Blog FoF Henri

You will meet a tall bald stranger

It’s that time again – time to hide your aerosol cans and fasten your goggles, because the Faces of Frantic is about to go off. And in case you were getting tired of our clever developer troops, boy, do we have great news for you. See, our newest victim Henri Block is in fact a concept designer, who hasn’t written a line of code for professional purposes in 12 years. Boom!

How’s it going, Henri?

It’s going pretty well, thanks. At work I’ve been mainly concentrating on sales for the past couple of weeks and before that I spent a few of months designing one of Finland’s largest online stores, which is currently in production. When I’m not at work, you can most likely catch me watching TV shows – right now I’m working on HBO Nordic’s Taboo and the newest season of Twin Peaks, which just returned from a 25-year-long break.

What do you do at Frantic?

I’m a concept designer, which means that my job is to find out our clients’ actual needs and their customers’ wishes for the upcoming service. Once I’ve figured out those two things, I come up with a way to bring them together.

How would you describe yourself?

Intelligent, charismatic… Just kidding, please don’t write that!

I have a good sense of humor, I ask a lot of questions and question a lot of things. I’m also analytical and intuitive.

If my coworkers had to describe me, they’d probably go with what I said first: intelligent, charismatic and sexy [laughs]. Well actually: tall, funny and old – I mean experienced.

How did you end up as a designer?

I graduated with an M.Sc. in computer science and worked as a front-end developer at a couple of different places. Ever since my first job, I also got to design the functionalities I was developing. At some point during my career at Satama Interactive, my boss and I came to the conclusion that my skills would be put to better use as a user interface designer. I did that for three, four years and then started slowly transitioning into concept design. Ever since I came to Frantic 9 years ago, I’ve been moving towards strategic design little by little. Here I’ve done pretty much everything except purely visual design, unless taking part in a couple of logo designs counts.

How has Frantic changed over the past nine years?

The most obvious change has happened to the business. When I first started at Frantic, it was still a Nokia-bound organization, which managed to grow to about 70 people. I’ve seen Frantic grow, I’ve seen it get smaller, and I’ve seen it grow slowly back up to the nearly 90 people we are today. The most visible change has happened in the size of the business as well as the scale of the accounts we've had. However, we’ve been lucky enough to have been serving big and interesting clients this whole time.

On the other hand, there might be even more things that have not changed: we have always had strong tech and design competences, which have allowed our clients to get the whole package from us. The atmosphere hasn’t changed either – nice coworkers make the culture around here.

What makes a good designer?

This is difficult to answer, because there are so many different kinds of designers. Some people are very methodological and like using the same tools and processes in every project. My method is to take in all the information I can possibly get and wait for a good solution to come out. I draw a lot of mind maps and use associative methods, but for me, intuition and experience seem to do the trick. I’d say that it takes some innate talent to become a designer, but the rest can be learned. It also helps if you are excited about what you do and keen on observing not only your own industry but also the world at large.

What’s the best thing about your job?

Being able to do something completely new or working on a service that is used by the masses. Over the years we’ve designed Suomi24, the appointment booking system for Terveystalo, Radio Nova’s old site and the Helsingin Sanomat customer service. All of these services have had hundreds of thousands of users. Designing something like that is very rewarding because they touch so many people – either by making their lives a little easier or bringing them joy.

What has been your favorite project so far?

Yikes, I don’t know what to say. Top 3 in no particular order would probably be Suomi24, Radio Nova and the new online store that I can’t name just yet. Those are at least the three that come to mind.

What about the best memory from down the road?

Yikes! That’s just as impossible as the projects. I have so many funny memories and learning experiences to share with the next generation. Although sometimes those stories do turn into something like: “when I was young, we skied back and forth an HTML jungle and fought advertising agencies with our bare teeth...” Anyway, I’m awful at making even top 10 lists and these “choose one” types are even worse.

What’s the most challenging thing about your job?

The hardest part is to match my own ambitions and perspectives to the reality of the client. Designers might have some crazy, wild ideas that may or may not work, but there’s no certainty. Clients, on the other hand, usually have limited budgets and schedules, which makes it important for us to know immediately what works and what doesn’t. That leads to constant compromises that I just have to accept. Perhaps that’s why the projects I mentioned as my favorites made the list: in all of them, we’ve had enough time to iterate and find the best solution.

What would your dream project be like?

I would like to design an online service for a Finnish gaming company – something that would be a part of a mobile game. For example, Supercell has these cool statistics and player stories on their site. GTA V, on the other hand, used to have a website on which the pictures the characters took during gameplay were published on the ‘real’ internet. But anyway, I’d want to design something that would be an integral part of the game world.

What would you do if you suddenly got so much money that you wouldn’t have to work to pay the bills?

It depends on the sum.

If I won the lottery, I’d consume culture. I would take pictures and do my own photography projects or maybe write a book. I’ve written some short stories and a live role play but I could maybe write a novel. I’d spend the first couple of year traveling around Europe, going to museums, watching all the TV shows and movies and reading all the comic books. After a sabbatical, I could return to work as an angel designer and offer startups my brain instead of 100,000 € in seed funding.

If I got a ridiculous amount of money, enough to qualify for the billionaires club, I would become a Tony Stark -like philanthropist-playboy and contribute to the wellbeing of the humankind on a larger scale. For example, famine and climate change are good causes and so is humanitarian work – let’s just say those are all closer to my heart than homeless cats.

What if you could no longer be a designer but you would still have to work?

I have my own photography business on the side, so I would probably do something with that. I could photograph gigs, travel destinations and portraits… Actually my long term dream is to visit all the film festivals in the world, take pictures of them, critique them and make it into a book. Venice, Toronto, Helsinki, Portugal, Berlin, Hong Kong etc.

If you could be any of your colleagues for a day, who would you be?

The problem is that I just read the interview with Jutta and I must say that I would also like to be Stanley [the office dog]. I would lay on the ground with my feet up and wait for people to scratch my belly. On the other hand, I could be Pullervo [the star of WWF’s Norppalive] – I’d just sit on a sunny rock and enjoy life. But actually I’m not sure if Pullervo counts as a frantimone?

Last but not least, make an elevator pitch explaining why people should come work with us.

We have interesting projects and awesome people working on them – they’re both talented and fun to work with. I’ve been at Frantic for nine years, that probably says something about the company. I’ve just never wanted to leave.

Thanks a bunch, Henri!

If Henri’s elevator pitch made a lasting impression, send us that application! We know you want to.