Richard Mattka

Featured Interview ~ Richard Mattka

About:

Please share a summary of yourself and your career "in a nutshell" to help introduce you to the community.

My formal University education started in theatre and performance, rather than computer science. But, I always had a hidden passion for technology. I found ways to learn and create along the way however, combining writing and performance, music and mathematics to realize the ideas in my head. I studied Human Computer Interaction at the PhD level in university, while developing my company in interactive; making games and sites. Eventually I found my way to the marketing industry and have been fortunate to have worked on some amazing projects, with some killer teams over the years. I joined up with Tool of North America a few years back, and currently I am a Creative Director of Technology there. I have been really fortunate to have my work recognized by the industry over the past few years, and I'm excited to continue creating great projects. Most recently, I have joined the CSS Design Awards JPanel to engage further with the community and the amazing work being created.

In The Beginning:

1. Can you remember who or what gave you the idea to begin a career in design/development?

It was somewhere between those first Atari games and copying code from magazines to make uber lame text games. I got some crazy idea in my head as kid, that I could make games; that I could create things using tech too. I started hacking away then, and haven't stopped since.

2. What was the first website you were involved in designing and / or developing and how well did it go?

I only tell this, because everyone needs to know, we all start somewhere. I really had no idea what I was doing, and felt like a fraud (ya we all feel that). It was for a law firm or an insurance company I think, and it was about a thousand years ago. It was absolutely horrible, at least what I recall; all corporate blues, baked in drop shadows and gold-yellow fonts. Shivers... If you ever find any trace of it, I will deny any connection to it.

3. How would you describe your career thus far? Is it all going to plan or is there no plan?

The only plan I have ever followed is to push myself each day to create something new. Whenever I feel I am getting too settled, too routine, I change it up. Every project, every challenge is like a new chapter to a story I'm still making up as I go along.

4. What career advice would you give to yourself if you could send yourself a "temporal text" 5-10 years into the past?

You'll never make everyone happy all of the time, so just follow your instincts. Trust yourself.

Favorite Things:

1. What are your favorite aspects about working in design and development?

Creating. I love to make things. It doesn't matter if it's building with clay or Lego, sketching out a model, or hacking through the code. I just love to build things. I am blessed to get to do this every day. I also have to confide, I love sharing with people; seeing the same excitement I feel when making something, in the eyes of others, makes me want to work even harder the next time.

2. If you could pick only one favorite project from your experience thus far, which would it be and why?

That's always a hard one, but for me it tends to be whatever I worked on most recently. I had a blast working Cryptaris, it was insanely complex; filled with games, animations, and loads of analytics for scoring. But my favorite so far, is The War of 1996, for the Independence Day films. The designs by Matt Gase, was inspiring to work with. I threw myself completely into making those come alive, and work across mobile and desktop in a way I hadn't seen before. I literally worked on that project in my sleep over the few weeks it took to build it, creating math and physics models along the way to make it all work. Seeing it finally come together and the great support it has received, has made it very rewarding.

3. What would be your favorite trend in web design and development from the last 5 years?

For me, it's the evolving synergy of art and code. I love seeing the seamless blend of film and great story telling, with mind-blowing WebGL experiences. Interactivity on a level where it becomes part of the story; the film content working fluidly with the interface, with the technology.

4. Are there any favorite trends you would like to see more of in 2016?

I'd love to see more immersive WebGL experiences, that work well across devices, that are deeply engaging, but also have a great story to tell. I want users to feel like they are part of the sci-fi dreams we have been sold in movies for years; that the future is now. I want to see more engaging UI, well thought out and exciting; but most importantly, UI that becomes a seamless part of the story.

Life Hacks:

1. Did you always want to work in the creative industries or did you consider any other career options?

Absolutely. Rock star. Movie star. Writer. Physicist. Monk. Not sure if those are all careers, but I still think about these almost every day.

2. Do you have a good work and life balance or is it a work in progress? Any tips?

That's a tricky one. I'm not sure there is any separation for me most of the time. When I'm building something, I am absorbed almost obsessively, but I couldn't do it any other way. When I'm not building something, I am usually thinking or sketching something, so it never really stops. I'm probably a terrible one to ask for advice on this, but I would say... find what you love to do and do it as often as possible. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking until you do. Work is never really work at all, if you are driven by your passion.

3. What advice would you give to younger professionals wanting to find success in design?

Look and listen, always. Fight the urge to talk when you can listen. Try not to assume what you see. Look at the world with those same child's eyes you did when you were young; filled with awe and wonder at everything new. Because it really is still new, every time, you just have to be patient sometimes to see it. Trust your vision, your time will come.

4. If you had all the money you would ever need, what would you do with your life?

I know this sounds cliche to some, but honestly, not much would change. I would keep inventing, keep creating things. I would write more, much more. I'd finish my books.

Projects:

1. What type of projects and what industries do you prefer to work in?

I love story telling. So this covers anything from books, movies, video games, songs, and virtually anything that has a story to tell. In terms of technology, I love WebGL experiences, the smooth animation and detail that is possible, allows a blending of film, music and animation in real time that is unlike anything we could do before.

2. What memorable challenges or highlights have you experienced from the projects you have worked on?

Each project is so unique, each one has its own life, its own story. When working on the project, Unpretentious, for Mitsubishi, I had to take film of a car smashing through portraits and map images from Facebook dynamically onto them. Hundreds of pieces go flying with the images mapped to them. I loved the concept, but had no idea how to do it. I was obsessive in trying to sort it out; working with film post-production to get bazillions of x,y data for shards of glass frame by frame. But in the end we found a way, and the effect was really cool, but it could have all gone really wrong too. Most recently a huge challenge was on The War of 1996, inventing mathematical models to handle synchronizing the acceleration of the timeline to President Whitmore's speech, as users could spin it around, kept me up a few late nights, in anxious panic as well. Seeing the awesome responses from everyone after launch though, made it all worth it.

3. What are your, or your company's, greatest strengths?

That is hard to answer. I guess for me, it would be a bit of naive optimism; enough that I say "Yes" more often than I probably should. And childish stubbornness; enough that I won't give up or give in, once I've committed to something.

4. What is the latest project you worked on or what are you working on right now?

The latest project I worked on was The War of 1996. It has been a real privilege to bring it to life, and to add something to the amazing universe of these films.

Thank you for sharing an insight into your world. Any last words?

For anyone out there getting started, or trying to find their way, use whatever is unique about you and stick with it. Trust yourself. Eventually it will be the thing that separates you from the rest.

Thanks for the opportunity to share. It's been a pleasure to do this, and I really appreciate it!

Richard is an award winning Creative Director of Technology at Tool of North America, with over 10 years of experience creating amazing experiences for the biggest brands in the world, including 20th Century Fox, Lionsgate, MTV, Apple, Sony & Google.

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