After a combined 15 years at design agencies Attik and MetaDesign, Stan Zienka is now the Creative Director at Electronic Arts sports heading the Brand Design.
// YOUR WORD FOR 2021.
// WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN ONLINE/INSTAGRAM/TIKTOK/TWITTER THAT HAS STOPPED YOU SCROLLING?
Recently, I have been going down the rabbit hole of my earlier design days looking at posts from Ian Anderson (tDR), Chris Ashworth, Michael C. Place, and one of my old bosses, James Sommerville. The evolution of their work is nuanced and inspiring.
// GIVE US A WHISTLE STOP TOUR OF YOUR CAREER TO DATE.
College in the South / Moved to ATL and started my own design shop with a friend / Landed a job at ATTIK so moved to San Francisco / Worked at ATTIK (in SF/Sydney/NYC/Tokyo) for a wild 11 years (met my wife there!) / Left ATTIK to become Creative Director of MetaDesign SF / Had a lovely baby girl! / Flipped a 180º to go “client side” and be a Creative Director at Electronic Arts / Still here / …and sprinkle loads of weird side projects and collaborations in-between all that.
//WHAT DOES 24 HOURS IN YOUR LIFE LOOK LIKE?
The day is just a blur of Zoom meetings, music, drawing in sketchbooks, emails, drafting ideas with the team, researching and reviewing design, and more Zoom. Throw in a bike ride to get more coffee and Legos with my daughter, and there you go.
// WHAT DO YOU DO TO SWITCH OFF OR CHILL?
Music and painting help me unwind. That and taking a walk, bike, or skateboard around the neighborhood. I also love to repeatedly fail at multiple video games; which my friends will confirm.
// WHAT HAS BEEN ONE OF YOUR BEST CAREER HIGHLIGHTS?
My days at ATTIK were a wild mix of trying anything we could get away with. There was just this raw creative desire to learn, push new ideas forward, and see if clients would come along for the ride. It was a genuinely unique time for design experimentation. My recent work, leading design and branding for EA Sports has been a definite highlight. I feel lucky to be working at a time where we can create fresh work and move beyond classic “sports” and “gaming” cliches. It’s also damn nice to travel and direct photo shoots with top athletes around the world.
// WHAT PROJECT ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF AND WHY?
Thinking about my creative relationship with Julius (a Japanese fashion label) makes me happy and proud. What started off as a small project turned into multiple design collaborations that went on for several years. It was one of those special times where clients became friends. Seeing my work used in a Paris Spring/Summer fashion show was also pretty mind-blowing.
// WHAT DO YOU SEE IN YOUR FUTURE?
More paintings, music, design, relaxing with my amazing wife in beautiful locations, and of course more Legos with my daughter.
// IF YOU COULD COLLABORATE WITH ONE CREATIVE/BRAND WHO WOULD IT BE?
I would really like to work on an abstract and art-focused collaboration with Rick Owens and Michele Lamy.
// WHAT’S YOUR CREATIVE PROCESS?
Read the brief and ask as many questions that I can think of before making anything. Then it’s all about grabbing a sketchpad to put down initial thoughts and observations. As high level concepts start to bubble up I like determining specific design ‘territories’ as starting points for the visual solutions. These help prove that you can answer the brief in a variety of ways and there can be more than one “right” answer.
// WHO IS YOUR GREATEST INSPIRATION?
I really don’t believe I could pick a single inspirational person; there are simply too many that have influenced my work over the years. But I will say that fresh ideas come to me when I go outside and take a walk. That always seems to kick-start things.
// YOUR FAVOURITE SONG OF 2021 SO FAR?
My music taste is all over the map, so a ‘favourite song’ for 21 is probably not feasible for me. But I have really been enjoying some off the new drum and bass singles coming out of Metalheadz this year – and Goldie’s IG posts are rather amusing. I am also hoping for a new Boards of Canada album in the next decade or so.
// WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO SAY ABOUT YOU AT THE END OF YOUR CAREER?
“He was fun to work with, kept the studio creative, loud, and energized, and delivered some good design.”
// WHAT IS THE BIGGEST ADVICE YOU WOULD GIVE TO NEW CREATIVES?
Look at a design challenge from multiple angles to avoid that literal or expected result. And learn how to present, and sell, your work and its value.
// WHAT’S IMPORTANT TO YOU IN YOUR WORLD RIGHT NOW?
A safe, happy, and creative existence for my family.
// ANYTHING ELSE YOU’D LIKE TO MENTION?
Thanks to BLUP and Dines for asking me to do this. Hopefully see you in London in ‘22.