The Egotist Interviews: Leif Steiner of Moxie Sozo

/ Comments (49)

Three months ago, I was sitting in a Starbucks coffee shop in Mexico City. It could have been the same Starbucks that sits on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. The posters, music and furniture were identical. Over the past six weeks, I’ve been to Starbucks in Hong Kong, London and California. Somewhere, someone at an ad agency figured out how to seamlessly market to consumers in 49 countries. Blond wood and earth tones.

Perhaps the shadow of global homogeny is upon us. Eventually we will all speak the same language, listen to the same music and watch the same movies. This coming cultural genocide will not happen by force, but will probably be welcomed in the form of a White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino®.

So, when I sat down this afternoon to do this interview, I chose an independent little coffee shop on Pearl Street and ordered a 22-ounce bottle of hard cider. I parked at a table in the back, popped the cider, poured a glass and immediately attracted the attention of a carefully crafted hipster from across the room. He walked over, sat down, looked at my hair and asked me if I was ‘that guy’ from Moxie Sozo.

Presumably I am.

The following is a mix of questions from you, The Egotist, and our resident hipster.


Leif Steiner, Creative Director + Founder, Moxie Sozo


Moxie Sozo Office Interior, Boulder, Colorado

——

Is Moxie Sozo a secret project of CP+B?

No. We are independently owned, governed and operated by a benevolent dictator. No investors. No loans. We are free to pick, chose (and sometimes fire) our clients at will.

——

Moxie Sozo is known for turning away accounts, accepting a select few, and then maintaining long term relationships with the clients that you work with. All client/agency relationships have their rough patches, but you are rumored to have never lost an account. What is your philosophy toward relationships, and how are you able to make them last as long as you do?

The obvious answer: We pick our clients very carefully. We deliver on time. We don’t nickel and dime. Our work is effective. / More importantly, we take excellent care of the clients we have. Sometimes this means servicing accounts in ways that you would not expect. Like seducing strippers. We had a wealthy client in the fashion industry who wanted a particular dancer to model her clothing line. She offered me a large sum of money and a decent operating budget to seduce the girl. That weekend I went to the club. Without a game plan, I simply walked up to the girl and told her exactly what I was there to do. She laughed, drained the budget with an evening of lap dances, and then became a model for the next three years.

——

How do you coax such great work out of your designers?

Bigger cages and longer chains.

Actually, this is a tough question.

1) It starts with the people. When we hire or bring on an intern, I rarely consider only the resume. One of the best designers we’ve ever had was from India. She showed up for the interview in full Indian regalia, complete with a flowing sari, elaborate makeup and an ornate bindi on her forehead. She hadn’t slept in 24 hours because she had driven to Boulder nonstop from San Francisco, assembling her portfolio along the way. / In general, I search for people who possess an inordinate amount of passion, drive and desire. Smoldering souls who never rest and never give up. It took Thomas Edison 10,259 attempts to create a working light bulb. These are the type of people we hire.

2) Office environment. We have a working office on the second floor of a hundred-year-old building. It is too hot in the summer, drafty in the winter and there might even be a ghost. The walls are covered with an eclectic collection of antique taxidermy, medical prints and signs from around the world. We have one fridge that freezes everything and another one that can’t stay cold. There are supposed to be sleeping bags in the closet for late nights, but they seem to have disappeared. The floors sag towards the middle of the building and cockroaches wander up from the restaurant below. People frequently work long hours, occasionally longer than labor laws should allow. Everyone helps everyone, up and down the food chain. It is a vibrant, collaborative atmosphere that sometimes gets too loud. People are almost always laughing and I’ve never heard a single complaint about anything. It seems to be part of the culture. / Those are the ingredients. I have no idea why it works, but it does.

3) Great clients. We’ve been fortunate; we seem to have a large percentage of clients that say things like: ‘We want to launch a line of skin care products. Go have fun.’ This is smart. I prefer to hire geniuses and point them in the right direction. Whether it is a researcher, designer or programmer, the folks in our studio tend to be very good at what they do. If we are being considered for an account, I usually explain how we operate, and then tell them to go interview other agencies. If we’re a good fit, they come back. The ones that return are looking for work that is out of the ordinary. After a few successes, we’re usually given even more creative freedom. The designers flourish, the clients are happy and the cycle continues.

——

Describe the motivation behind your trip with employees to Peru last fall, and tell us an interesting story that happened along the way.

I drive our accountant crazy. Wandering around San Francisco a few years ago, I found an antique taxidermy hippopotamus for sale. I bought it for the studio. Have you ever tried to depreciate a dead hippo for tax purposes? / Peru was another spontaneous purchase. I was returning from lunch, and decided to stop by a travel agent. I walked out with tickets for five people in our office. They deserved it, and that was the only motivation I needed. We announced the trip during an office lunch a few days later, but didn’t tell anyone where we were headed. It was a big secret until we got to the airport. After landing in Lima, we rented a truck and drove 2,100 miles through the Andes and into the upper reaches of the Amazon. Most of it was on unpaved roads. We stayed in $6 rooms, ate guinea pig and one of our designers had his chest licked by a Peruvian midget. It was good trip.

——

Moxie Sozo receives thousands of internship requests and you review hundreds of designers for a single position. The firm is also known for working 80-hour workweeks. What do you look for in potential interns/employees?

When we hire, I look for people who want to achieve greatness in this profession. Becoming the best is a full-time commitment, requiring time and dedication well beyond the traditional forty-hour work week. Greatness does not know the time of day, or the day of the week. Greatness is a mentality and a way of living that permeates everything you do; it is not a part-time job.

We’ve had many designers come through the doors of our studio. Some of them don’t last, but others thrive and flourish. Those that do, understand what it means to be great. These are people who do not look at the clock, waiting for the end of the day. Rather, they are a rare breed of individuals who approach life and work with an unbridled passion.

There are many agencies that are 9-5 affairs. I know this, because I’ve seen their offices at night. There is nothing wrong with these agencies, but as far as I am concerned, they are just businesses created to make a profit. The owners drive nice cars and go home to nice houses at night. But to what end? Someday they will wake up 70 years old and rich, wondering what they did for their whole lives.

The people who work at Moxie Sozo are cut from a different mould; these are people who could probably be successful in any pursuit, but they chose design. They do not work hard because of unrealistic deadlines, or because I’ve told them to stay late. They work hard, because in some people – truly great people, there is a commitment to excellence.

Over the past year, we’ve stopped looking for designers ‘off the street.’ Instead, we have a pool of interns that we occasionally hire from. Indeed, there are only three people in our office (out of seventeen) who did not start as unpaid interns.

One of our current designers spent his first year interning full-time and working the night shift at Home Depot. Nate Dyer. He didn’t start out as a great designer. In fact, he didn’t even have much of a portfolio when he started. But he had an unwavering desire to be good, and he never gave up. In the past six months, his work has been featured in Japan, Germany, Hungry and Argentina. As I write this, it is Sunday afternoon. He’s working on a line of juice drinks. While the rest of America is watching TV, he’s in the office swinging for the fences. He might strike out, but he might – just might – hit a home run.

Success in anything requires an extraordinary amount of work and sacrifice. Nothing less.

I hire people who want to be successful.

——

In one sentence, what is the secret to managing an office full of creative people?

Creative people don’t like to be caged.

——

What do you hope will be the most important contribution you achieve during your career?

We re-packaged a brand of raisins. Their revenues jumped from 5 million dollars a year to 25 million. But I believe ‘success’ means a lot more than making money.

After Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Moxie Sozo organized an international collaboration of artists and designers from around the world to help raise money for the victims. Over 180 different limited-edition series of posters were produced, raising about $50,000. Many of the posters won major design awards, and the effort has been profiled in numerous publications. Exhibitions of the show have appeared around the country and in Europe. Additionally, many of the posters are now in permanent collections of several major museums, including the Library of Congress and the Louvre.

The Hurricane Poster Project consumed several thousand hours of effort, but it was one of the most satisfying things we’ve done as an agency. After an article appeared in the New Orleans Times Picayune, we had dozens of calls from people who had lost everything. Some even sent us handwritten letters. To know that you’ve touched a life or made a difference in the world is a lot more satisfying than being able to buy a faster car or bigger house.

Moving forward, a dream client would be villagebanking.org. Having spent a lot of time in the developing world, I’ve seen first hand the impact that a few dollars can make in someone’s life. The next time you buy a coffee, remember that two-thirds of the world’s population lives on less than three dollars a day. Microfinance – the ability of the working poor to get loans and have access to capital – is a simple concept that produces enormous results. / Have we contacted villagebanking.org? No. But given the opportunity to work together, I’d throw the full resources of the agency behind the cause.

——

On a more serious note, how do you get your hair to stand up like that?

Polyvinylpyrrolidone and other chemicals produced in New Jersey. Moxie Sozo was the first design and advertising agency in the world to become carbon neutral, zero waste and powered by renewable energy. At this point, my hair probably causes more environmental damage than everything else we do combined.

——

We picked up Computer Arts, a British design magazine, and noticed that Moxie Sozo was named ‘Studio of the Month’. At last count, you’ve been featured in twelve books and magazines in six countries this year. On the other hand, you avoid the award shows and abhor the hype that other agencies chase. How do you explain this dichotomy?

I can’t stop a book, blog or magazine from writing about us, but I can avoid the hype. We entered an awards show several years ago, and won. That was that. Since then, we’ve never entered another. Many agencies love to enter award shows, but awards are not given for effectiveness; they are given for aesthetics and creativity by industry-insiders who like to stand in a big daisy-chain and pat each other on the back.

That is not us. The only validation I need: In ten years of business, we’ve never lost an account. The vast majority of our clients would refuse to work with any other agency.

When agencies win awards or start believing their own hype, they get fat and relax. And then they lose their clients to the hoards of younger, more agile agencies who are willing to work a little bit harder, stay up a little bit later, and push the boundaries a little bit further.

I will not let us fall into that trap. There is a Persian term: یارکی // یارکی is a state of readiness; alert and hungry, but not weak. یارکی would be a good description of Moxie Sozo.

This August, we passed the 10-year mark. Most of our office wasn’t even aware of it. I don’t care where we’ve been – I’m focused on where we are going. And there are many miles to go before we rest.

——

What is the future of Moxie Sozo?

In London, I bought a beautiful tablet of finely ruled graph paper. 35 squares wide by 50 squares tall. With each square representing one day, the average human lifespan can be represented on 16 pages of paper. 16 pages of paper.

We’re here to be a world-class, world-renown agency.

And if it takes all 16 pages of my life to accomplish that goal, so be it.

——

Any parting thoughts?

Two years ago, I was in North Africa. It was the last day of Ramadan, and catching a ship across the Mediterranean was unpredictable. I needed to get across by 3:30 p.m. in order to catch a train. My ship had an oil leak, and then a fire. Or maybe it was the other way around. Other passengers were anxious and irritable. The crew seemed to have disappeared. While everyone else was huddled together inside complaining, I climbed to the top of the boat and lay out in the brilliant sun. I hadn’t eaten in almost 36 hours. If I missed my train, there was a decent chance that I might miss my flight the next day… yet there was nothing I could do, but enjoy the moment.

Several hours later – still savoring the peace of my solitude – the big smokestack above me belched a giant cloud of black smoke, and then the ship was off. I wandered around the enormous mass of iron and steel, curious as to where everyone was. Eventually, I found the entire lot of passengers at the very front of the ship anxiously watching for the tip of Spain. As if watching for it would make it arrive any faster.

So I made my way back up top. And with an azure sky above, turquoise waters below, North Africa behind me, Europe in front, a whale jumping off to my side, and a train that was leaving me behind… I realized that I was the luckiest man in the world.

——

FYI

Leif has agreed to help us take advantage of this two-way forum we have here by monitoring comments under this post and responding to any additional questions you’d like to ask that he finds interesting. So ask away. He’s out out town for a week starting Friday, but will add his thoughts when he’s able.

Comments

Moxie does produce great design. This interview adds a lot of value and insight from a leader in the creative industry. Hard works breeds success, and I think its important for students and upcoming designers to keep this in mind. People are always going to hate on the guy that puts himself out there. I missed the part in the interview where Leif said he plays an instrument, and his next stop was rock stardom. It’s easy to sit behind a computer anonymous, and spell out jealousy. Great Interview Leif, I look forward to seeing your future work.

thanks for answering my hair question. Keep up the good work, both design and other.

We know Leif. He’s our neighbor. He’s exceptionally intelligent. His smarts are a testament to his success. Moxie Sozo produces great work. Their Hurricane Poster Project was a wonderful idea. It was brilliantly executed. Just plain amazing really. There’s lot of things to hate on in the world. Things are messed up out there. Leif, his team, and Moxie Sozo as an agency are certainly not the problem. They do much more good than harm. They should be celebrated not berated.

It’s funny to see so many comments from people who have never left the city limits of Aurora bashing on a dude who’s out experiencing the entire world and injecting those life learnings into the work he does. Get out of your basements.

I challenge anyone to find a selection of work that’s at this level in Colorado – and a staff that’s not sitting on their laurels, satisfied with what they did yesterday. Moxie Sozo is pushing themselves every day to be and do better. That should be looked up to. Open your eyes and minds to the viewpoints of people who may not see life exactly the way you do.

Great interview, interesting personality. Your best so far, Egotist. Thanks for your time, Leif.

I’m going to stick up for Leif on this one. Some of you sound like you have a serious chip on your shoulder. I interned at Moxie Sozo three years ago and it was one of the smartest decisions and best experiences of my professional life. Leif has a strong personality and a hint of an ego but he’s highly intelligent and knows what he’s doing. This interview sounds a bit over-the-top but he’s over-the-top and he’s the reason their work is so good. There were many times I swore at him under my breath for one reason or another, but over time I came to develop a deep respect for him and the agency that he’s been able to build. I’ve worked at two Denver agencies since my time at Moxie and none of my CD/ADs have had the balls, brains or intuition that Leif has. Period.

To be honest, I found this interview very inspiring. The rest of you should get over your alpha-male insecurities. As a female, I know EXACTLY why you are bashing him. Grow up little boys, I think a real man just showed up to the party. Love him or hate him, he’s got more mojo than the rest of you combined.

I’m with the slave-driven intern on this one. I was lucky enough to be an intern at Moxie and it was the biggest kick-in-the-ass I’ve ever had. And I wouldn’t change that for the world.

Working with Leif makes you strive to be a great designer, and it shows in their caliber of work. I never heard him ask his team to stay late – but they always did. It wasn’t a sweatshop, it was a creative laboratory without an OFF switch.

Sure, as stated above, Leif is a little over-the-top. Everyone who works there is over-the-top. He knows it, they know it also. It’s their own culture, and it’s because of Leif that they succeed.

Just look at at how Moxie has been spotlighted numerous times this year – and it’s not gonna stop. I don’t think Leif will ever stop trying to put the Moxie Sozo creative team permanently on the design map. His motivation and passion to succeed is contagious. We should be congratulating Leif and the Moxie team for their success.

I’ve never met Leif but I’ve had a couple of his ex-employees as designers. They were by far some of the best designers we’ve had, and both of them spoke of Moxie Sozo with a certain kind of mythical reverence. Every agency worth their moolah works long hours. If we were in New York, this wouldn’t even be a discussion. Before you criticize Leif or Moxie Sozo, you should look in the mirror and ask yourself why he or they make you angry. Most likely your anger is rooted in your own frustrated existence. In my opinion, Leif is making all the right moves and laying the groundwork for much bigger things in the future. I can’t help but admire their work and philosophy. Good interview. Best of luck to this group of talented individuals.

First, congratulations to Leif and Moxie Sozo for doing some excellent work. Second, why is it such a surprise that this article is gaining so much criticism? Because, frankly, it’s asking for it. If everyone knows that he is “over-the-top” and “has an ego” it shouldn’t be a surprise that that’s exactly what people are saying. In most cases, people respond with honesty & when you read this interview, your first thought is not “wow, i’m so intrigued by his 80 hr workweeks” – it’s more like: “seriously, your final statement is about the last day of Ramadan, aboard a ship on fire, contemplating life as you cross the Mediterranean on a time crunch”. Point is, I’m not on here to hate. But I am commenting to be honest. Let’s remember one thing, we are a field where egos rule. Maybe, in many cases, egos breed success; but egos can also get in the way.

It’s all in the hair. It explains it all. Leif is “over the top.” His hair says it, his writing says it, even his photo says it. But that’s what we do isn’t it? We, as creatives, are “over the top.” We find ways to make our resumes and portfolios stand out from the rest. We find ways to show clients that we are different from other agencies. We find ways to push designs solutions in innovative ways. It all ends up being “over the top” in one way or another.

Leif is a creative, and just like every creative out there, he has varying points of views that we will all either agree or disagree with. It’s why design is diverse, because there are so many varying approaches to creativity. One thing ties it all together. It’s PASSION. Passion drives us. It pushes us. It’s not just passion in design, but passion in life. This brings us knowledge and experiences we can apply to our work. It feeds our creative minds. Leif doesn’t lack passion, quite the opposite. He shares it with everyone he encounters, especially his designers, if they want it or not.

In the end, we are all entitled to our opinions. I don’t agree with everything Leif says in his interview, it just came off a bit too polished and over thought. I enjoyed the days when Moxie flew under the radar and just cranked out beautiful work. However, we are all “cut from a different mould.” We are creatives. Respect the creatives, from the alley-dwelling, slave intern to the 70 year old, luxury car driving principal.

Smart dude. I’m sure he knows exactly what he’s doing. Middle of the road gets you nowhere in this profession. I give him lots of credit for calling out the award-seeking poseurs and making a few of you mad. My current creative director wears Dockers and lives in the suburbs. The work our agency produces wears Dockers and lives in the suburbs.

I’d work at Moxie Sozo in an instant.

I met Leif as a senior in CU’s advertising program, and even while working at agencies far and away from Colorado, I’ve gone back to his type of agency philosophy as an example of what inspires people to continue working in the industry we’re in.

Sure, it’s a little over the top, but in a business chock-full of chasing the bottom line, I don’t see any wrong in creating a culture built on passion and excitement for the work you produce. Egotist, great interview. Leif, I think you’re on the right track.

Met him at a party. He made fun of himself and his hair. Liked him a lot. Some of you people should take a chill pill and ask yourselves why he’s so threatening to you. Moxie’s work is excellent. Great interview Egotist.

You all hate on Leif because you don’t know him. I had the privilege to intern at Moxie earlier this year. It was a great sacrifice for me and my family, but I came away with a greater respect for the craft of design and a feeling like I had more to give.
Leif will tell you that it has always been the interns who push Moxie to be successful. I would say it is Leif’s ability to inspire and direct the interns and staff at Moxie to want more out of themselves and their designs, and that is what truly makes Moxie produce special work.
This interview only goes to show why clients love to work with Moxie. You ask Leif a few simple questions and he gives you an inspiring commentary on not just design and the creative industry, but on the potential of dedicated people who strive for perfection. A client might ask Moxie for a simple logo or piece of packaging, but I can assure you that nothing simple comes out of Moxie.
Leif is not telling you how wonderful and worldly he is, on the contrary, I don’t think the man has running water where he lives. It’s just that a lot of what Leif says requires a certain intelligence to understand. It’s that same level of intelligence that he interjects into the work coming out of Moxie. He is truly one of the most intelligent and articulate individuals I have ever met. I wish that I could write or speak about design with half of the knowledge and skill he possesses.
While Leif might rub elbows with a few Hollywood types, he is far from a rockstar. He’s not into self promotion. Leif is just wired different and that’s what makes him great for the industry and a fun person to work with. Well that and he throws a mean game of darts.
So don’t disrespect the man because he’s experienced more than you ever will. Stop by the studio someday and just give him a listen. He’s wise beyond his years and if you’re lucky he’ll share a glass of whiskey from his impressive collection with you. I’m happy to have worked for Leif and am glad to say that he inspires me, pushes me and reminds me that I can achieve whatever I want by working hard and being dedicated to the things you love.

Let the haters hate, see where it gets you. Trust me I know, I hate everything.

Big talk from people that don’t have the balls to put an identity behind their words.

This is a great interview with a lot of relevant, helpful information for anyone hoping to eventually manage some aspect of an agency. Leif, thanks for sharing your ideas, etc.

I’m with New Yorker.
And I think you’ve all been played.

When I was an intern listening to Leif give me a critique, he said I looked as if he were telling me the secret to the Rosetta Stone. That’s the kind of passion people have when they love their career, and feel inspired. Leif inspires, and he truly loves the work that he and Moxie creates. There are two things people spend the majority of their time doing during any given week- sleeping, and working- so you damn well better be inspired, passionate, and as over-the-top as possible when you do your job. If you’re not inspired when you work then you’re asleep from 9a-5p too.

He kinda looks like Doogie Howser, M.D.

Theres a LOT af mediocrity and REALLY FEW who make a difference in this world. All I can say about Leif is that Im proud and respectful for his work and passion not only at Moxie but for his life… Keep kicking jealous asses!! hahaha

TOP 5 EGOTIST ARTICLES EVER.

As much as I want to hate him, he’s brilliant.

I think Dockers is right: You’ve been played. Success in this industry requires a hyper-understanding of human psychology. It would be impossible to convince me that Lief didn’t know exactly what he was doing when he wrote this piece. While some of you are hating on him, he’s probably lining up resumes and clients.

hey man, leif is a cool dude. i.m a current intern at moxie an lemme tell ya, if leif didn.t give me a shot at this internship i would be in the ally well after i graduate college. best part of all is he totally took a chance on me. i didn.t even have a portfolio. i haven.t even graduated yet. but here i am.

a year in an ally is worth a lifetime of success. and the ally isn.t that bad anyway. leif gives me snacks so i wont starve. he also gave me five dollars because i made it to the summit of a mountain. that.s not a crappy metaphor either. i came to work the day after we all hiked longs peak and there was five dollars on my desk. and when leif goes out on adventures he doesn.t go alone, he takes the whole office!

yea he.s wacky. if he weren.t, i wouldn.t be here. if he weren.t, i probably wouldn.t stay here. i.ve learned more in the little time i.ve spent here than i have in the three years i.ve been in school! no joke!

so after one year in an ally (with snacks) i.m going to have an awesome portfolio, a boat load of neat photographs from all the awesome adventures i get to go on, drive, and an awesome reference for my resume.

here.s my parting thought: if this is the way leif answers an interveiw, than heck yeah! i can.t WAIT for my future employers to call him for a reference!!!

The definition of excellence and success is the changing variable here. Everyone is so worried about being better than the next person that we’ve become a society whose cell phones, tweets, frequent flyer miles, hairstyle & clothing brands lift you into a higher class. If you are who you are – you shouldn’t have to “play” people to get your point across. Success and Moxie certainly go hand-in-hand and it’s great to see someone succeed and do great work. But I wonder – at what cost? A good percentage of this article is not about the ad industry, it’s about what Leif has done compared to what others have not. We speak about advertising like it’s the world’s saving grace. The advertising profession won’t be there to take care of you when you’re down and out. It’s time to inject humility into this industry. We develop design and advertising – we aren’t saving babies.

Greta is right, get over it. We’re not saving lives here, people. It’s just advertising.

And seriously, that Photoshop job on his hair is just terrible.

Another former intern here:

#1) I’m floored there was no mention of Charles or Teri. Perhaps editing took it’s toll, but maybe we’ll see their names in bright lights some other day.

#2) At least be impressed there is a firm out there striving to keep things fresh and innovative, despite the chummed up economy we’re living in.

#3) One time, I told Leif I’d been calling him Mr. Peterman behind his back, thinking I would get my point across that I found him to be a bit of an ass. He didn’t get it. The man had never seen an episode of Seinfeld. What’s weirder is, I don’t think he’s ever had a peanut butter & jelly sandwich in his life. My point being that Leif isn’t “trying” to be anybody…he’s just an eccentric guy who is taking on all of the risk and criticism that goes along with running a top notch design firm.

Note to all of you naysayers: Get over YOURSELVES. I have a feeling that most of you have boring jobs in boring agencies.

What do you have a problem with? His confidence? The fact that he took his office to Peru? The fact that his employees seem to love him? The fact that they work at night while the rest of you watch reruns of LOST? The fact that they raised a ton of money for hurricane victims? The fact that the agency seems to be busy in the middle of an economic catastrophe? The fact that their work is better than anything YOU’VE ever done?

This industry attracts a bunch of insecure little weasels who can’t handle a guy with confidence.

Now go back to your pathetic little mediocre lives.

Hey everyone,

Thanks for all of your commentary. Good, bad and ugly.

I’m leaving tomorrow morning to go broker a peace deal between the Palestinians and Israelis, buy some more hair product and get a massage for my ego.

Actually, I WILL be offline for the next week. Feel free to email your hate mail directly to me and I’ll respond accordingly.

Thanks – Leif

PS: Loved the baby elephant quote.

PPS: Erin King is right ——- This agency would not be possible without the herculean efforts of Teri Gosse and Charles Bloom. Far more humble than myself, these two are rock stars in their own right. So, THANK YOU.

I have always admired the work that gets churned out at Moxie. Good stuff.

Onto what is interesting about this interview. Where did the name come from or was that in here and I missed it.

I will be interning at Moxie Sozo in January and would like to throw the haters to the wolves on this one.

From my brief time interviewing with him, one thing came apparent; he has a passion. I think most of you are jealous that you cannot light a fire inside yourself to drive yourself to your greatest and then when someone comes along who is so inspired to make a difference in the world, has talent, knows how to create a team; where everyone works on the same page and at the same pace and shares his intelligent views with the rest of us, he just gets ridiculed.

Most of the designers out there are a joke. Sitting behind their nice Apple displays thinking that their new logo is the shit and that they will get some kind of recognition for it in some design annual. The real designers are the ones that don’t care if they are famous for their work, the real designers work hard and push themselves not to satisfy themselves but to constantly challenge themselves to see what new possibilities there are, to become more inspired that day than the last and to most importantly aim to design that challenges thinking and conceptual ability and possibly change the world in a positive way as so we can all evolve and become a greater society.

Landor, Pentagram, CP+B, Interbrand and thousands of others… they are all agencies that became so full of themselves and have hyped up their bad design and bad thinking. It’s no longer about the process or the passion the designers have… its about the client name and the association of that name with the design firm/studio as well as who is the CD/AD, how much they can make from that client, how many awards they may pick up in the next issue of CMYK and who has more experience and blah blah blah. People need to shut the fuck up and stop talking about status and money and start thinking conceptually and intelligently about design. I think all designers need to step outside themselves for a moment and look within… look to see how they apply themselves and to see if they are working within their comfort zone. Great design does not come from comfort, great design comes from risk.

Moxie Sozo seems like a time capsule in space, not worried about politics or what people are saying. They are there for one thing; to do what they love without prejudice. We all chose our careers for bettering ourselves and bettering others. I think Moxie Sozo and Leif fit that mold pretty well.

- 2¢

First of all, that hair is not photo-shopped, i see him every morning, spraying it up and surprisingly enough he can get it to be stay like that. Leif doesn’t have a big ego and his company has some amazing desginers. They produce great work and try hard at their job. He doesn’t ask them to stay there all night, that’s their choice. Leif doesn’t say he owns a design and advertising agency, he says he works for one. Leif gives all the credit to the designers, he may help them through the steps but they are doing all the work. I’ve seen them, they don’t stop until their job is complete. Leif is a great designer and if you think that talking about a Peruvian midget licking one of his designers chest is cheesy and staged, think… have you traveled the world?… and if so was it for the fame and media or was it for your own experience and insight on the world? Many of you haven’t even left the country and you’re criticizing him on his amazing worldly experiences? Leif is a great designer,I would know- I’m his daughter. Love you papa :)

Ditto on Pyrenee’s note : )

Hey Alexander you are going to be an intern. Who the fuck are you to call anyone out? So brilliant you have never even had a job and you can comment on how a CD or an place like Landor works or what people’s motivations are. Fuck you haven’t even started your internship. You better get your ego inline or work will be a lonely place. No one likes a know it all jr. No one goes to lunch with a know it all jr.

The fucking arrogance you ooze is disgusting. And the ass kissing to Moxie Soza is disgusting. They don’t want that on here. They want you to come in and watch, learn and listen.

Your 2 cents isn’t worth shit yet.

Shutupintern,
maybe you missed the day in class when you learned that the product is the result of the process.

Luckily, I have had the honor of working with, and learning from some of the most accompished designers in the field as well as work in and around some of the most accomplished design firms in the country.

How about this… 1) put a name behind your post and stop hiding behind a facade. 2) go back to school because obviously you didn’t learn anything about research, process and application. 3) leave Denver for the first time in your life and learn how the rest of the world works… Rather than preaching from your cubicle.

Have a fantastic day!! :-)

I was a designer at Moxie Sozo for two years, so I thought I might be able to give a little more perspective.

First of all: Let’s be civil everyone.

1) Leif is brilliant, eccentric, passionate, charismatic, and very inspiring to work for. I’d consider my time at Moxie to be two of the best years of my life. The agency has an electric atmosphere that is contageous to employees and clients alike.

2) Despite what the interview might sound like to those of you who do not know him, he doesn’t have an ego. He isn’t cocky; he’s confident. There is a difference.

3) He’s got rock star looks, but he’ll be the first one to make fun of himself. (sorry Leif, I had to say it.)

4) He is as dedicated to his employees as they are to him; he could write a book on leadership. He hires passionate people and then points them in the right direction. On more than one occasion, I saw him send someone home or even on vacation if he thought they weren’t taking care of themselves. Have you ever had a boss who secretly paid for your vacation?

5) I don’t know if they’ve lost any clients since I was there, but I doubt it. If they are not working with someone, it is probably Leif who let the client go. On more than one occasion, I saw him gently suggest to a problem account that another agency might be a better fit.

6) I live in San Francisco now, where I’ve worked at three different big agencies with billings in the 10’s – 100’s of millions. None of them have had the energy and culture that exists at Moxie. It is a shop with an enormous future, and I’m proud to say that I was once on the team.

Instead of risking the a##-kissing title, I’ll just say: Been there. Done that. Amazing agency. Amazing experience.

Good luck to everyone!

Alexander, Why do you keep talking about school? So you have done other internships why don’t you have a job? How do you know I haven’t traveled? So if you had a job in a cubicle you couldn’t do good work? The point here is not to give my name, actually the point here is now different. Lief took some serious hits on here and he has graciously taken it. Live and learn, if you respect him act like him.

I don’t take hits, I stand up for myself and what I say; unlike you. How about you contribute intellectually to this forum about the subject of the entire article, rather than comment from someone who has a strong opinion.

It is also a tough economy, lots of people are out of a job. Respect that.

Alexander: Dude, you’re off on a bad track right now. Yes, we all understand you just got an internship, and obviously some ass-kissing is expected.

But don’t burn a bridge already, especially if you’re gonna hang in CO after your internship. Nobody likes a cocky intern, and nobody wants a highly-opinionated intern. Don’t disrespect other local creatives and try to one up them, especially when you have no personal experience to back it up.

We’ve all worked with rockstar teachers and interned with the best. Put yourself in check and act like a professional.

You have been pushing this so far off subject, this should it’s own article. I have worked at studios/firms before, don’t think I am some some poor sap outa high school. I am not dissing anyone, I am voicing my opinion. It is not a crime to confront someone or a subject about a view. If this topic is so troubling for you, I suggest you get off this site for a while and do some actual work… like the rest of us.

The only one here acting unprofessional is YOU.

The day you are able to take criticism and have an intelligent conversation is the day you become a good designer. Good luck with that.

Great interview with Leif.
Great comments on both sides.
Let’s keep the egos in check!

BTW
OMG
HOT

The fact that his daughter came on here to support him tells me that he must be a pretty decent guy.

TBH the personal attacks seemed pretty mild for the internet. Afterall, there was a rather conspicuous lack of 12 year old suburban whitekids spamming the 'N' word. Pretty much anytime I make the mistake of scrolling down to the 'comments' section of an online article these days, there's a host of nasty comments from bitter, jaded, over-caffeinated, glib little d-bags.

But hey, that's the internet ...the collective angst and idiocy of the developed world; but every so often a sunbeam breaks through the rainclouds and someone posts a video of a dog riding a skateboard.

p.s. the butt-kissers and gold-diggers were kind of annoying too.

I can attest to "Creative people don't like to be caged."

I especially appreciated the parting thoughts, a sort of homage to bridge over troubled water... and there's the calm and the revelation that maybe things aren't so bad.

Thanks for this.

Wonderful article!

On a side note, I traveled the world, almost, and visited most Starbucks... though haven't been to one in Mexico City... yet, but any time I had home-sickness, I felt like I was at my neighborhood chain.

I first met Leif while he was wrestling an anaconda that the Taliban had thrown into the room to keep watch over his Swedish model girlfriend. I was moved by his humanity, and his ability to be in touch with his own feelings. I will never forget how he cried when the reptile knocked his Martini off of his left hand. But he did not let this tragedy get in his way. He was relentless and barely paused in his heroic struggle to sketch a nude drawing of his girlfriend which he promptly shared with all his single friends over twitter. In the end he let the snake go, after looking deeply into its eyes and understanding that the two of them were not that different after all.

I can't believe I just read all 45 comments, because William Morris brought it up in the current comments. There weren't any negative comments besides, and most of it was an instantaneous defense; so kudos.

Leif & Moxie Sozo are not the source of the negative thought.

Negativity has arisen from unhappy people in the system. So if this is you, do something about it already!

As a designer, I was inspired by the interview. I wholeheartedly agree with awards attitude, and the worldly-eco vibe.

After sleeping under my desk at college, I entered an estranged design world and I felt like Li Bing Bing returning home to non-understanding parents after attending her acting University. I wasn't mad at my professor who worked for wallpaper magazine, who thought I was a stupid American female[I know I'm not a supermodel and I have been to Eastern Europe], & made me paint at Habitat for Humanity to get a passing grade in my first studio. It was more interesting to talk to the elder vet of WWII that I was painting siding with.

Dubiously,because I am masochistic, I made it thru the process and have continued with my own design having never stepped foot in an agency[personal phobia of cubicles]. Never listened to the naysayers that where at every step of the way. I am a natural born designer, and more than 'hey look at me', I put my own work out there to keep the faith, not make tons of money or win awards, not like anyone thought I was capable of it either.

But trying to make a point here, you have to love doing it, and who would hate somebody that has done such inspiring unique work for the greater worldly good?

It is good to know that I don't have to numb myself from character and personality to be accepted.

sounds like a real douchelord.

I think his interview was great. Creative people are often misunderstood. One thing that is clear is the man's passion. I would kill for an internship at Moxie. He seems to want to inspire, create a new way of business that is innovative.

And as a former stylist .. his hair is marvelous!! Come on you all know it. Look at mane!

Leif, if you are still reading our comments I would like to ask .. I'm not a designer, but I would love any opportunity to work with account management. Do you have any internships in that field? A girl can dream right?

* look at that mane

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Link = <a href="http://url.com">This is your text</a>
  • Image = <img src="http://imageurl.jpg" />
  • Bold = <strong>Your Text</strong>
  • Italic = <em>Your Text</em>
Rocket Fuel