Interview: Digital Designer Matthew Daniel Siskin
by Julija Kaselyte
The talented Matthew Daniel Siskin’s journey to the top of the design community started at a summer program at Parsons The New School for Design at the cusp of his adolescence. His love of design has grown with him and Matthew now runs his very own visual design studio designedmemory. The secret of the company’s founder and Creative Director for standing out in the crowd? Simply being himself.
Julija: Please tell us a bit about your background. What brought you to design?
Matthew: Design was really found (for me) by my mother Rhonda. I was 16, considering “my future” and of course, I thought – “Oh, I’ll just be an artist. I’ll make art” – my mother, being the grand understander that she is – in a very subtle way, recommended I try to do a summer program at a design school in the city – in this case, Parsons. That summer really changed everything for me. It was the first time I noticed “type” – and typography. I realized there was emotion hiding in the basic parts of everything, and that where it was missing, it should be added – and it started a bug in me – I started to really crave it, and think about it all the time. I was noticing everything written, the way it sounded, if it was direct – and if not, why not. So, that summer going to Parsons, I think it all began there.
Julija: What do you think are the most important skills for a designer to have?
Matthew: I think a designer has to be an emotional human. I think a designer needs to relate to everything, to be able to step outside of him or herself, and actually see things from every single angle.
Julija: How did you come up with idea to create designedmemory?
Matthew: The name itself, like most kids growing up in the 90s – was at one point my AOL screen name. I had found a record which was the side project of this German electro band called Haujobb, which was entitled CLEEN. One of their records was “Designed Memories” – I thought “Hey, I like how that feels” – so it became said screen name. Over the years, it just sort of stuck by me – long before I had any intention of starting a studio, or anything that serious at all. I simply liked the idea, and how it felt.
The actual studio designedmemory started out of the need to not have a true job. I’ve never wanted to work for anyone, and when I was 20, and living in Williamsburg – I began designing and coding flash websites to pay the rent – in my mind – it was only to pay the rent. It wasn’t something I had actually wanted to do – I just knew I was good at it, and people responded, so I thought “Ok lets do this for a while.” At the same time I was playing music, so it was a good fit. I could essentially live jobless (in my mind) – but at the same time, taking on clients, designing websites.
Julija: Do you prefer to work alone or as part of a team?
Matthew: I go back and forth on this, but, over the past year or so, I have learned the true power behind a team. I’m a control freak, I always have been – design wise, I need to have my hands on it, I cannot pass it off. I’ve not yet met the designer who I can trust more than myself. When I met my partner Kyle camping, everything changed. He is my counterpart in all things designedmemory. He began as “business director” – which is ironic considering I do everything possible to be anti-business. About a year ago, Kyle realized that without a true developer with skill to match the types of work I wanted to be producing, we would always fall short. So over Christmas, he literally bought books, and began to teach himself to code. He just coded 90% of beyonce.com.
Julija: Could you name a few brands that you work with?
Matthew: Beyoncé, Alice + Olivia, The Row, Chris Benz, SUNO, to name a few…
Julija: What are the best methods to attract clients?
Matthew: We’ve only pitched one client. I don’t believe in “pitching” as a practice. I’ve always stood by good work, and doing what I’m passionate about – I think over time, potential clients see something honest in that, and want to claim a piece of it as their own. So all in all – be yourself, don’t be what you think the clients you want, want you to be.
Julija: What projects in your career have been the most memorable?
Matthew: Memorable is a strange word, as in its “up and down,” positive and negative. But I would say when I launched Au Revoir Simone’s website years ago, it was the first moment I truly felt ready to do this. It’s that itchy addicting feeling, wanting things to be better and better.
More recently, last week actually, we launched Beyoncé’s new website. I think I will remember that as long as I live – the global essence, this feeling of doing something that you know most of the planet is going to see and interact with – flipping the switch on that, that feeling, it was pretty electric. It felt like giving birth, at least from a man’s perspective of course.
Julija: What sites and blogs do you usually read?
Matthew: For someone who spends a lot of time online, I actually can’t say I read anything “regularly” – I browse, a lot – I hit many different sites, quickly, and skim until something catches my eye. But a few staples would be nowness, riotofperfume.com, refinery29, haw-lin, 2or3things.blogspot.com.
Julija: Where do you go for design inspiration?
Matthew: Everywhere, I try to do this offline – especially since most of the time I’m designing for the web. Sometimes that means reading a book, wandering the city, eating lunch with a friend – as long as I have a notebook in my pocket and can jot it down when it comes, I’m usually okay. But I’ve learned not to force it, and to just notice as much as possible.