a politically-charged project when so much advertising and brand work is pretty a-political?
AS> It came from the Guardian journalist Stephen who had suggested to his editor that he could invent a better political party than the options available – his editor challenged him to do so. We came on board to help him out. Some positioning, ¬brand thinking and design work.
It was fun because it was so fast. We didn’t have time to overthink it – just try and nail it emotionally and act. Finding the flow and angle was pretty easy – we’re all annoyed with how the system works and the people within it operate – we just needed to channel that.
I’m particularly pleased with where we got to as PLATFORM feels very innovative and built from digital culture. Rather than suggesting a new party, we suggested a new way for parties to work together. In politics, this is common through coalition, but coalition seems to only help political parties not local people. PLATFORM would help the people. It’s user-centric and open minded.
Regarding ‘a-political’, our work should always have an opinion. And be culturally led. But perhaps not political. Maybe politics should be more like our work, the digital service design angle of it. Our work is cultural and what we do is populist, and needs to have impact so we have responsibility to shape it well and make a statement. Work without a POV or an opinion is most likely a waste of everyone’s time and money. It’s saying nothing. The opposite of what we should do, but sadly very prevalent. So point of view yes, political, only if the brand is so inclined.
LBB> What did you learn from the project?
AS> There is a grass roots initiative called The East Devon Watch - they look awesome and seemingly could actually win. Below the leaden barrier of the large parties is a wealth of experimentation and good will trying to reinvent the system. That’s really positive. It just hasn’t broken through yet, but you get a sense that, like everywhere else, real disruption is coming and the Internet is going to accelerate that. Interesting times for politics as well as everywhere else.
LBB> Which other recent projects have you particularly enjoyed and why?
AS> We’ve just launched Ballantine’s Space Glass. We’ve designed from scratch a whisky glass that will work in zero g. We tested it in a drop tower! There’s a real sense of space travel for many in our lifetime and also the ever increasing thought that we’ll need a new planet. So as we go exploring, looking for what’s next, we should take whisky with us. Take the pioneering spirit, the craft and creativity within us along for the ride. So we made a glass so we could.
It’s Work Club at its best – brave, digitally cultured, innovative product design and an eco¬system of narrative and content. Also, we create a Space Glass. Awesome.
LBB> This summer you got an award and gave a speech at your alma mater, Sunderland University. What were your memories of studying there and what was it like going back? Did you have much of a chance to speak with the graduating students and if so, what sort of questions were they asking? Do you think it’s harder or easier for younglings getting into the industry today?
AS> I went there because I found a course that allowed me to experiment. They were trying new things and experimenting with learning in a way that suited me. I didn’t know what I was doing when I arrived, and I didn’t know when I left. I still don’t know today. That’s how I want it.
Is it harder? Well it shouldn’t be. The creative industry is broader than ever. So there should be more opportunity. But I think too many students are too nervous and respectful. I would rather our universities were the experimental labs of the industry and the students coming out of it were telling us what to do and not the other way around.
The question around diversity is relevant here too. How can our industry attract more young people from different backgrounds. It’s still so very narrow.
LBB> So. Robots. It’s a subject that pops up in a few interviews you’ve given, pieces you’ve written and that graduation speech. They seem to loom large in your mind! Why?? Are we nearing a time when robots will be mainstream? And will we ever bridge the uncanny valley?
AS> They are just fun to think about. And inevitable. We are nearing a singularity with technology. But to predict what will happen on any serious level is madness. It’s going to be weird. But it seems logical in some way that humans and technology will further blend. I say further because you can think of contact lens and hip replacements and pacemakers as already starting this.
The interesting fact is probably not robots, but immortality, or amortality. The ethical questions around all of that make my head hurt. I read ‘the rise of the humans’ somewhere in social media this morning. I liked that phrase.
LBB> Outside of work and, er, robots what else gets your juices flowing?
AS> Mostly science stuff. Not in any depth but skipping along innovations in science and technology that are making our world a better place. So the same as in work really.
LBB> Who are your creative heroes and why?
AS> Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The volume, diversity, consistency and energy of the creative output. And the stage presence. Powerful.