Interview with Nick Christiansen, Creative Director and Founding Partner, OKTO

Next Wave Leaders showcases those at the forefront of innovation in Europe.

In line with the all-new Lovie Awards, we’re continuing to highlight Lovie judges and winners who are leading the next wave of culture, technology and business across Europe. The Next Wave Leaders showcases Lovie judges and winners — creatives, business leaders, innovators and thinkers who are shaping tech and culture in Europe.

The next leader in our series is Nick Christiansen, Creative Director and Founding Partner of OKTO, a Lovie award-winning digital agency based in Stockholm. There, he leads a team of creatives uplift clients through building strong brand identities, products and digital campaigns. We spoke to him about what inspires his work, and what is the next era for the Internet.

  • To start, please tell us a little about yourself and the kind of work you do.

    I’m a Creative Director and Founding Partner at OKTO – a branding agency operating in the cross-section of communication, design and digital.

  • What inspired you to want to join this field and create the kind of work that you do?

    I think on some level many of us in the industry want to put a dent in the universe. I mean, it’s business we’re in, of course, but there’s also impact on human beings. We’re creating stuff people look at, absorb, and have opinions about. Stuff that changes their minds. Or not. But it has an impact on lives, and I think that’s beautiful. But also, it’s just advertising. And that’s fine too.

  • Are there any defining values or characteristics to creative work created in and for Europe? If so, how have they shaped your work at OKTO?

    I think the major shift that we’ve seen over the last decade-half a decade is that everyone is trying to consolidate. Holding companies are opening their wallets to buy up offerings to put under the same roof, and independent agencies are constantly shifting their offering. What we’ve seen is that this often creates work that feels disconnected from what the brand needs to do to move in one clear direction. At OKTO we pride ourselves on not having any one style, but doing what’s best for the project. So that’s really a driver for us – finding that clear journey for a brand, and using creativity to execute on it in the medium that does the work.

  • What emerging trend or development are you most excited to engage with in your field?

    I mean, I would be remiss not to mention AI, but other than that I’m really curious to see where the future of media is going. We’ve gone from an era of mass media to an era of social media, but I think we’re beginning to see a return, or a slight return, to brands having the need to be seen on the big canvasses again, in order to stand out and be recognized as trusted. We’ll see.

  • What digital projects have you looked to or continue to look to for inspiration?

    The New York Times and all their different digital formats and types of content keep surprising me. I also check in to every once in a while just to see what’s going on. It’s a site by an Italian artist, Giacomo Miceli, who created AI versions of filmmaker Werner Herzog and Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek, and just set the both off on an endless machine-generated conversation. Probably not mind bending in terms of AI-capabilities by the time this gets published, but a really interesting and captivating idea. Last I checked they were discussing the concept of truth.

  • What about the current era of the Internet excites you the most about its future?

    Fundamentally I think the Internet excites me now the same way it did when we were on a 9,600 bit/s dialup line. I remember my father bolting out from his study, proclaiming “I just chatted with a chef in Mexico!” This was in the 90’s, and I’m as excited today that we all can connect with chefs and artists and likeminded people from Mexico or Denmark or Japan or wherever, but of course in a much more publicly available way. Just the fact that we keep finding the cross-sections of things and ideas, thanks to the Internet, that excites me.

  • This season, we’re asking everyone we speak with to answer this question: What does the European Internet mean to you?

    Well, I don’t know about the European Internet, specifically, but if we’re talking in more broad terms, I’m always fighting the paradox of needing more of the Internet while also needing less of it. I guess that means I have a love-hate relationship to it?

  • A “7-Words of Lovie” Speech is the hallmark of the Lovie Awards. How would you sum up your career in seven words?

    I’ve just kept building stuff I like.