Focus Forum with Daniel Gjøde

Today Focus Forum catches up with creative director, windsurfer, and father: Daniel Gjøde.

Hailing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Daniel founded Stupid Studio in 2006 – an independent digital creative agency set out to do stuff for good companies, who believe they can change stuff to the better, funnier, or simply more comfortable. He’s also a board member of Design Denmark and the Advisory Board of the Danish School of Media & Journalism.

TYPO Talks: What were some of the influences that lead you to your professional focus?

Daniel Gjøde: You know, I actually have a degree in software engineering. Back when I was working as a software engineer, I got the chance to go to Greenland for a few days. A guy called Asger Fredslund, who was a former member of the Danish Army’s special forces, took me and my engineering colleagues on a dogsled run across Greenland’s inland ice. One day I was just looking out at this amazing wide white landscape and realized I was doing the wrong thing with my life. It was almost like a calling. I came home, quit my job, and decided to pursue a career in design and animation.

This type of experience might not be unique, but it taught me two very important lessons: First of all, I have to close one door to be able to open a new one. And secondly, that the answers to the big questions in life are not found while you are enmeshed in your daily routines.

TT: How have your creative interests evolved over the span of your career? Or, is there a specific discipline that has always captured your attention?

DG: In the beginning I was mainly interested in making stuff that looked good, and not always respectful of the functional aspects of the communication I was designing for. But I’ve evolved a lot.

These days I’m fascinated with how design is a brilliant tool, or rather a process, that can transform a business. I’m preoccupied with how we as designers can place ourselves in almost any obscure situation, understand what’s going on, and turn it into something meaningful. A good design team produces a form of communication that builds a bridge between a business idea and the audience it’s targeting.

These realizations have given me delusions of grandeur, I’m afraid. I honestly believe that design can change the world. Which is also why we spend a lot of our company’s time working on socially responsible projects, and for cultural institutions and NGOs.

TT: What’s your preferred environment when it’s time to focus on a project?

DG: Somewhere off the grid.

I find that our computers, our smartphones and the constant influx of information simply can be too much. Being alone is a great way for me to focus for a minute, an hour – or if I’m lucky a day or two. Generally I find this time when I’m out mountain biking, windsurfing or at a yoga class. I urge our creative team to do the same. Get away from the computer, use your hands to make or build something, get your heart pumping, spend time by yourself.

TT: Which speakers are you most excited to see and meet at TYPO SF Focus?

DG: I’m going to see Jen Bilik, because if she’s just half as entertaining as her wonderful stationary, it’s going to be one great talk. Then I want to see all of the speakers who, like Stupid Studios, work with a variety of cultural institutions and in the field of emerging technologies: Menno Cruijsen, Louise Sandhaus, Nataly Gattegno. Lastly (but certainly not least), I’ll make sure to catch the talks from some of the people whose work I’ve admired over the years, like Tobias Frere-Jones and Ellen Lupton. And since Spiekermann isn’t speaking, I’ll have to settle with a little bit of star-struck stalking there.

TT: If you had to choose a favorite place in San Francisco, where would it be? If you’re new to San Francisco, what would you most like to explore?

DG: During a recent sabbatical, I stayed in SF with my family for a good month, and I loved it there. I biked around the city a lot and took some days out to go exploring on my own. But I never got the chance to try out some of the mountain bike trails surrounding the city, so this time I’ll take the ride across Golden Gate and into the hills near Marin City. I hear that’s where mountain biking was invented.

Then I’ll probably spend a day or two trying to sneak in at either Pixar or Lucas Film. Oh, I also gotta find some time for all the good coffee and local Bay Area drafts… It’ll be hectic, I guess.

TT: Finally, everyone’s favorite question: what’s your favorite typeface, and why?

DG: Oh wow, my favorite font. That’s a tough question, and the answer will be read by a tough crowd. Let me be diplomatic: I honestly believe there are so many amazing fonts out there that you have to respectfully pick the one that suits the project you’re working on. The right font in the right context can be divine. In the wrong project it can be a disaster. On our website we used Geogrotesque for headlines and FF Tisa for copy. It’s not really a progressive, eclectic choice of fonts but I like it.


Daniel Gjøde

Founding Partner & Creative Director (Copenhagen, Denmark)

I'm 36. Creative Director, Windsurfer and Father.

I founded Stupid Studio in 2006 – an independent digital creative agency set out to do stuff for good companies, who believe they can change stuff to the better, funnier, or simply more comfortable.

I’ve been working with motion graphics and digital concepts within culture and television for longer than I can reasonably remember, and it has given me a user-centered approach to what I do. It's all about creating something of value, that means something to people.

I've appeared on many conference platforms waving my arms enthusiastically and shouting stuff about the stuff we do, and I'm a proud board member of Design Denmark and the Advisory Board of the Danish School of Media & Journalism, where I ruthlessly decide the future of young students (usually while laughing frantically).

Recently I pulled the plug and went travelling with my family for 5 months. To get away. To focus and find myself again. To find out what matters.

I never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Daniel Gjøde presents at 5 p.m. on Friday, May 1st, on the TYPO SF main stage in the YBCA Theater.

Register today to see Daniel Gjøde at TYPO San Francisco 2015 – Focus.