His adventure with MakoLab began unusually – but little by little he is still here today, 17 years later. Łukasz Jatczak started his professional career in 2000 when the first Polish IM service provider Gadu-Gadu appeared. This was at the same time that the STS-101 Atlantis space shuttle mission took off. Get to know him!
1. 17 years is a very long time! How did it happen that you came to MakoLab?
It is true, 17 years is quite long. I have been working at MakoLab since 2000. That year, the first Polish instant messenger service Gadu-Gadu was launched. I use it to this day *laughs*. I was in my first year of IT studies at the University of Lodz but came to Mako in a pretty unusual way – thanks to my mother, who worked at Telekomunikacja Polska, that were providing internet services to Makolab. During one of their conversations, Mirek Sopek, the founder of MakoLab, mentioned that they were looking for graphics competencies in the company. My mother recommended me, I volunteered and that’s how it all began. I got off to a pretty strong start.
2. How did you start?
The first task I had was to prepare a multimedia presentation for a very important business show. I had a week to learn Macromedia Flash and Macromedia Projector. I managed and after the project I was offered a job. I had to change my studies from full to part time, but from the very beginning, I worked as a professional 🙂
3. You studied computer science, so how did you get in to graphics?
Even before beginning my studies, I was wondering what to choose between Łódź State Art School or studies connected to computer science. My heart was telling one thing, reason another. I assumed at the time that a sense of aesthetics cannot be learned; either you have it or you don’t. I considered that I had it. I loved everything related to graphics ever since I was a child. I particularly enjoyed arranging elements to form them into one coherent whole. It is much harder to learn science subjects, which is why I chose IT. It was a very good choice – I’m a graphic designer with programming skills, which has definitely paid off!
4. What exactly did you do at MakoLab at that time?
When I started, I worked supporting the use of Photoshop and Flash – for the graphics layer and animation, as well as coding in ActionScript. I’ve been interested in 3D graphics and animation since I was small – which is why I specialised in this field. From the very beginning, I was fascinated with 3D Studio Max – still in version 4.0 under DOS. I was also involved in the design of websites, of course. In 2008, I had the opportunity to work abroad. I flew to Vienna and worked for three months with Gangl Consulting, MakoLab’s business partner. This was at the time when Orange entered the Austrian market (it bought the ONE network, just like in Poland when it bought the IDEA network). We created the website www.orange.at from scratch – both frontend and backend layers, the entire web shop, customer account management and so on. I remember that it was my first trip by plane; I was flying from Lublin. Of this dozen-or-so seater Jet Airline propeller plane, I was the only passenger at the time. Me and two stewardesses… To add to the fun, I decided to take my bicycle to Vienna. I wanted to be able to quickly move around the city and visit nearby villages on weekends. When they saw this bike at the airport in Lodz, they didn’t know how to cram it onto the plane. But it worked. Me, my bike and two stewardesses. It is also worth mentioning that I spent half my time in Vienna with a second Makolab employee – Marcin Ośmiałowski. Our rustic adventures cannot, however, be described on this blog. We still keep in touch with the head of Gangl Consulting to this day. We even took him once to ski at Szczyrk in Poland. Although, now as I think about it, there was much more brandy-drinking than there was skiing.
5. How big was the team then?
When I started working, there were about 15 people working at Mako. There were 4 graphic designers, 4 programmers and 4 administrators. At the time we were mainly designing websites, especially for Renault, Philips, and Fujitsu. In fact, we were still working at the old office at 80 Gdańska Street.
6. Do you remember your first big project?
Yes. Not counting the project that I finished soon after coming to the company (the Flash presentation for the business show), it was probably the Renault Intranet – I prepared the graphic design, flash animation and did all the coding in HTML – as you can see, dividing tasks by competences was almost non-existent. I still remember the people I contacted from Renault – Tomasz Ziętek and Remigiusz Skatulski. Remigiusz probably now knows a lot of people from Makolab.😉
In addition, I digitally rendered the 3D bulbs from the paper catalogues of Philips Lighting, which Beata Wawrzecka had been composing for months. These were times when Philips was still residing in Pabianice.
There were, of course, no stock photo sites and so you had to take all of your own photos. The first digital cameras had appeared though. I remember buying an Olympus C700 in 2002 that cost me close to three salaries – pretty crazy when I think back to it. It had a 2-megapixel lens and a 10x zoom. At that time, I thought that the more zoom the better :] You can still find our original photos on the web today, for example, on the website of the Jewish cemetery in Łódź. – There is even a gallery of Mirek Sopek, founder of MakoLab.
I enjoyed learning new things and looking for new ways to solve problems, so that I could save time on the simple tasks in the future. I remember getting a book about ‘dedication’ from the Board on Christmas Eve – a fragment was “… how to work so as not to get tired “. Of course, I treated this as a compliment – I know how to approach problems and can solve many with only a little effort to good effect. It also showed the experience that I had gained over time.
7. Did you never want to use this experience for something else, for example in team management?
I had various proposals, but I was never attracted to the work of a ‘manager’. I like creating and seeing the tangible effects of my work. It’s nice to be able to go somewhere on the Internet and see something that you made, provided of course, that what you have done is good. I do not so much like administrative and organisational matters like sitting in meetings, etc. I prefer to use the experience I have by putting it directly into my projects. At MakoLab, I am fortunate that I can choose how I develop professionally – in my case it is 3D graphics, animation and video editing. We have many really competent people in the team, everyone has their favourite field, and this is our strength. Because of this, we are all always up-to-date with current trends and as such are able to offer the very latest solutions.
8. The IT industry is very dynamic and trends in Graphics are always changing. Do you still find old projects that you undertook years ago?
Yes, there is a project from 15 years ago, from 2002. It was called HyperChem – a program for the visualisation of chemical molecules in 3D. I was involved in creating the visual identity of the entire product. Its remnants can be found here.
I remember working on two competing 3D particle visualisation programs – Protein Adviser for Fujitsu and HyperChem for the American company Hypercube Inc.
If someone looks a bit closer, they will find many links between MakoLab and the chemical industry. In the end, all of us at Makolab should know in what field the founder of our company got his PhD 😉
Trends in digital designs for the Internet change very quickly – at the beginning of the 21st century, web designs were made at a fixed resolution, usually 800×600, or an unimaginable 1024×768. Finally, these changed to consist of three graphics files: the main page, the product page, and the contact page. Nowadays, when implementing new projects, we have to adapt to many different screen resolutions and devices, including mobile devices. Not only is the resolution important but so is PPI, screen proportions, scaling, etc. As a result, most graphic work is now usually several dozen files.
At one time, web design was graphically rich. The rule “the more, the better” prevailed. Here is a shadow, here are some subtle ellipses, a menu – let’s give a bent, pictures in duotone colouring or let’s use some nice filter from photoshop. Back then the designs were really “rich” graphically, now we have gone much more minimalist, paying much more attention to UX issues, the arrangement of elements and so on. At one time, someone had to wipe all of these now-archaic ways from web projects. And yes, I was one of those hated developers of flash ads that could not be closed or muted!
9. Do you have your favourite industries?
I like the car industry because I’m also interested in this outside of work. I feel much better in 3D and animation and I realise this myself. However, I like projects that are associated with VR and AR regardless of the industry.
10. You started your professional life very quickly. Have you ever wondered what you would do if it were not for MakoLab?
I would probably be creating animated films. From a small age, I always dreamed to work on the production of animated 3D films in the style of Disney or Pixar. To fulfil this dream though I would have to change everything in my life, including leaving here. I remembered when the first Toy Story came out in 1995, I sat in front of the video player for a really long time and analysed it frame by frame. It is also possible that I would have been a graphic designer for the production of games – which is not so impossible anymore.
11. What do you do after work?
I travel a lot, my wife infected me with a passion for travelling, which we often do together. Everyone is always joking that I have the most holidays out of anyone at MakoLab. Last year I was in China, Sarajevo, Porto, and Dubai. In previous years we went to Abu Dhabi and Tokyo. In fact, we’re flying to Valencia tomorrow. I combined my passion for photography with a passion for traveling. Because of all this, I am still working on pictures from trips I took 10 years ago!