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Design by the Shoreside

Hampus Olsson has been busy. Having created all the device wallpapers since the OnePlus 2, he has been able to create a body of work that all OnePlus users have interacted with and much of the community is familiar with. Not one to rest, Hampus has been exploring other areas of design, both personally as well as with his own studio.

Bring creativity and entrepreneurship to one’s career, living abroad in another country, and pursuing multiple areas of craft; these are all highly desirable aspects of life on their own. And yet, Hampus lives all of these at once.

We recently caught up with him to discuss how he has evolved since he began his design career, and what it’s like to run a business from a small beachside town in India.

Austin Pietrobono: Let’s start by talking about your backstory. I’m curious how you originally got into design and art?

Hampus Olsson: I was really into sketching when I was a kid and loved to experiment with different techniques for painting during my school years. When I was eight years old, I was introduced to web design by my mom who was a Webmaster at the time. That’s when I started making websites, which later got me interested in game design and 3D. I started using Paint Shop Pro as my design tool, but later switched to Photoshop when it became the more popular choice. When I was living in Kalmar, Sweden I got introduced to and was inspired by the talented artists James Widegren and Jens Karlsson who were masters of digital abstract art at the time, and grew up in the same town as me. I later did my internship at their company Your Majesty in New York during my studies at Hyper Island, which inspired me to keep learning 3D.

What encouraged you to make your initial move abroad? What drew you to India?

I never got to travel when I was young, so one of my big dreams was always to travel the world and explore Asia. After my Internship in New York, I went to Thailand and lived there for three months before moving on to my next job in Sweden. After a couple of years, I started working with two other friends in Stockholm. We were fatigued with the cold, dark weather of Sweden and decided to move our office to India, as my friend had been there during his childhood and wanted to get back. I didn’t know what to expect but ended up really enjoying my time here in India. I later decided to start a new agency called GrandWorks In Goa with my best friend Siddharth.

Along those lines, what has it been like to run your own agency from Goa, as opposed to a more traditional design center like Bengaluru?

Goa is a small paradise in India, not really known for being a place for design and tech. However, I enjoy the sound of the ocean, the palm trees, the beautiful architecture and the sandy beaches of Goa and found it to be a great place for finding inspiration and working without distraction. Instead of being stuck in traffic on the way back from work, I can take a walk on the beach. I also helped to start the group Startup Goa, where we organize various meetups for people in the tech industry, which is a great way to bring the community together.

You wear many professional hats, one as the founder of a design agency, another as a solo freelancer, and a fine artist. How do you balance the associated work and projects that come with each discipline?

I love learning new things in design and I’ve always wanted to run my own business where I can be independent and free to travel the world, while at the same time working with and meeting talented people from all corners of the globe. I started GrandWorks about two years ago with my friend Siddharth, and
we’ve been incredibly lucky working with such good clients worldwide, like Spotify, The Indian Government, and of course, OnePlus.

I also run a business in Hong Kong called Spacetofu, that I use for my personal freelance work, apps, and games. I recently launched my own wallpaper app called Abstruct, check it out!

With the variety of projects I am involved with, balancing all the different tasks works surprisingly well. When I am focused on OnePlus work, I have a team of designers that are able to help out with web design tasks.

I speed up my workflow by using two computers. I have a MacBook Pro which I use for web design and general tasks, and a powerful desktop PC which I use for 3D rendering and working with more demanding tasks. When traveling, I connect to the PC remotely. In this way, I can let the PC render a large 3D artwork, while I work on my laptop, from anywhere in the world.

I imagine that juggling multiple professional practices at once can be quite a challenge, especially during down moments. How do you stay inspired to continue with your design and fine art craft during those times?

I easily get restless and find myself uninspired if I don’t change the place and work task regularly, and I think I have found my personal formula of keeping myself motivated by handling a more diverse list of tasks in design. Traveling is incredibly inspiring, that’s usually when I come up with my best ideas and where I can refresh my mind back to focus.

Your process in creating the OnePlus device wallpapers has moved to being more digital. What new possibilities does that afford you in your work? Any challenges in that switch?

I remember filling my Airbnb apartment in Paris full of acrylic artworks and having to jump over them to get to my bed. Today, most of my work is done digitally due to the demand for more simplistic and clean artworks. However, I still use some of my acrylic brushstrokes in the art I make today, it’s just that it’s used more subtly. I still really enjoy the process of working digitally, since it’s something I’ve always done. I use Blender for 3D, which is an incredibly useful tool for creating my kind of art. I mostly work with displacement maps, modifiers, and shader nodes to create a composition, which I bring to Photoshop after rendering to work on the final artwork. Since it is also used for print, I have to work with huge dimensions and file sizes. That’s why working on a desktop PC is a must.

How has your working relationship with OnePlus continued to evolve? We hear you’re working on cool things with the software team.

I’m really happy to keep getting new challenges from OnePlus, recently I’ve been working on some illustrations for OxygenOS. One example is the illustrations for the new Zen Mode. Making these kind of illustrations is a completely different task from making wallpapers. It usually starts with me creating a bunch of sketches to conceptualize ideas, moving on to create vectors in Illustrator, and then adding shadows and final touches in Photoshop. I love to work on all the different tasks for OnePlus, it’s really challenging and fun to make something for such an awesome audience. Thank you!

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