Not too long ago, we told you about the design competition Cut&Paste, a timed tournament currently cruising through 11 international cities. Last week, Cut&Paste found its way to NYC, where eight local designers were pitted against one another in an edge-of-your-seat battle for first place. We scored big time when we landed an interview with the future winner of the competition. We then scored even bigger-time when time (and talent) placed the gold medal in the hands of a certain Mate Steinforth. Not only had we (Dan Steckenberg) previously posted on some of Mate’s awesome work, but our collective drool actually drowned Dan’s computer, leaving us with a sort of slimy metal spitwad.

…OK, maybe not. But needless to say we were impressed. And with good reason; Mate has one hell of a background leading up to his current ’07 Cut&Paste victory. A traveler, a computer nerd, an ardent user of emoticons, Mate has earned his position among the design elite with all the work and fervor that one would expect from a guy of his caliber.

Mate currently works for PSYOP, a New York production company that will turn reading this interview into a 45-minute affair (given you click on that link). I say that truly hoping you do click on over, because watching every single one of their brilliant productions just added about that much time to writing this interview, and it was totally worth it. However, if you’d rather invest your time in 100% pure Mate, you can always check out his portfolio at mateuniverse, the site where he keeps a running collection of both personal projects and work he’s done for PSYOP.

In closing (and beginning), I’d like to remind you that Cut&Paste judges its contestants on three things: Originality, Technique, and Overall Dopeness. As you can tell from the posted pictures of Mate’s winning design (more of which can be found here), we are clearly dealing with a man who eats dope for breakfast (and by that I clearly mean “dope” in its context as the noun form of dopeness, not as in “Mate eats pot every morning”). So, read on knowing that you are in the internet presence of a man who can probably teach you a thing or two, who is also incredibly nice, and who — BOOYAH! — just won Cut&Paste NYC. Tell us about Demoscene. How did this throw you into graphic design?

Mate Steinforth: In 1985, when I was 9 years old, I got my first computer, which was pretty early for my generation. So I was interested in technology from an early age on. This naturally led to using the computer as a tool for making images. In my teen years I became active in the computer art subculture called Demoscene. I first got in contact with this scene through a magazine about home computers. At that time, there was no internet yet, so I had to wait a month for the next issue of the magazine until I could read the answers to my posts ;) Eventually I started swapping those demos with a bunch of people via mail. We would send the disks around, copy them, and send the new demos to other people. In 1991 I saw in a demo that a democrew was searching for a designer, so I made a Logo and sent it to them. That was when I started to also get involved in a creative roll. The scene had meetings, so called parties, where people would compete for the best demo, best design, best music. That was when everybody would meet. Eventually that led to doing graphics for computer games in the late nineties. The transition to graphic design was quite natural. Prior to the whole demoscene thing, I used to draw and doodle around as long as I can remember. From there on I chose the classical way of studying graphic design.

JS: And from there you went through what series of events to land you where you are now?

Mate: I moved around a lot, really. I lived in a couple of cities in Germany. I studied in Hildesheim, worked in Hamburg for a bit around 2000 when the dotcom boom reached Germany, so I did web design, of course ;) I lived in the south of Germany, in Stuttgart, for some time, where I started doing VJing, so life graphic visuals at clubs. Then I moved to Madrid for two years, working as an Art Director in the graphic studio Juan Dela Mata. That’s where I really started getting into motion graphics, directing motion graphics pieces for Metro Madrid and RENFE, which is a Spanish railway company. From Madrid I finally moved to Berlin. I really loved that city, so the plan was to stay there for at least 2-5 years, maybe longer. I worked as a freelance Designer and Animator for a couple of places, including Metaphrenie in Berlin and Liga 01 in Munich, but mainly I was working with Matt Pyke from Universal Everything. His studio is in Sheffield, so that was all through the internet, which worked out pretty well. …Then suddenly I won the Stash Magazine Global Student Animation Award, which I totally had not expected, so I was really blown away by it. That was when I had the chance to meet PSYOP, which I’d already been a big fan of for several years. The opportunity to work with them in New York was of course way too tempting to not try, so here I am.

JS: The pictures from Cut&Paste NYC look kind of incredible- what was the scene like there?

Mate: It was a pretty cool and well organized event. The place was packed and the crowd seemed to be really into it, all cheering and laughing. If I wouldn’t have been so nervous it would have been a really cool evening to enjoy and relax ;)

JS: So what exactly did you have to do at Cut&Paste, and how did you do it?

Mate: We had 15 minutes to do a design using Photoshop and Illustrator in front of the audience. We had the themes a week in advance though, so we could prepare a routine which we just had to execute. Otherwise, it’s not really possible. At the very beginning, Derya, a friend of mine, IM’ed me that he was going to apply for Cut&Paste in Berlin – he will do the competition there next month, good luck! :) – so I thought, OK, I’ll try that too, why not, and sent them a mail. When they contacted me that they’d like me to come over to Brooklyn for a test round, I tried for the first time to do a design in 15 minutes. Before I thought to myself, OK, 15 minutes is short, but it will be OK. So when I tried, I realized that it is REALLY short and leaves absolutely no time to think about the concept.

JS: What elements of your classic design style (if you have one) can we see in this final piece?

Mate: My design education was quite classical, so a big part of the first one or two years of my studies were calligraphy classes. This is easy to see in the tattoo I made for the final round I think. I have to add that I was pretty bad in those classes, though ;) I guess they helped me a lot with this one, after all.

JS: If Cut&Paste were a reality TV show, which part of the comp would have been the one that the producers would have turned into the “moment of suspense”/”drama”/”part where someone totally loses it”?

Mate: Probably the part when the jury decides of who goes on to the next round?

JS: You’re still pretty young — what are your plans for the future?

Mate: If I compare myself with my colleagues at PSYOP I’m actually more towards the older side. I’d like to keep evolving my art and perfecting it. This will go along with shifting towards different aspects of it. The more time you spend doing something, the more conceptual and stategic aspects of your work seem to emerge. So the plan is staying in the game and eventually moving more towards the conceptual side, directing projects.

JS: More importantly, what do you see for the near-future of design?

Mate: I guess handmade stuff will keep being interesting, mixing it up with the digital now-mainstream, combining techniques. I would love to see a more conscious and eco-friendly approach to design in advertising. Designers have to be conscious of what products they advertise or work for, they have to realize their responsibility in the society. Of course it’s hard to implement in your every day’s work, but at least everybody should try*.

*Word up, Mate!