My name is Mees Rutten. I’m a 28-year-old native of the island of Texel, currently residing in Haarlem, Netherlands. As a co-founder of Merlin Studio, I work as a Creative Front-end Developer, specializing in animation and web standards. I enjoy cooking (especially eating), photography, film, and the arts. Additionally, I’ve been training for a half marathon and I’m a huge Pokémon nerd. All this while battling Multiple Sclerosis since 2022.

A mystical forest scene with towering trees and a green, moss-covered ground. In the center, a wizard in a green robe and hat, holding a staff with a glowing crystal, stands with arms outstretched, casting a spell. The text ‘MERLIN’ in large, bold, yellow letters is at the bottom of the image. Above the wizard, the words ‘IMAGINE. CODE. MAGIC.’ are written in yellow.
Imagine. Code. Magic.™ MERLIN

What has being part of the Okay Dev community meant to you?

Okay Dev is a community I never knew I needed. We joined about two years ago and have met so many amazing people at events and online.

Starting as Level30Wizards, we shared our entire journey with Okay Dev, evolving into Merlin Studio. The Okay Devs have always been there to support us, answer our questions, and help us build connections.

I am forever grateful to have this amazing community supporting us in various ways.

What got you interested in the web industry?

In 2014, while exploring colleges with my older brother, we discovered the Communication & Multimedia Design program in Amsterdam. This program’s blend of creativity and technical skills immediately resonated with me, a self-professed nerd. My brother, despite not planning to return to school, felt the same and enrolled that year. I followed a year later.

During that time, we lived together and quickly immersed ourselves in web development. I sought ways to animate in 2D and 3D on the web, a passion sparked by my early experiences with After Effects. Learning about accessibility along the way turned me into a strong advocate for accessible web standards and animation, which became my primary focus.

How did you learn your craft?

In my first two years of web development, I vowed never to learn or need JavaScript. Boy, was I wrong. During this period, I learned an immense amount about CSS grids, flexbox, pseudo-elements, layout, painting, compositing — everything. I even created navigations using checkboxes and :checked states just to avoid JavaScript.

After discovering GSAP (GreenSock), I made the switch (thanks, Jack).

During my internship and part-time work at MediaMonks in Amsterdam, I gained extensive knowledge in project management, templating, GSAP, JavaScript, TypeScript, and WebGL. During this period, I always had people to fall back on, like my mentor René Drieënhuizen and Servin Nissen, my now co-founder.

Additionally, I was very active on CodePen, creating and recreating effects I found online and honing my animation techniques.

What was your first industry job like?

I started an internship at MediaMonks in a high-pressure situation. After the first three weeks of my internship, both my team leads suffered burnout, putting me in charge of two Heineken projects. This required me to teach others about the projects to get them up and running.

For any intern with just three weeks of experience, this would be a nightmare. I absolutely loved it. The stress, guiding people, de-escalating situations, and communicating with project managers and my mentor made me realize that this was my strength.

My experience with a troublesome childhood and high-stress situations made it natural for me to find order in chaos.

After a successful 10 weeks, I joined the team part-time until I completed my studies three years later.

What does a typical workday look like?

Every day, I wake up around the same time, have a healthy breakfast, and enjoy coffee with my girlfriend, Anna. I’m usually a few minutes late to the office (sorry, wizards).

I start my day by checking my to-do list and agenda and preparing for the standup meeting. After the standup, I focus on my OKRs and KPIs, which we define each quarter.

In addition to development, I’m responsible for making Merlin Studio known as a Code Boutique and work on expanding my network to help agencies create immersive web experiences. After tackling sales and marketing, I assist or lead the team in development and motion-related projects.

I review pull requests, write code, and discuss design-related questions with the team. Occasionally, I visit other agencies to network or have digital meetings with interesting people.

A person stands in a modern, dimly lit room with colorful neon lights on the walls. They are looking at a large projection on the wall displaying the image of a wizard in a forest with the word ‘MERLIN’ at the top. The room has a cozy atmosphere with plants, framed artwork, and a coffee table with a water bottle and chess set.
Immersing in the magic of MERLIN with a stunning projection in a vibrant, modern workspace.

When are you most productive?

I have this peculiar habit of zoning out at any moment and fully immersing myself in work. My colleagues often have to call my name several times before I actually hear them.

I am usually most productive in the evening or at night because, during those times, I don’t feel the need to be available to anyone but myself and my tasks.

How do you find new projects/clients?

Through our network and partners, we typically collaborate with design studios in the US and agencies in the Netherlands. These companies often lack an in-house creative coding team due to the management challenges involved.

We support these studios and agencies by acting as a flexible extension of their development team, drawing on our extensive experience working with multiple agencies.

A close-up of a yellow box on a shelf. The box features the text ‘Let me introduce myself.’ and ‘MERLIN’ in large letters at the bottom. The side of the box has the text ‘Will you join us on a new adventure?’
Will you join us on a new adventure?

What’s on your desk?

There’s an Ultra Ball of Pokémon, a rubber ducky in a chef’s outfit, my Sony headphones, a framed picture of van Gogh’s smoking skeleton, a Merlin Christmas tree ornament (hit me up!), a stack of industry magazines, a MoonLander ZSA keyboard, my hands, a wireless charger, a Logitech MX Master 3S, and my MacBook!

What are your go-to apps?

  • Superlist: To-Do list
  • Arc Search: to… search!
  • PipeDrive: For sales
  • Reddit: For doom scrolling
  • Pokémon Go: To catch them all and be the very best
  • Merlin (the bird app): To find out what that bird is you’re hearing
  • Plantnet: To find out what that plant is you’re seeing
  • Strava: To track runs

What inspires you?

People around me inspire me greatly. I want to make Merlin a welcoming, inclusive, and creatively technical place where everyone can thrive. I envision a positive future where I leave the world better than I found it and create something to be proud of. Besides work, I think good videography is an art that is often taken for granted. Finally, I cherish the ability to learn something new every day.

Do you work best in silence, or do you prefer some background noise or music?

It doesn’t really matter where I work; I could even work in Småland. Sometimes, I listen to Neurofunk, or I wear my noise-canceling headphones without any music at all.

Which project(s) are you most proud of?

During Covid, we had the opportunity to help Dept® create Eurovision Village. Since people couldn’t visit Rotterdam, we brought Rotterdam to them. We developed a static 3D representation of Rotterdam, under 20MB, with live content updates and full keyboard accessibility. This project kick-started our company and brought us to where we are today.

I’m particularly proud of our Green To Clear project, a beat sampler that allows users to create their own beats using sounds recorded at the Sprite recycling facility by Madlib and Mark Ronson.

Lastly, our WebAR project for Dior stands out. We created multiple scenes with sparkles and particle animations, with assistance from Fabian, a fellow Okay Dev member. We ensured the experience was viewable on iPhone 8 and above by estimating device capabilities and monitoring for lag, which allowed us to downscale elements to reduce performance issues.

What’s your perspective on AI, and have you integrated it into your workflow?

We have considerable experience with AI tools. For our rebrand, we conceptualized our Merlin character using Midjourney. We also use Midjourney or DALL‑E for concepting and storyboarding.

During our Creative Fridays Thursdays, we have a free-for-all creative coding afternoon, where we frequently use Luma AI to create 3D models.

We’ve integrated AI into several projects. Last year, we helped Publicis create a platform for Heineken. This application allows users to upload an image of their friend, which is then transformed into a ghost at the bar. The uploaded images are processed by machine learning for face recognition, checked for NSFW content by AI, cut out by AI, and transformed through WebGL shaders.

Are there any technologies or tools that you’re excited to explore more?

Yes! We’re currently exploring Snap Web AR, WebGPU, Svelte 5, and Realtime AI to enhance our WebGL visualizations. We’re also working with MediaPipe’s body tracking features, and I’m delving into new CSS features like discrete transitions, popovers, @layer selectors, and more.

Any advice for aspiring creatives?

Seek out an environment where people respect you, your work, and your time.

Consistently doing a little bit of something every day over a long period will make you better at it.

Get accustomed to resting and taking breaks from work. Relaxing is something you can practice.

The best ideas often come when your mind is at ease and your body is active.

Learn to market yourself, stay humble, and understand how the companies you work for operate.

Final thoughts, exciting projects, or upcoming trips?

I’m working on some exciting future plans for 2025/2026 at Merlin.

Additionally, I’m planning a road trip in July to visit the Dolomites in Italy. Anna and I will drive for a few hours each day, camping in nature until we reach the Dolomites. Once there, we’ll likely rent a place and hike every mountain we can find.

I wanted to share some advice: don’t compare yourself to others, only to your past self. Our industry can be extremely stressful without reason. Don’t burn yourself out trying to meet endless corporate deadlines. Focus on your own progress and well-being.

Big love to all the Okay Devs. 💛