Interview with Mauricio Pommella, Head of Design of Apply Digital, Canada

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Mauricio Pommella

As Head of Design, Mauricio focuses on designs that emphasize on the experience, style, and what it will take to build it.

Interview with the 2020 MUSE Creative Awards Winner - Mauricio Pommella

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself and your design background.

My name is Mauricio Pommella, and I live in Vancouver BC. I’m the Head of Design at Apply Digital, working closely with clients like Disney, Arc’teryx, Roxy, QuickSilver, lululemon, and Microsoft to help create work of impeccable, refined taste that is also extensible and operationally supportable. My focus is always on three things- the experience, the style, and what it will take to actually build it.

I’ve held previous roles at Blast Radius, JW Thompson, and McCann Erickson. When I’m not working on design, I’m busy spending time with my wife and two daughters and working on my independent comic book series.

2What made you become/why did you choose to become a creative?

I have been drawing and illustrating since I was a child, so I believe that becoming a professional visual storyteller was a natural fit for me. Design led me into the advertising world. Then 1995, a US Robotics Modem unlocked the digital space and I never looked back.

3Tell us more about your business/company, job profile, and what you do.

Now in our fourth year, Apply Digital is a high-growth digital product studio that works with brands like Disney EA, Pernod Ricard, Freedom Mobile, PURE Insurance, Shaw, and Arc’teryx, along with innovative startups like PLLAY and eMed. Apply Digital has a track record of building strong, genuine business relationships with leaders in companies ranging from startups to Fortune 1000.

As Head of Design, I facilitate the work of other 12 designers in my team, act as a lead consultant for client projects, and also advocate internal and external dialogues related to the Service Design practice.

4What does “creativity” mean to you?

Creativity is the capacity a person has to create and execute a personal or professional project in a fashion it hasn’t been done before, in ways never imagined.

5To you, what makes a “creative” idea and/or design?

A creative idea or design must exist to solve a problem. Solving that problem through a simple and unique method means that you’ve found a creative idea that serves a real-world purpose- and that’s what matters.

6Tell us about your creative and/or design process.

At Apply Digital, everything we do starts with a creative brief provided by the client partners and strategists.

We take that info and dive into the problem we must solve. We begin with research, running a competitive analysis, understanding the other players in the space, and learning how we can go beyond them. We get insights into the niche we’re working in through user research and interviews.

With those pieces in place, we begin the ideation phase of brainstorming ideas, putting forward potential solutions for our digital product or campaign. We will explore mood boards to define a potential look and feel to the project discussing with the client potential ways to visually represent our solution and will come back with two or three creative designs for the client to choose. As we narrow the creative path towards a final design we will create all the necessary mockups to execute the digital campaign or digital product. If our project is a digital product we will take our designs and transform them into a sophisticated prototype to show the client how his product is coming to life. For larger projects, we might test out this prototype and conduct user testing for refinements and hypothesis confirmation.

Once our designs have covered all the necessary product requirements the design will be passed onto the development team, where our engineers will bring the real product to life through a series of development sprints until launch. The creative team will also provide a final Design System, breaking down all the Branding and User Interface aspects so our client has all the necessary information properly documented if handling the design to their internal design team afterward.

7What's your favorite part of the creative process and why?

I think my favourite part of the creative process is the ideation phase. That’s when our sandbox has been defined and so now we can create within real constraints. It’s the phase where creativity must flow and emerge into beautiful and elegant solutions.

8Describe your creative style and its main characteristics.

I am a modernist. My focus is always on bringing together aesthetics and functionality into a simple and elegant solution. Good design must endure time and still be relevant after many years. It must follow simple, global rules so other designers can understand its design foundation and build upon it.

9Do you think your country and its cultural heritage has an impact on your creativity process?

Yes. As Canadians, we deeply respect one another, embrace inclusivity, and prioritize compassion. Our designs will always consider accessibility and evoke the best of our users, not the other way around. We will never create something that promotes division, destruction, or disruption in society’s fabric.

10Congratulations! As the winner of the 2020 MUSE Creative Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?

Since our earliest days, Apply Digital has taken pride in building products that are smart by nature and intuitive by design. These awards further solidify the capabilities and creativity of our company.

11Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2020 MUSE Creative Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?

We chose to enter the:

- Arc'teryx App as it’s a crucial part of Arc’teryx’s transformation into a mobile-first eCommerce leader.

- Winner Winner App as it is a disruptive product that pushes technology boundaries.

- PURE Programs website as it gave us the challenge of building a new brand from scratch.

The challenges behind the development and design of these three diverse digital experiences allowed our project team to fully exercise their human-centered design thinking in order to achieve our end result.

12What was the biggest challenge with this project?

Arc’teryx- Arc'teryx wanted the app ready in time for the 2019 holiday season so the biggest challenge was to build a highly interactive app that offered a seamless customer experience in only 4 months. Also with users logging in all over the world from the backcountry to the boardroom, Arc’teryx needed an app that would work effectively, even in areas with lower connectivity. Thus, reliability was a key challenge we had to solve. Lastly, the app needed a strong layer of underlying smart technology to enable Arc'teryx to capture customer data effectively and allow them to make informed choices about their next inventory and promotion decisions.

Winner Winner- Playtertainment wanted to stand out in the growing arcade game app market by making their experience as reactive, authentic, and instantly gratifying as using a claw machine game in real life. This means controlling real physical machines, not a digital representation. Their main goal was to build a product with wide appeal that meets all regulatory compliance requirements governing claw games in the USA. Other goals included built-in superior customer support, buffer-free video streaming, and speedy shipment of prizes to winners.

PURE Programs- This brand was in search of a digital marketing presence serious enough to keep pace with its rapid growth. They also needed a dynamic CMS that would support this growth and make it easy to update content. There was another important detail - due to regulations, PURE Programs couldn’t target end consumers for insurance sales, and rather had to target independent retail insurance brokers with high net worth clients.

13How has winning an Award developed your practice/career?

Winning this competition is an honour and gives me and my team confirmation that we can deliver a superior creative solution. It says “you stand out above the competition” and gives credibility to a career.

14What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?

My three favourite things about our industry are:

1- Innovation - The exciting and ever-evolving ways tech affects creative outputs these days.

2- Design trends - Always looking for the coolest ways to represent our ideas visually.

3- Storytelling - The art of telling stories, selling products/services with captivating narratives.

15What makes your country specifically, unique in the creative industry?

Canada is one of the most culturally diverse countries in the world. We believe that the variety of backgrounds, thoughts, and ideas of the country plays an essential role in fueling our creativity and design processes.

16Where do you see the evolution of creative industry going over the next 5-10 years?

As technology becomes ubiquitous around us, more and more of our interactions will be digital. Those interactions will take place in VR/AR spaces. Multiscreen experiences, for example incorporating a mobile app and a TV, will become a norm, creating interactive visual and narrative journeys for audiences. The ability to thrive in and navigate those spaces will determine who will be successful in creating and promoting tomorrow’s brands, products, and services.

17If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring MUSE Creative Awards submitter, what advice would you give them?

Dream big and push the limits of your abilities. We believe that sometimes our biggest inhibitors are the little voices within our heads. However, there's a lot of learning and growth that happens from pressing onwards despite all the obstacles.

18What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the creative industry?

Advertising these days is very fluid, there is no right or wrong way to learn. I don’t want to dictate here read to this guy or that person, but I’d like to encourage you to put fear aside and be open to learning new things in your daily life. Dare to watch a movie you wouldn’t consider in the past. Learn new ways to do things. Keep a hungry mind, always eager to absorb new things, from daily news to complex novels. Everything will be processed by your brain and will become raw material waiting to be triggered and used in your next great idea. In this time of social distancing and COVID, I have consumed so much digital content, movies, TV shows, books, comics, video games and everything becomes ammunition for the next great idea. Also, due to the automation of design these days, I look for content in UX communities and collectives where you can learn new tools and techniques to increase productivity.

19Tell us something you have never told anyone else.

I like soap operas.

20Who has inspired you in your life and why?

In life - My parents. Sounds cheesy I know but they are the ones who raised me to love art, to appreciate the world and be thankful.

Professionally - The classic names in design and architecture, like Josef Müller-Brockmann, Wim Crouwel, Paul Rand, Dieter Rams, Frank Lloyd Wright, Massimo Vignelli, Saul Bass, and Paula Scher.

21What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?

Without passion for what you do, there’s no way to achieve greatness. Great outcomes will happen after walking the extra mile, burning the midnight oil in search of a solution. I really hope you are passionate about what you do.

22Do you have anything else you would like to add to the interview?

I'd like to thank for this opportunity in sharing a little bit of our life at Apply Digital, our values and how we do things. Until next time, take care!

Winning Entries

eCommerce Mobile App | 2020

eCommerce Mobile App | MUSE Creative Awards

Arc'teryx is a brand built on trailblazing and covering new ground, Arc’teryx needed to stay on the cusp of the digital curve. So they wanted...
(read more at MUSE Creative Awards)

Winner Winner | 2020

Winner Winner | MUSE Creative Awards

Winner Winner is an online gaming app that invites users to try their skill at physical claw machine games, and then have their real-life prizes delivered directly...
(read more at MUSE Creative Awards)

Brand & Website | 2020

Brand & Website | MUSE Creative Awards

PURE Programs provides specialty insurance solutions designed for high net worth individuals and families, shares a common management with..
(read more at MUSE Creative Awards)


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