Tom Muller thinks back to the original dotcom bubble and recalls how Vir2L Studios redefined his attitude to design
With issue 200, we bring you our ‘Best 200 Design Moments Ever’ and as part of our celebrations, we’re asking friends of and contributors to the magazine to share their ‘design moment’ – something that inspired them or influenced them in their creative career. Today: Tom Muller
Upon graduating in 1998 I lucked into my first proper job as a multimedia (remember that word?) designer at a B2B marketing agency in Antwerp. Whilst working there I had — for the first time — access to a speedy web connection, and I started discovering the online design scene. Seeing there was a vast network out there of designers collaborating and running their own sites was an eye-opener, especially when I was back in Belgium where such a thing didn’t exist at the time (or I simply wasn’t aware of it).
The one thing that really got my attention, around 1999 I think, was the site for an American design company called Vir2L Studios. Contrary to their peers (Attik, Kioken, Razorfish, et al) their company site was one abstract experience, foregoing the traditional ‘this is us, our services and our work’ approach for a selection of abstract digital graphics and Flash animations.
It looked incredibly cool and ballsy that an agency could sell themselves like that. Later on I found out that Vir2L employed a who’s who of the online design community — James Widegren (Three.Oh), Michael Young (YWFT, Designgraphik), Bradley Grosh (Gmunk), Philipp Körber (Plasticbag), Erik Jarlsson (Greyscale), Justin Fines (Demo Design), Anders Schroder (Dform1), Patrick Sundqvist (Supershapes) etc… and it all made sense. That one agency could boast so much talent under one roof was a revelation, and I kept an eye on them from then on.
A few months later, when they relaunched their site, Vir2L advertised a position for a Dutch speaking designer in their newly-to-be-opened London office. I applied and got the job, getting the chance to work side by side with those guys for a year. It proved to be a formative period for me that (re)defined my attitude to design and being a designer and offered me a platform to launch myself in the design industry.
When the dotcom bubble finally burst a year later everyone went their separate ways. It was the first and last time I worked in a such a super charged design environment with so many people at the top of their game who never stopped and kept pushing and trying out new things. If not for my year at Vir2L I probably wouldn’t be writing this piece for Computer Arts.