Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Canadian Beacon

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
Hi, I'm Michael Yokota, Interactive Producer at Indusblue. We're a 6-year old interactive design and production company based in Toronto, Canada.
Indusblue's expertise is strategizing, designing, and producing powerful user experiences and engaging applications.

Q: Interactive Producers come from all walks of life. They are a hybrid of talents. Tell us about your background and how you got interested in digital production

Growing up, I was always fascinated by technology and gaming. I went to the University of Western Ontario and received a degree from their Media, Information and Technoculture program in 2004. The primary focus of the faculty was cultural theory and media analysis (McLuhan, Raymond Williams, Adorno and Horkheimer, etc.). Ironically, the program also provided us with the sceptic’s view of the mass media industry.
Learning critical analysis of the Media and Advertising industry didn’t hinder a chunk of my graduating class from working for Broadcasters and PR firms. However, I knew that I wanted to be in interactive. The online environment interested me because it was dynamic, user-driven, and seemed to be the only medium in which innovation and risk-taking was rewarded.
After school, I began my career in a 2-person interactive team at a direct marketing company. We produced simple sites, email campaigns, data collection and analysis. Following that, I worked as a Project Manager at Corus Entertainment, a major Canadian broadcaster, working on sponsored content. From there, I joined Indusblue as their Interactive Producer.

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?
I stay connected through blogs, personal research, and industry publications. I maintain consistent personal contact and conversation with industry leaders who are in the know. One of the greatest traits of the Indusblue team is our collective desire to absorb, learn, and apply innovative thinking and technologies towards the needs of our clients or towards personal projects.
We've been really busy over the past year, so this spring, in order to keep everyone motivated and fresh, we're going to be making room within our production cycle for professional development that's not tied to any specific project. Our developers will be given a chunk of time to pursue projects or learn technologies that interests them specifically. Right now a few iPhone apps and a few game engine ideas are on the table.

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?
I think my dream client or project is open-minded and innovative. I think that you do your best work when you're able to envision a final goal, plan the production, and execute the plan without being stifled by the typical creative constraints.
The ideal client balances their business needs with our best suggestions on how they can achieve those needs. They're also self-educators who understand the limitations and, more importantly, the possibilities of the technologies at hand. I think we have a great client in CBC Sports as they allowed us to share our expertise and vision in creating the Hockey Night MashUp application (http://hockeynightmashup.cbc.ca/). It meets and exceeds the client's needs while being a project that we are very proud of internally.

Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?
By virtue of the speed in which technologies can emerge and change, we take it upon ourselves to be proactive in the way that we educate our clients. Often times, before a business need ever arises, we will already be presenting opportunities for integration of these new technologies.
In regards to the expectations for a project, our clients see us as the experts when it comes to the production side. Because of this, I'm able to filter through their ideas and work with the client to determine the scope of a project from a creative and technological standpoint. In the end, it comes down to establishing an open, honest relationship with the client and being communicative and straightforward.

Q: What was the best project you have ever worked on?

I've enjoyed many of the projects that I've worked on, but from a personal and professional growth standpoint, the best project was this past summer's Beijing Olympics (http://www.cbc.ca/olympics/) for the CBC. Sparing you the details, it tested me in every aspect including: communication, short-term and long-term planning, organization, hard work, patience, and timeliness.

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?
It really depends on the nature of the projects, and what phase they’re in. I've got great support from our creative and technical leads, so my general comfort level is to have a few large projects and a few smaller ones all in the production stage of the project pipeline.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?
From a web developer perspective, it looks a lot like the team I work with now. Everyone has the same goals - do innovative and high-quality work, and challenge ourselves as we go. The team is innovative, flexible, accountable, and able to provide a great final product that everyone is proud of.
We're doing more and more video-based projects so we're expanding the capabilities of the video production side for 2009.

Q: How do you ensure that your client's best interests are met?
Communicating at every stage of the project is a start. The real key for us is in the discovery stage, where we can determine the details of the client's business objectives. This point may seem trivial but creating and sticking to daily, weekly, and bi-weekly meeting or conference call times, as well as being in a constant discourse about variations within the project plan are a must. Meeting the client's needs also means constant negotiation with the creative team or programmers to ensure that everyone is working towards a common goal.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?
I think that the current economy is going to shrink the demand for microsite production as those campaigns in print and broadcast diminish in quantity. However, that same economy will create opportunities for companies to deliver intelligent user experiences and web-based applications.
As a sidebar, I think we’re going to see some very interesting and innovative personal (aka non-sponsored) work over the next couple of years.

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
Be an engine and a voice of reason between great ideas, business needs, innovative thinking, and excellence in production.