Creative Director – Nicolas Bougaïeff

Nicolas Bougaïeff, Creative Director of the Richie Hawtin-backed German software development house Liine, takes the hotseat for the latest instalment of our Job Envy series.

Name

Nicolas Bougaïeff

Place of work

Liine, Berlin

Job

Creative Director

How long have you had the job?

Since we founded the company in early 2010.

Describe a typical day

A typical work day starts by organising my to-do list. I have a rolling list of tasks, and every day I make sure to prioritise what’s most important. I try to stay disconnected from email and the internet as much as possible during the first couple hours of the day and focus on these urgent tasks. The next thing is email. I’m constantly involved in dozens of email conversations.

My official title is Creative Director, but as we are a very small team, we all end up wearing many, many hats. Email conversations will typically involve managing the website development, managing tech support, managing product release schedules and related marketing campaigns. Every day, in some way, I will be directly involved in the design of new products or content for existing products. Many of the email threads are brainstorms and design discussions. I’d say that a full 50% of my day is spent communicating with people by phone, email and Skype.

Highs of the job

The highest highs are definitely those “Eureka!” moments when a concept crystallises and becomes perfectly clear. Sometimes it’s a sudden breakthrough, sometimes it’s just a tiny tweak on an old idea. My partners Gareth Williams, Etienne Noreau-Hébert and I are constantly discussing ideas. For every product that sees the light, I’d say there are 5-10 that were discussed in theory and dismissed. The highest high is the feeling that accompanies those moments: when something is profoundly good, you feel it deep down. It comes down to instinct then, recognising the feeling and saying, “Yes, this is where we need to go next.”

Lows of the job

Generally I like to see things in a positive way, so even the most boring tasks like accounting are actually kind of fun when I remind myself that it’s a blessing to be running a company I’m passionate about which is successful and thus requires accounting to be done.

“Any task, however boring, can always be framed as a positive and essential job.”

I really can’t think of anything ‘low’ about the job. Any task, however boring, can always be framed as a positive and essential job. If a task can’t be justified, then it needs be re-thought, re-contextualised or eliminated.

Who are the people who’ve had the biggest influence on your career and why?

I’m thankful for the great teachers I’ve had in my life. The first of these would be my first violin teacher. The lesson I learned from him was that the important thing is not how much I practice every day, but that I practice every single day. My sense of discipline stems from there.

The second great teacher I had was my composition teacher at undergraduate level. He taught me to focus not on the surface aesthetics of composition, but to dig deep and figure out the core concept of a piece, and then make sure that everything in the structure, aesthetics and execution is a reflection of that concept.

In recent times I’ve been greatly influenced by the theories of Jacques Attali, specifically his ideas about the relationship between music-making and technology after the digital revolution.

And, of course, Richie Hawtin has been more than a business partner; I see him as a role model. From working with Hawtin I’ve learned how to combine many aspects into single a coherent lifestyle: music-making, music technology and music business.

How did you get your job?

Liine was founded in 2010 by Gareth, Etienne, John Acquaviva, Mark Quail, Richie Hawtin and me. So, I guess I got my job by creating my job!

How would we get a job like yours?

The common link between Gareth, Etienne and myself is that we all have a combination of skills.

We all have a unique speciality, but then we also have advanced knowledge of other fields. The other partners are experts in those other fields. For example, my formal training is in music. At the moment, I’m completing a PhD on techno from a music composition angle, but I also have a working knowledge of computer programming. Etienne has a master’s degree in computer science, but he’s also been doing digital visual arts and music as a serious hobby for many years. Gareth’s also been an active DJ and producer for many years, as well as having a serious head for business.

So, the trick is to be ultra-specialised in at least one thing, but then to be also really good at other stuff. And there’s strength in numbers: find like-minded people and make teams.

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  • Date: 22nd June 2012