Dream Job: Fork Programmer

Fork is a Web design studio with a twist. Along with its slick and stylish corporate work, it also caters to big-name clients looking for something a little out of the ordinary. For a recent deal with Mercedes, Fork designers built a tongue-in-cheek rendering of the Princess Diana crash in the form of a car-racing game. “I imagine that will turn a lot of people off,” founder Jeremy Abbett concedes from Fork’s offices in Hamburg in northern Germany. “But ultimately, a sense of humor must prevail,” he adds.

Fork was started a year and half ago by Jeremy and his friend David Linderman who settled in Germany after participating in a college exchange program. The two Americans served a stint working at Springer and Jacoby, an ad agency that was creating a new-media shop, but found the environment too stiff for their tastes and branched out on their own.

Their newfound independence has given them greater freedom to inject their personalities into their work. “Much of our inspiration comes from questioning the seriousness of current media programming or propaganda and juxtaposing this seriousness with humor, or a healthy lack of respect,” David explains.

David and Jeremy credit their affection for irreverence to their cultural distance from German mores. “Germany was a great cultural center. Its current identity crisis and lack of direction for the next millennium is a constant source of inspiration for us,” David says. “We like to play with the German identity, make fun of its mulish ways, play with its history, and dig out the skeletons in the closet.”

They did so when they took a stab at Germany’s Chancellor, with a Helmut-Kohl-as-Sumo-Tamagotchi knockoff. Inspired by the pocket technology pet and Kohl’s wide girth, the company created this interactive game for its Web site.

But jest is only a small part of the repertoire, and Fork also offers serious substance. “Our atmosphere is more informal than most. But we do get our stuff done and have strong concepts,” Jeremy says. That the company has courted big brands, such as Nivea and national supermarket chain Deutsche Spar, is testament that Fork’s brand of individuality hasn’t kept big clients away. Aside from Web advertising, Fork also develops intranet applications, CD-ROMs, diskette and video presentations, and print graphics.

Now Fork is looking for programmers who know Java, dynamic HTML, and C++. Both English and German language skills would be a boon to anyone seriously interested in the job because both languages are spoken in the office. Aside from Jeremy and David, the five other employees who make up Fork are German. And, as you might suspect, all are under the age of 28.

Fork’s digs are located in what Jeremy describes as the hip part of Hamburg. Like Fork’s unconventional approach, the office has an unorthodox character. “The studio is constantly booming with the latest sounds from Kologne, London, and Berlin,” David says. Skating is a popular office sport. And the whole company sometimes takes field trips to go snowboarding or to visit Amsterdam.

As for the future of Fork, Jeremy and David are hoping to open another office in either San Francisco or Amsterdam next year with the aim of attracting more international clients. Like almost every start-up, Fork has not been without its dreams of world domination. But for the time being, Jeremy says, he is glad to be in Germany. “Right now I think it’s a good time to be in Europe, because new media is still changing dramatically. It’s where America was about three years ago.”

Some facts about Fork:

Location: Hamburg, Germany
Salary: Up to DM67,200, or US$120,000
Skills: Java, Dynamic HTML, and C++ essential; German and English fluency helpful.

For additional information about this dream job, email: jeremy@fork.de.

This article originally appeared in HotWired.