David Vale — Associate Creative Director, Firstborn

David talks to TheNextGag about why he enjoys working at Firstborn, why he prefers working with luxury brands and what type of side projects he likes to spend his time on.

David Vale is an Associate Creative Director at Firstborn in the USA.

He has recently made headlines with his work for Rolex that won at the World Luxury Award and for a beautifully-crafted side project, called the Sound City Project and for his amazing portfolio website.

THENEXTGAG: DO YOU PLAY MUSIC ?

DAVID VALE: I’ve been really into music since I was a kid. I listened to a lot of punk rock and even tried to play a bunch of different instruments, but to no avail. I do still have a bass guitar in my place that I play once in a while, but I’m not good at all. I listen way more than I play, thankfully.

TNG: ABOUT THE SOUND CITY PROJECT, IS IT ONGOING OR IS IT DONE ?

DV: The project is definitely ongoing. I take breaks from working on it here and there for other projects, but we are definitely still evolving it. Actually, I just recorded the Brooklyn tracks. We want to do a few updates over the site and launch the mobile site as well. I am also talking to people from other countries that want to collaborate, which is exciting. This is all kind of a hobby so, while it will be slow-paced, it will always be ongoing.

TNG: I WOULD LOVE TO SEE OTHER CITIES ON IT. BECAUSE IT IS REALLY NICE.

DV: Yeah, me too. That’s the point of the whole project.

TNG: YOU KNOW WHAT ? YOU SHOULD DO BRAZIL TOO. YOU SHOULD PUT IT ON THE MAP.

DV: I actually have a friend coming to visit me from Brazil, so he’s going to take one of the soundheads we created back home with him to start doing Sao Paulo and other places around Brazil. It should be very cool.

TNG: AND, BY THE WAY, CONGRATULATIONS ON THE CRAFT OF THE WEBSITE, BECAUSE IT WAS EASY TO UNDERSTAND.

DV: Nice. The fun part was building everything. I did all the design and the UX, which I am very used to, so I was able to design it really quickly. What you see is only the second iteration, and that became the final.

TNG: DO YOU HAVE OTHER SIDE PROJECTS LIKE THIS ONE ?

DV: I am always thinking about things that I can do. Since 2013, I have been saying to myself “Ok, I am going do at least two sides projects per year”. Before, I was more focused on illustrations or design only, because developers can be complicated to work with.

That said, I am already thinking about new projects for 2015. Of course, Sound City is always going to take a good amount of my time because the craft takes time. You have to record it, then edit it, then treat the images. But I am always thinking about different ideas and asking myself, “What relevant content can I create by myself ?” The thing about Sound City is not the animation or the design — it’s that the tracks are well done and you can really get a sense of the place.

Because I live in New York, I am always walking around and thinking about how I can take information that is available about New York (and there is a lot of it), treat it in an interactive way and release it to people. There are so many amazing things here in the city so this year you are probably going to see something new related to New York. I have a few ideas. I am always moving towards creating content that people will interact with, perhaps something with a philanthropic, do-good edge to it. That’s more or less the direction I am looking to go in.

TNG: YOU WERE SAYING THAT YOU USED TO DO A LOT OF ILLUSTRATIONS. SO, WHAT EXACTLY IS YOUR TITLE ? ARE YOU AN ART DIRECTOR ? ARE YOU A DESIGNER ?

DV: Here at Firstborn, my title is Design Director. I started at Firstborn as an Art Director. I still do a lot of designing. I would say 80% of what I do is designing and coming up with concepts. I am very visually-driven.

TNG: I WAS READING A BIT ABOUT FIRSTBORN. AND EVERY TIME SOMEONE MENTIONS THE COMPANY, THEY SAY THAT IT IS A GREAT PLACE TO WORK. SO, I WANTED TO KNOW WHAT’S YOUR OPINION ON THIS.

DV: It is funny, because I have been working here for four years and it’s the only agency I have every worked for in the U.S., so sometimes I feel I take for granted what an amazing place it is. Every time we get a new hire, they always wind up saying the same thing after a short time — that the culture is really good, the people are really talented and they are not assholes.

Here you don’t see that shit that big agencies have like “Oh, I’ve won a lot of awards” or “I am the greatest creator or designer in the business.” Here people are very chill and most of them are super talented. To me that’s what drove me to Firstborn — the people I get to work for and with. And to me what makes an agency a good agency is the people that work there. At Firstborn, there are so many really talented people and they are here to create cool work, to engage people and to push the industry rather that just follow trends. It is one of the things that keeps me here. It is really a nice place to be.

TNG: I WAS LOOKING AT A PIECE THAT YOU DID FOR ROLEX THAT ACTUALLY WON AWARDS LAST YEAR. DO YOU LIKE WORKING WITH LUXURY BRANDS OR DO YOU LIKE OTHER TYPES OF INDUSTRY ?

DV: I’m always amazed when working with luxury brands, because you already have something so beautiful to start with. Sometimes clients come to you with nothing and you have to create it from scratch. With luxury brands you are working with images that are so beautiful to begin with that you just add a little here and there, and that makes it so much easier. Like most brands, Rolex had very high standards, as well they should. They really knew what they wanted, so working with them I had to truly get an understanding for the brand aesthetic and philosophy overall. They were truly a pleasure to work with because they are visually well-educated which makes things so much easier. You get to focus on trying to create the best experience, not trying to explain why this is yellow or why that is black.

To me the perfect client or brand is the one that trusts you and helps you to create the things that you believe will best work for their brand.

TNG: JUST TO COME BACK A BIT ON YOUR CAREER, BECAUSE YOU’VE WORKED IN BRAZIL BEFORE COMING TO THE US. SO, WHICH ONE OF YOUR PROJECTS WOULD YOU SAY YOU ARE THE MOST PROUD OF ?

DV: Well, Rolex is a good one. The focus was pretty much on the experience of the watch and how you could interact with. The idea of the campaign was to bring the experience of interacting with a Rolex as close to the user as possible, just as you would in a store where you would be looking at and holding the actual product. So, you start with the box that you open, then you pick it up, and you start interacting with it. It was such a different way of doing product in digital. It was way more about the concept, sketching, showing to the client, talking with the 3D team or the studio and trying to shoot … it was a lot of learning and it was pretty cool.

Typically when I finish with a project, I can’t look at it again. I am kind of a perfectionist, in that if I had to keep looking back I would always find another small way to make something better or different. But Rolex is one of those projects that when I look back at it or when I try it on the iPad, it still looks amazing. Everything aligns. It is one of the projects I feel most proud of. But I have also other projects, small projects, that I am proud as well, little things here and there.

TNG: AND I WAS WONDERING, BECAUSE AT FIRSTBORN YOU DO A LOT OF DIFFERENT STUFF, I WANTED TO KNOW WHICH EXPERIENCES DO YOU LIKE THE MOST (MOBILE APPS, WEBSITES, ANIMATION, VIRTUAL REALITY …) ?

DV: That’s one of the other reasons that I am here — we do many different things. And I always try to challenge myself. There are designers that are really good at one thing, so they are known for that kind of style or that kind of thing that they do — but I am more about trying different things. I will probably never be the best in anything, because I am always jumping around to everything.

Video is something that always interests me. Of course, I like designing, but when I think about video and audio, people become so immersed in it, it’s fascinating. You see people cry in front of a movie, but you don’t see people cry as much reading a book. So, those are the kind of experiences that I try to work more often with. A perfect project would involve audio, video and a great content. The content to me is very important, perhaps even the most important part of any project.

TNG: WAS THERE A CAMPAIGN THAT YOU REALLY LIKED LAST YEAR ?

DV: As much as I like a lot of funny campaigns that people make in one hour and make a case study of, normally I tend to remember campaigns that I saw people talking about or something that tried to change the world somehow.

I don’t know if you remember the campaign “Sweetie” from last year? They created this 3D girl to help catch pedophiles in the child porn industry. I really want to believe that this really happened. In this campaign, I thought the craft was really good, it was a smart idea and it actually helped the world — kind of the perfect storm.

We work in an industry where we have access to so many people, so it’s always good when people do things to affect change and do good in the world. That’s why this year I want to do something philanthropic — a good-vibe project. I think we have an obligation to give back to society.

David Vale

Firstborn

Associate Creative Director

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