20Q: Andrew Shoben

Andrew Shoben on superheroes, a creative muse, sleeping routines, failure and his love of Yorkshire puddings.

1. What items would you put into a time capsule? 

I think I would quite like to mess with the people of the future – they will have flying cars and hot sex robots anyway, so a practical joke will be acceptable. Lets make up a TV news show with utterly bogus news – Rolf Harris being elected as Prime Minister, the announcement of a ban on cheese because it causes cancer, the X Factor programme format winning the Turner Prize.

2. If you were told that you had to live inside a work of art, which would you choose? 

Not a Damien Hirst one, think of the smell. Id quite like to live in a Helmut Newton photograph, lots to keep my interest piqued.

3. How do you define creative success?

This is a simple one: being given the chance to make the work you want to make. That usually means an adequate budget to do it right.

4. What makes you laugh out loud?

Funny people make me laugh, I recently realised, because I am utterly surprised at what they say – and because of this, how their minds work. Real laughter gets “stolen” from me – it is involuntary and explosive. And usually because someone's mind just revealed itself a little.

5. How old were you when you made your first design and what was it?

Most children do their first “creation” in the toilet and become fascinated it with it. I had a “friend” who built an elaborate “shelf” to catch their “output” for further analysis. This early creative “movement” is one I was definitely part of.

6. Are there certain characteristics that all creatives possess?

Yes, I think so. It seems that you are not born “creative” – those that come up with ideas take a strong interest in the world around them. They watch, absorb, consider and then synthesise. Remember, there is no such thing as an original thought – all ideas are synthesised from the world around us. Creative people start that process by enjoying reality and being intrigued by it.

7. What is the question you ask yourself the most?

Would my mum and dad like this work I'm making? They don’t have degrees in art, or even a huge interest in it. But if the idea tickles them, without too much background info, it is usually a good idea.

8. What is something that you have learnt in the past five years?                

Going to bed early is not square. It's just as cool to do loads of work in the morning and get tired in the evening, rather than the other way around.

Yes, Im getting old.

9. In your subjective view, what makes a piece of design good? 

Does it need instructions? Usually bad.

10. What do you do on Sundays?

I try and eat Sunday lunch, which is the best meal of the week. Roast potatoes, beef, gravy and lots of fresh vegetables. And a Yorkshire pudding or two. Up north, the Yorkshire pudding is actually the plate, and the food is put inside it. Totally delicious.

11. Who in the world, dead or alive, would you most like to have a drink with?

Margaret Thatcher, dead.

12. Do you have a creative muse?

Yes I do. Without wishing to sound naff, it is the city. Ever changing, with parts that stay the same for centuries! The best and the worst of the world in one large noisy, sexy, dark exciting, and often relaxing place.

13. What's the best creative advice you've ever received?

Stop looking in the toilet, there's loads of interesting shit all around you.

14. How do you deal with failure?

If you want to be your own boss, and you want to succeed, you will have to deal with a lot of failure, as you grow and develop. Dealing with it well is vital. I'm naturally an optimist – I love the world, the city and people in general. Sometimes I lose particular battles, sometimes, things don’t go my way. But having the sense to look beyond them, and see the good around you, is vital if you want to keep on moving up.

15. Which qualities do you most admire in others?

Eating quietly. Food is for sustenance, and for socialising, it is not a sound artwork. Im utterly neurotic about noisy eaters. Once Im tuned in to the noise, I.Cant.Stop.Listening.

16. Summer or winter?

Winter! Big coats. Fireworks. Jacket potatos. My birthday. Christmas. Halloween. Girls in boots. Perfect...

17. What is something you know you do differently to most people?

I can say “Archbishop of Canturbury” and burp at the same time.

18. What has been your favorite project to date?

“Railings (1996)” - We often delight in the simple pleasure of picking up a stick and running it along a set of railings, making a lovely “clack-clack-clack” sound.

greyworld tuned these railings so that when you ran a stick along them they played “The Girl from Ipanema.” Created without permissions in cities around Europe, many versions have disappeared. But some still remain. To find them, all you need is a stick.

19. Which superhero do you identify with?

Captain Boomerang. Yes, he has a rubbish superhero name, and yes, his only “superpower “ is to make unusual boomerangs. But he hates Flash, and so do I. HTML 5 all the way.

20. Can design save the world?

Yes, Im hoping it can.

Here's our earlier video interview with Shoben:

Watch the Talk with Andrew Shoben