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The Work That Made Me: Daniel Sytsma



dentsu's global chief design officer creative looks back at the influence of Spike Jonze and Wax in shaping his career

The Work That Made Me: Daniel Sytsma

Daniel Sytsma, global chief design officer creative at dentsu and global chief design officer at Isobar takes a look back at some of the work that's influenced his career and how this has shaped his own.

The ad/music video from my childhood that stays with me… 

Anything from Spike Jonze will do here, each skate film, music video or ad is a masterpiece in itself. I love how visual and experimental all his work has always been.   

If I had to pick one it would be a music video he did for the band Wax. It shows how a simple visual idea (not simple to execute) can turn into something so mesmerising:

Up until today he keeps surprising with everything he did. If I can cheat and add in a more recent film from him it would be the ad for Apple:  


The ad/music video/game/web platform that made me want to get into the industry… 

Get The Glass from North Kingdom. I got into the industry when the internet was an exciting place full of experiments and flash was our playground. A lot of great work was coming from Sweden at that time, especially from North Kingdom. Get The Glass was a huge inspiration at the time. If you look at the making off you can see the genius of it, the set was very hacky and inventive, but they managed to make it look like a Hollywood production.


My first professional project…

Define ‘professional’ :) 

I did my first design gig when I was 15 for a small eyewear business who needed their first website. In those years I helped a lot of small business owners with their first online presence. It was exciting because it already required me to think about the full scope of their brand: their value proposition, the brand and how to tell their story creatively. 

When I finally went to design school I could combine that with freelance work for agencies and my first agency gig was an online activation for the Dutch Postcode Lottery. Sorry it’s not up anymore, and I think that’s for the better.


The piece of work that made me so angry that I vowed to never make anything like *that*…

Still see work pop up at award shows that has no link with reality at all. That makes me a little bit angry because it gives our industry a bad rep. The festivals are an important moment to level-set where we are and look at great work with a healthy dose of jealousy. 


The piece of work that still makes me jealous… 

Nike Fuelband was a project I wish I was involved in at the time. It brings together technology, design and comms in a really powerful way. There was so much in there that became a best practice for the industry: the ecosystem integration, the interface with so many great micro interactions and celebration moments, the social approach, the “everything counts” launch film, and the greater notion that every company is now a tech company.


The creative project that changed my career…

After seven years at my first agency ACHTUNG! I got the opportunity to become partner and launch a sister agency for digital products and innovation: Studio Kraftwerk. ACHTUNG! was a creative agency with a strong digital DNA but always focussed on communications. We believed in an integrated view on communications and product & services and while we launched a separate agency, the approach was very collaborative and always started with the brand. Shaping that agency and rethinking what an agency should feel like was one of the most rewarding and educational moments in my career. In the meantime, we’ve become part of the global Isobar network were and in Amsterdam we’ve spun the agency back into the main dentsuACHTUNG! brand.

The work that I’m proudest of…

The project that had the biggest impact creatively would be Road Tales: a collection of location-based audiobooks to turn highways into stories. For our client Volkswagen we looked at what car journeys look like for families and found that children are often entertained at the backseat with mobile devices which is really bad for their imagination. We created an app that maps audio stories in real-time along the road you’re driving. You simply select a story in the app and put the phone away. I like this so much because, again, it’s so multi-disciplinary and required a lot of different thinkers and makers to collaborate. And that’s a lot of fun.


I was involved in this and it makes me cringe…

One of my first freelance design gigs was for the “dutch postcode lottery”. I was really happy with the job at the time and could simply focus on shiney buttons and lottery clichés but looking back it was one of the cheapest pieces of work I’ve ever created. But hey, we’re in advertising, this is very much part of the job.


The recent project I was involved in that excited me the most…

We just launched a global campaign for Malaria No More: Draw The Line Against Malaria. A youth-led campaign that embraces art and culture in the fight against malaria. We worked with Laolu Senbanjo to create a modular digital artwork, The Muundo, that people can contribute to, to call on government leaders to end malaria. In June that artwork will be presented to the government leaders in the Kigali Malaria and NTD Summit. 

This was one of the most complicated but also excited campaigns I’ve ever created. It’s been two years since the first conversations started, we organised a workshop in Johannesburg, shot the film in Lagos and did the edit in London. Together with a team in Nairobi, New York, Capetown, Copenhagen, London and Amsterdam, this was a real collaborative global effort. 

This World Malaria Day, Sunday 25th April, we also launched ‘My Name Is Muundo’, a new animation exploring the story behind the campaign’s iconic artwork.  Featuring the voice of Grammy Award-winning Nigerian Afropop singer, songwriter, actress and activist Yemi Alade, the animation helps show how we can all play a part in beating this preventable, treatable yet destructive disease.

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Dentsu Creative UK, Wed, 12 May 2021 13:22:25 GMT