Whether it’s travelling across the surfaces of Issey Miyake’s Pleats Please, simulations of melting Moschino bags or just strolling through marble halls of Kenzo, Thomas Traum transports us into his universes in his still and moving images, which are just as his name’s meaning: dreamy and otherworldly. Since 2009, he has been exploring new digital approaches to ideas while slowly gathering his creative team, now known as Traum Inc. His natural urge to create has allowed him to work with top clients all over the world and today he is here to chat with us.
I have to ask… Is your name actually Thomas Traum? ‘Traum’ means ‘dream’ in German, and your work is otherworldly and dreamy for sure.
Ha, no! It’s a pseudonym I started to use for this very reason: otherworldly, alternative worlds and landscapes. Now it stuck and most people think it’s my actual name!
You’ve previously studied and researched at the famous school ECAL. It seems these days the school is just pumping out talents. What is their secret? What was it that you learned there that is still useful today?
I was very lucky to be there at the right time, before it was what it is today but when it became what it is today, I feel. I think they have very good teachers and it’s a very structured course. It’s different to the other European models of higher education, where it’s a lot less about whether, what you do is good. ECAL is much more refined and opinionated. They tell you when they think your work isn't good, and they are usually right. Seeing other universities and how they operate, you know they’re light years behind.
Your formal title is creative director of Traum Inc. but spare us some informal details. What can you tell us about yourself?
I am obsessed with working and making things. It’s what makes me happy. It took me a while to understand this, but I love what I do. Creative work comes with a lot of hardship, and it’s tough. Low pay, long hours. There is nothing rosy about it but I am addicted to it. It’s better to chase meaning and beauty for your health than avoiding hard work.
‘New Images for A New World’ is the slogan of your company. I’m curious, what is the new world and how does it look like?
Well, that’s the thing no one knows anymore. It’s different and new every day at the rate of change we are running at. I think the slogan at its heart means that we react to things that happen. The slogan is quite old in a way, but it’s staying really relevant.
How did you come up with Traum Inc.?
It used to be just Thomas Traum but as the company grew and more people got involved, I changed it to Traum Inc, as the Thomas in front didn’t make any more sense.
What are your special powers as a creative company? What can you do that other creative companies can’t?
I think really, we are image makers. We are quite different, I think it’s fair to say we have a specific output. It’s much more inspired by art and it’s inverse to trends. We don’t really care about what other people are doing either. It’s all about the project at hand.
Looking through the webpage, it seems like you do almost do everything: video, image-making, 3D art and interactive design. You must have a huge team. How many are you? How are you organized?
We are a small team, really, but we collaborate with other creatives and engineers for projects if we need to.
Obviously, the visuals your company create are all stunning. From Moschino 3D-art pieces to the beautiful running-shoe campaign set in a winter-coast landscape. When creating these universes, the sound design must play a big part as well. How do you choose the sound? Do you collaborate with a particular sound studio?
Yes, sound is super important to us, and I am happy that people keep mentioning it when they browse through our work. I think what I try to do is work with musicians rather than sound designers. I am looking for a feeling, not for a ‘design’ of the sound. Sound designers are often too literal: something moves so they add a sound of something moving. Humans need melodies and music to get immersed into something, not effects.
What is your favourite production so far? And why?
No favourites, always looking forward.
The age of 3D certainly seems to have arrived. Why do you think that is?
The tools have become very accessible and it’s also simply a trend. I think certain designers picked it up and started creating interesting work, which made other designers follow, because they wanted to create similar work. It’s an expression of our times, zeitgeist and what not, but also simply allows you to make images that are hard to make otherwise.
Who is your creative idol?
Spike Jonze, no doubt.
Where do you see your company going in the future?
2019 will be interesting. We will change a lot. I want to transform us into an entity that makes things within its own, which generates works, products like films or clothing.