Design Director at Pizza Pizza
Julian
Stahl

Julian is co-founder of Berlin-based digital product studio Pizza Pizza, where he leads design and development.

Berlin, Deutschland • March 1, 2022

What led you into design?

Growing up in Switzerland my childhood and teen years were all about snowboarding with friends in winter and skateboarding in summer.

Since I felt the most at ease using computers I was soon doomed to design our logo and t-shirts. After a few unsuccessful attempts at doing so using MS paint, I learned how to use Corel Draw, from there it was a constant process of learning. I wanted to create a website so I learned how to use Flash, then realized I had to learn to write code in order to achieve what I wanted to create (RIP ActionScript). Soon, I realized I could make some money on the side, so I started to take on small projects: Designing t-shirts and flyers for local skate shops, creating websites for small businesses etc. With every project I set myself a challenge by selling something I didn't know how to do yet, learning what it took along the way.

After high school, I spent a year freelancing for local agencies and working on client projects but soon realized that I was missing a certain depth in my work. The discussions with clients around projects were often quite superficial and not very strategic.

That's when I decided to move to Berlin to study Communication in Social and Economic Contexts. It’s also where I met Fabian, with whom I later started our digital product studio Pizza Pizza.

What does a typical day look like?

My day starts between 6:30 and 7:30 depending on when my kids wake up. The morning is usually quite hectic: Making breakfast, getting my kids ready and (pre-covid) dropping them off at kindergarten before work, somewhere in-between this I try to brush my own teeth and put some pants on as well.

We all start between 9:00 and 9:30 at the studio and have a quick stand-up in the morning.

My day then mostly consists of emails, presentations, check-ins with the team and often also the not-so-nice things that running your own studio brings: bookkeeping, finances etc.

I'm home by 18:00 so I can have dinner with my family. Nothing has taught me to be more efficient than having kids and owing them time.

After my wife goes to bed I usually work for another 3–4 hours. This is the time I enjoy working the most since I can spend time undistracted and work hands-on with projects doing design or development.

What's your workstation setup?

At some point, I started to force myself to work without an external screen in order to become less dependent on specific locations. My setup is a MacBook on a Roost stand, external mouse and keyboard.

A clean desk is key for me in order to stay focused.

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Where do you go to get inspired?

As a studio, we focus on certain cultural spheres: art & architecture, fashion & luxury, travel, food & hospitality and technology.

There's a great overlap between our personal interests and these fields so we intrinsically keep up with things.

Since we try to work very conceptually driven we usually gain most of our inspiration from immersing ourselves in clients’ business and the culture they are operating in.

What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?

Although I've had an account for a while, I found myself using are.na more and more over the last months.

Pinterest is doing an amazing job with their navigation system that makes you go down the rabbit hole of discovery but the content is often not very relevant to me.

I think it's really interesting to see that in the case of are.na the UX/UI helps to cast a certain audience and therefore certain content on the platform.

What pieces of work are you most proud of?

I'm quite happy about the culture and way of working we established at our studio over the last few years. While the workload is usually quite high and we often have to switch between contexts I think this is also what keeps us excited.

Being our own worst client I'm quite happy that we managed to finally launch our own website a bit over a year ago.

What design challenges do you face at your company?

We try to work with an integrated approach between strategy, design and development. What felt natural when we were all working from our studio, sitting around a long table, was quite a challenge when we switched to work remotely during COVID.

But after the first few weeks, with the right set of tools and processes, I think we have adapted really well to the situation and actually embraced it in a way. We'll continue to work part-time from the office, part-time remotely for the foreseeable future.

What music do you listen to whilst designing?

Any advice for ambitious designers?

Creating, designing and building digital products is a craft. But I have the impression that our industry tends to be quite self-referential. If your research starts on Dribbble or Siteinspire, the chances that you'll create something original are quite low.

Anything you want to promote or plug?

We just launched index.shop a few weeks ago for a client. I admire their products and I'm also quite happy with the concept, visual identity and website we created for them, so please have a look.

There are also a few more projects in the pipeline that I'm really excited about. So, although we're not great at marketing ourselves and regularly updating content, follow us on Instagram if you would like to stay posted.

interview