We sat down with Michael Aneto in Amsterdam to talk about his design and technology firm SAI, Generative AI and Web 3.0.
“He showed me how I could tie together different parts of culture to answer questions we faced.”
What are you working on right now? What makes it special?
I can't talk about what we're working on right now due to confidentiality, but one really cool thing we worked on recently was a film for the Stedelijk Museum, one of the best contemporary museums in the world and a template for MoMA and White Cube.
The museum went through a significant renovation a few years ago, and one of our clients, a Japanese company, provided the materials for the exterior "bathtub" construction. We were given the opportunity to make a film, a mini-documentary, about the bathtub.
Instead of taking the corporate route, we came up with the idea of celebrating the first 10 years of the bathtub by featuring 10 people with opinions on it, whether positive or negative.
How did you make it work?
We wanted to showcase the museum's impact on them. It was fascinating to gather a diverse group of individuals for the project. We included an expat from Finland, an artist from the museum, and others who all shared their unique perspectives on the iconic bathtub structure.
We had an artist named Ray, who is from an underrepresented community, do the voiceover for the film. His reaction was brilliant and natural because he comes from the city. Giving a stage to underrepresented communities often results in them shining because they're thinking about these issues all the time.
What's the best idea you've had this week?
The best idea I had this week was for a talk at the Dutch creativity festival. I was struggling with how to convey the concept of imagination versus storytelling, and then I had an idea of how to do it. I spoke to my motion designer, and I think it will visually get the point across effectively.
What common qualities are there between the best strategists you've ever worked with?
The best strategists I've worked with have been curious, non-judgmental, and had a good sense of humour. They also have a love for creativity and are humble about the impact they can have on the output.
What technologies do you think will spice up the industry in the coming years?
I believe technologies like Web3 platforms, such as Nike's .SWOOSH, will be game-changers, as they educate and engage their communities.
When a large organisation or entity shares knowledge for free on a massive scale, it sends a strong message to the market and people that the subject matter is important. This kind of action tends to create a ripple effect in terms of messaging and awareness. On top of that it's a creative platform so people are going to start doing stuff and making things happen.
How do you feel about keeping up with new technologies?
I always get excited by new technologies, both for entertainment and professional purposes. I'm genuinely interested in science and technology, so it's something I enjoy.
Can you imagine tech that helps create better ideas?
Yes, there are already AI platforms that can create high-quality images based on user input. These tools can be used intelligently or cynically to replace designers and photographers. It ultimately depends on the individuals and how they use it.
Would you use AI-generated images in your agency?
I think it's essential to consider the value and potential of these technologies. It depends on the specific project and whether using AI-generated images would genuinely benefit the output. It's crucial to strike a balance between embracing new technologies and maintaining the importance of human creativity and skills.
Who had the biggest impact on your career?
The biggest impact on my career was definitely my first boss, Graham Hawkey Smith. He wasn't just a boss; he also became a mentor and still is to this day. My first job was at an agency that eventually became TBWA. I had just come back from university and spent a year in Paris. One thing that struck me was how different types of people could work together towards the same goal. We were very different – a young black guy from Hackney and an older white guy from Yorkshire. He was into cricket and rugby, while I was into football.
What really made a big impact was that Graham didn't just tell me how to do things or list my strengths. Instead, he showed me how I could tie together different parts of culture to answer questions we faced. He helped me realise what I was really good at – synthesising, taking things that may seem unrelated and creating a cohesive whole.
Graham was (and still is!) also an excellent storyteller, and he always had an anecdote for everything. I owe a lot to him.