Mårten Angner has been that rare “entrepreneurial creative” all along.
Even before he went to school prepress production and typography, and eventually graphics, he was drawn to those looking to take their passions and connect with others — which is exactly what he did.
In between hitting the books, he started a design company with a friend in 1993 before moving into web design for a Swedish online newspaper in 1997.
By 1999, he had become a full-blown entrepreneur, starting his own virtual digital agency with a few other designers, copywriters and web developers.
Mårten does his job with the intent to elevate his work beyond completing tasks. “I think that the future of the planet depends on people with vision and intent to connect and create a sustainable future,” he says. “As a designer I use all waking hours to simplify, and empower people to make connections and do business enabled through the internet where time and space is no limitation.”
Passion and innovation sets creatives apart, which is why we asked Mårten to share a little about himself, why sketching is the new wireframing and what he sees in his future.
Coworks: How did you decide on this as interaction design career? What is your favorite part of the job?
Mårten Angner: There is actually a date when I decided to become an interaction designer. It was 5 of june 1999. I had designed a little calculator for a client and the day the ready made solution from the developers and was presented for the first time I was hooked.
Imagine being able to design and construct something in your mind that become reality and is turned into a service that is useful for people and adds value to the business. This is an awesome feeling that I still carry with me every day on the job.
CW: What is your favorite part of the job?
MA: Working as a freelancer is just the perfect way for me to offer my services to the world, I guess. I have never being inspired by working at an office environment for too long. I need to constantly be moving and experiencing new things in order to stay inspired and passionate.
CW: Tell me about sketching. What do you love about it? How do you see it as a key component of interaction design?
MA: One thing that we have to remember is that creating successful digital projects is extremely hard — which is also the part I love about it.
I constantly need to improve my skills on many levels, to be effective and creative at the same time, but the most important thing is the outcome of a project, which is the communication and innovative dialogue within the team where I also include the client. It can’t be a “we” and “them” relationship with the client. The team needs to be seen as one where the client has an equally important role for the process as the designers.
A few years ago, I fully understood the importance of being able to speak instantly in images [through sketching], where people could understand each other and ultimately make a project work. So I realized if this was the key factor for success, I needed to become good at it.
I started from scratch, basically, and immediately got great feedback from colleagues and clients. I realized that it seemed much easier to understand a concept and a new idea, and not get so stuck in details when it was documented as a sketch instead of a design or a digital wireframe. Clients were suddenly more interested in discussing interactive principles and new ideas, and ultimately said yes to far more ideas than before.
CW: Amazing. So, how did you get into UX teaching and consulting?
MA: A few months into my sketching experience, people started asking me how I did it — and they asked me to teach them. I was a new challenge, so I started teaching designers and digital teams how to do it. Since then, I have perfected the technique into a very, very simple set of steps that anyone can learn in approximately 45 minutes. Then they start exploring by themselves to find their own sketching technique. (Yes, I am serious. Give me 45 minutes and I can teach anyone to sketch!)
CW: What do you like most about it?
MA: “Teaching just feels very important to me. Being able to inspire people and give them effective tools for creating almost anything is something I would like to do more of, and I’m looking forward to teaching interactive sketching on an international scale in the future.
CW: What can sketching do for interaction design?
MA: Interactive sketching is simply the most effective tool for the specific challenges that meet an interaction designer. We work on converting problems and difficulties into simpler and more beautiful solutions. The amount of innovation needed for even the most simple assignment is unbelievable.
We have a business’s critical data to work with, we have the users with all their strengths and weaknesses, and then we have to make things super-simple — and all should be possible for a developer to build. As interaction designers, we need our mental images and ideas visible, in order for others to gather feedback and further information. In my opinion, being able to do this immediately, with the important people in the room is such a great asset.
CW: How do you see it replacing wireframing in an ideal world?
MA: “With digital wireframes you, lose the moment. You need to go back to the office, create the solution and book a new meeting to present your thoughts. This might take weeks to get feedback instead of getting it right away.
CW: Can you tell me about Whiteport? What is it? What should we know about it and its significance?
MA: Whiteport is a complete development method focused around the project dialogue rather than the technical development.
It includes all roles and competences, as well as the client making the digital innovation and decision-making process a part of the digital project. At its heart, Whiteport adds a much-needed focus on the dialogue and innovation rather than only on the requirements and the technical development team.
Whiteport also organizes work in a series of conceptual workshops around an innovation team, consisting of a designer, a representative from the business, and experts from the tech team. The team uses the full power of a small group to generate functionality in the form of user scenarios and hand-drawn sketches. When the innovation team’s work is approved by the client, the detailed design and development process is initiated with much more clarity than we are generally used to. You might say that Whiteport is providing structure — time and space to enable the innovative process instead of hindering it. It has been unbelievable effective in several projects from the team’s that we’ve tested with.
CW: What excites the future of your field and your role in it?
MA: Sweden is a very small market, and we learn to make much of little. I am excited to see how sketching and direct visual communication is catching interest internationally, and I am looking forward to sharing our experiences and techniques with companies and agencies around the world, as well as taking on larger projects in the international market.
My dream project at the moment is to design an internet bank site from scratch. And, ultimately, to make interactive sketching part of every designer’s standard toolbox all over the world.
Love this interview? Add Jenna and Mårten to your list of favorite freelancers on Coworks.