Monday, March 30, 2009

Digital Visionaire

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
My name is Alex Alonso and I work as a project manager for the Visionaire Group. We are an award winning digital agency offering creative solutions via websites, ad display and emerging media.

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?
My start in digital production was more of a means than at end, at first. I started in Advertising (broadcast production) and when my wife and I wanted to move to NYC the only interesting opportunity at the time was as a junior producer for a small interactive shop. At the time I had little exposure to Flash and most of my personal online activity was utilitarian. So needless to say, I learned a lot there and quickly became more engaged with digital space as a whole.

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?

Every project offers a unique conglomeration of minds/talents and naturally you learn things you otherwise wouldn’t just by rubbing elbows with them. There’s also a select group of digital partners that make it a point to share information about new software developments which may help us achieve something new, as well as ground breaking executions that inspire.

We have been testing various ways to internally share information. It’s still evolving and sometimes finding time to share is the bigger challenge. However nothing works better than tapping someone on the shoulder and saying “hey check this out”. Fortunately our office space allows that kind of closeness to communicate quickly and effectively. Ultimately, getting to know each team member (personality, skill set, what motivates them, etc) is key to individual and corporate success.

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?

The ideal client is organized. Knows their strategy and objective and doesn’t deviate. They also let us lead the creative process while providing feedback that refines, not limit. At the very minimum the ideal client should be friendly but professional.

Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?
Clear, consistent and honest communication facilitates both.

Education is tailored to each client and project, so it varies. For me it starts with knowing my client and understanding their perspective. From there, I can say what needs to be said in a way that the client will not only understand but [hopefully] be receptive to, whether it’s something technical or conceptual. Our creative directors are great resources and I consult with them whenever I need to and that helps me formulate a balanced response.

Setting expectations requires a global view of the project with a thorough understanding of the parameters (time, budget, schedule, resources, specs, etc) and actively communicating rather than making assumptions. I find that most problems start because someone didn’t communicate; they made an assumption. So I do my best to communicate anything and everything relating to a project so that the client stays informed. It involves many emails, meetings and/or visuals but as long as the message gets across you’ll avoid problems down the line.

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

I cant really peg one as the “best”. The ones I have enjoyed the most are those where I have been challenged to do something difficult. And of course, the ones where the client absolutely loves what we do from the beginning (which is most projects).

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?
It depends on the scope of each project but generally 5-8 is the max I would prefer to take on.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?
The one I have now. Our team is so solid technically and creatively and works well together. Everyone is different but complimentary in the skills and views that they bring to the table.

Q: How do you ensure that your client's best interests are met?
By doing my job honestly and with integrity.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?
We’ll see more of an integration of the different media that are already converging, but more so with the prevalence of video because of increasing bandwidth. Another influence is the social aspect of the web with continued growth of online social networks and micro-blogging services like Twitter. As they continue to evolve so will the way marketers reach their consumers.

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
Be diligent in your work.

Kontain Yourself

Introduce yourself and your project.
My name is Yaron Schoen, and I am a lead designer on visual team. Launched in November 2008, Kontain is a free social media platform offering users a destination to quickly, and easily share their digital life (thoughts, photos, videos and audio.) At it’s essence, Kontain is a mash-up of Blogger, Flickr, Youtube and, increasingly, Facebook.

What were the goals for the new site?
Kontain is a product of Fi. That being said, Fi was founded upon the principle of quality-over-quantity, with the overall objective of making the web a better place. Kontain is a manifestation of everything Fi has been building towards since 1999.

As a team, we are all active members in a variety of social platforms. While there are some tremendous experiences available today, we all feel there is room for improvement in the way we interact online. With Kontain, we are trying to provide an easy and more aesthetically pleasing way to upload, manage and share media. Our CEO, David Martin, had the idea for Kontain for ten years – and we finally had the opportunity to make it happen over the past two years. There are no true limits to our goals, so ultimately, I will say they are large and I will leave it at that for now.

Where did you guys get your inspiration for the new site?
The inspiration and concept of Kontain was the catalyst for Fi. David Martin always wanted to build one exceptional place online to house, experience, organize and share media. The pitch process to clients for Kontain ten years ago lead to a demand for client-side digital projects, and as a result, Fi was born. Kontain’s features, on a surface level, are nothing new. We are focusing on the small details throughout the experience, and in doing so, we feel there is a void in the space that Kontain does, and will continue to fill.

What story were you trying to tell with the new website? is not a story about Kontain, but rather the tale of each individual user. The idea is to let the user's content speak for itself; Kontain is merely the picture frame. We are continually improving the interface to complement and enhance the users story, not compete with it. While exploring Kontain, we want to provide the user with a media-rich viewing experience across a wide variety of subjects.

What technical, logistical or budgetary challenges were presented during the project?

Hi, my name is Jason Borbet, the Business Director for Kontain – I will take this one. First, there are always challenges with a project of this size and scope. Our tech team built the entire front and backend for As a fully hosted solution, we were able to really cut our teeth and drill into the mechanisms behind the web. Kontain has integrated partnerships for Content Distribution (Akamai), Transcoding and Application Hosting.

Logistically, on the business side, we had to create an entire organization for Kontain – Kontain LLC, Fi’s sister company. On the production side, we had to overcome the same obstacles you face with any large scale production – efficiently and effectively utilizing your resources in an agile, long term development plan. As for the financial challenges, besides fully funding Kontain ourselves, we now clearly understand how to manage and strategically negotiate with the parties required to sustain a large, fully-hosted UGC destination.

Effectively ramping up and creating a new entity, while simultaneously managing Fi’s work flow and goals was no small feat.

Is this site your main form of external communication?
Interesting question, I am going to interpret this as our main form of communication with the outside world. For Kontain LLC, is our primary point of communication. For Fi, we have, Fi’s Twitter Account, – then of course, as mundane as it sounds, emails. Holistically, represents our effort to communicate with the online world at large by delivering added-value contribution.

How valuable is the new site to the agency?
Kontain set the foundation for Fi, was subsequently created by Fi and is now a valuable company in its own right. Kontain offers two valuable points for Fi; 1. is a powerful proof-of-concept for Fi’s understanding of, and capabilities within, the social media space; 2. We learned about the mechanisms and foundations of the web, and we have now fostered powerful partnerships with the companies responsible for making the internet work.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Juxt The Facts

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
I’m Devin Silberfein; a Senior Project Manager at Juxt Interactive in Newport Beach, California. We’re an interactive boutique that has been turning out cutting edge, exciting and fun work for all types of brands over past ten years. After recently being acquired by Event Marketing specialists George P. Johnson, we’re looking forward to growing our expertise beyond interactive advertising and marketing to event-based experiences as well.

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?
Like many of my colleagues, it happened by accident. I’m embarrassed to admit I made my first website using Adobe Photoshop 3.0 and a text editor when I was in high school, but I never considered it as a career. I went to school for Film & Television and took my first job encoding and editing videos for TWIinteractive, the interactive media arm of IMG, the sports marketing company. I was responsible for videos on websites for Tiger Woods, the Williams’ Sisters, US Soccer and more. Eventually, my personality and communications background steered me towards project management. Despite my mother’s belief that I’ll someday return to television production, I have no regrets about the transition.

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?
I’d like to say that the 100+ feeds in my reader keep me on top of new technologies and creative breakthroughs but unfortunately (fortunately?) I’ve been too busy to catch up on everything. I think word-of-mouth is actually more effective for me these days. Everyone has a link to the latest, greatest thing. We all help share what’s interesting on the web whether that’s through technological means, such as social bookmarking, emails and IMs, or through the more traditional watercooler conversation method (“Hey, did you see that new site that Skittles did?”).

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?
This is my personal checklist. The more items I can check off, the better it’ll likely go:
1. Client’s expectations are in line with the budget and schedule
2. There is enough budget and time in the schedule to do the project the RIGHT way (you said “ideal”, right?)
3. We are doing something just far enough outside of our box that it’s challenging and exciting, but not so far that it’s terrifying – well, maybe a little terrifying
4. Client is accessible and understands what’s involved in the production process
5. No need for legal review (again, “ideal”)
6. Everyone on both the agency side and the Client side believes in the idea and are eager to see it done well

Q: How do you educate your Clients and set realistic expectations for a project?
Like any relationship, I think this comes down to trust and honesty. I don’t like dancing around issues out of fear of tarnishing the relationship. When challenges arise on a project, I prefer to address them with the Client on the belief that they’ll respect me for being straight with them. Ultimately, my job is to get projects done well, on time, and on budget and I think most of my Clients recognize that some occasional bluntness is really in the best interest of the project, which is to say, in their best interest.

Q: What was the best project you have ever worked on?
I think my favorite project is a DVD-ROM I worked on for USA Hockey several years ago that helped teach coaches and parents around the country the proper way to teach ice hockey skills. It may not sound like the most exciting project, but I am a die-hard hockey fan and it was a blast working with the governing hockey organization in the US. They were a great Client who was extremely excited about the project and I got to hang out in an ice rink for two weeks as we shot over 400 drills. It ended up being a commercial success and I even learned a few things to improve my own game along the way.

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?

I definitely prefer to have a few things on my plate at once since I get bored easily if I’m working on just one large project. It’s hard to say an exact number since projects come in all sizes and get busy at different times in the production cycle. Currently I’m working on 3 large projects and 2 smaller ones but they are all at different points in their project plans. I think I’d be crazy if they were all kicking off at the same time, or worse, launching together.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?

Charlie’s Angels with a lot of AS3 experience.

Q: How do you ensure that your Client's best interests are met?

This relates to the question about managing Client’s expectations. Dialogs with the Client at the beginning of a project to help establish those interests and align expectations will definitely help you pave the way. Once you understand that, it’s a matter of making sure your team understands it as well. I try to make sure any directive, request, feedback or revision expresses not only what needs to be done, but why. Ultimately, this helps keep everyone involved in the project and also contextualize Client feedback, which otherwise might seem unfounded or even counterintuitive.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?
From a trend standpoint, it sounds cliché to say but mobile is the next big thing - but I don’t think it’s arrived just yet. Much like the dot-com era, I think we still need to discover how to use mobile platforms for practical applications instead of little “isn’t that cool?” type apps. It won’t be enough to create a iPhone or Blackberry app that is downloaded by x amount of people; successful applications will be tracked like mainstream web properties (e.g. how long people use them, what they click on, etc). Proven ROI will be increasingly important especially as brands search for cost effective ways interact with consumers.

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
Always double check who’s CC’d when you hit “reply all”. It happens to the best of us.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Methods and Paradigms

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
My name is Jordan Berkowitz and I am the Group Director at Undercurrent.

Undercurrent is a digital think tank and consultancy that helps brands and agencies understand and engage more effectively and efficiently with a growing group of consumers who were born digital.

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?
I started my career working in pharmaceutical media, producing live events and educational programs. Most of the events I produced were documented to be turned into either CD-ROM based educational tools or put on the web for similar purposes. To this day I maintain a huge amount of respect for people that produce complex live events. Inevitably, anything that can fail will fail. The discipline of learning to keep your cool and diagnose problems on the fly was the most important thing I learned. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a universal lesson I would end up leveraging very frequently.

From there I bounced around a bit and finally settled at AKQA where I was a project manager for about a year. This was my first experience in the agency world and it was an amazing opportunity to work with a stable of great brands at a highly respected shop.

In the end, I wanted to do more and found myself looking for a new place with a different take on living and marketing in the digital world. When Undercurrent popped up on my radar I was intrigued by the idea of producing digital strategy and getting away from some of the more mundane tasks associated with building websites. I’ve been at Undercurrent for the last year and a half and can’t imagine another place I would rather be.

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?
One of the benefits of working with an awesome team of digital strategists is that there is no lack of information on current and upcoming trends. A challenge that we’re constantly facing is not how to stay informed, but rather how to manage all of the information that flows through our office. Some people are big RSS aggregators while others still consume the web site by site (I’m one of these!).

Motivation, on the other hand, is a very different beast. We spend a lot of time and energy making sure that our office is fun, challenging, and a tad unpredictable. It’s also really important to recognize that both motivation and inspiration come at different times for different people. The best processes and structures are flexible enough to allow people to develop work in their own way while also ensuring that we hit the mark with our deliverables. I can’t say we’ve got that 100% figured out, but we’re constantly evolving the way we work to get there.

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?
My ideal client is a balance between:

• A risk taker
• Someone who understands insights and how to translate them back to consumer experiences
• Rarely, if ever, uses the words viral, social media, or widget
• Has the power and ability to get things done
• Is fun to work with

Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?

It’s different for every client we work with. Education is a general service at Undercurrent, ranging from larger group workshops all the way down to one on one sessions. We also send out a weekly newsletter that exposes 3 interesting trends, websites, or online happenings that should be of interest to the people we work with.

To manage expectations, I think it’s all about being honest, setting manageable goals, and measuring the right things. Being brutally honest is crucial; if something is not going to happen it’s much easier to say so loud and clear upfront and ensure you don’t put yourself in a difficult position at the start. Reasonable goals are all about setting the right expectation but also speak to experience and history. Lastly, measuring everything you possible can is ludicrous. If you and your client agree to the points of measurement before something begins it means that you have a basis for evaluating success and have also taken the time to consider what really matters and what doesn’t.

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

I really don’t know. I think every project I work on teaches me something new about producing. I’d like to say the best projects are the ones that go according to plan, but the reality is the best projects I’ve worked on are the ones that throw you for a loop and return surprising results.

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?
I’m one of those crazy people who will take on way to much work. Ideally, I like to carry 2-4 projects of varying complexity. That’s also the typical load of a producer at Undercurrent.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?
I don’t think I have a point of view about what the “perfect” team looks like. Ideally, I’d have a team of people with various strengths, each of whom is in a position to play to those strengths while avoiding areas of weakness. I realize this sounds idealistic, but in my experience, people don’t tend to get better at things they’re not good at. Strengths, however, continue to develop and mature over time.

Q: How do you ensure that your client's best interests are met?

Communication. Is anything else necessary?

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?
I don’t think it’s going to look insanely different than it does now. We’ll continue to see new technologies that change and augment the way we do our jobs, but at the end of the day we’ll still be focussed on helping our clients achieve a goal, most often selling something.

One area I think will go through major evolution is measurement. The most difficult part of leveraging emerging technologies is that often it’s hard to measure the impact of an initiative. Given the current economic climate, I know that there is significantly more weight being put on proving the efficacy of different communications channels. We are in desperate need of more academic and commercial innovation in methods and paradigms to measure and value things like interactions, conversations, and fans.

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
Being a good producer is about knowing enough to be dangerous. It’s all well and good to be great at process and management, but as a connector of a lot of disparate pieces, it is so important for a producer to understand not only the what of a project but also the why. Decisions that get made by producers have the potential to impact every aspect of a project so if you don’t understand why you are making something, chances are good that it will miss the mark. To me this is simply about being invested in the work you do. It’s about learning your client’s business so you can be their advocate with your team. It’s also about constantly being hungry for new technologies, new ideas, and new ways to get work done.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Hello Funday

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
Hello Monday is a boutique ‘designery’ in Denmark, and in Autumn 2009, in New York. We specialize in innovative Flash websites and visual identities that tickle brains and eyes around the world. My name is Anders Jessen, and I am a partner at Hello Monday. We started Hello Monday because we wanted to build a creative playground rather than a production factory—obviously not an easy endeavor but an absolute necessity to keep creativity alive and to avoid becoming indifferent towards the design. Our office in Denmark is a 350 year-old town-house. It is built in the days where kings and queens ruled the world and the fastest transportation was a horse. Since then a lot of things have happened in the field of technology. I bet that these old-timers would be puzzled if they saw what is going on in their town-house today.

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?
13 years ago, we were the first family in our suburb to get broadband internet access. Subsequently, my dad saw the potential in having a website, and to help him realize this potential, I taught myself HTML. In 1997, something strange happened. Gabocorp launched a Flash website ( that surpassed anything I had ever seen before. I faced the consequences and broke up with HTML. I have background as a market economist, but from that special day in 1997, my heart was beating in key frames.

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?
A lot of my inspiration comes from music or walking around in the city, observing the architecture, the people, and the nature. In regards to staying on top of emerging technologies, blogs and the FWA keep me updated. We encourage our team to constantly explore new ideas and think of new ways to do things. By allocating time to carry out experiments, we ensure that we always stay on top of innovation.

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?
Perfect clients are ambitious and visionary, and they want to create something that is unique and memorable.

Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?
The key ingredients are honesty and openness. Any design process entails different ideas and perspectives and disagreement is unavoidable. Instead of fighting this premises, we try to embrace it. Sometimes, difference of opinion can open up for new, interesting discussions, new ways of thinking and often better designs. If clients feel strong about a specific feature, you cannot force them to take another route, however, if we disagree, we tell them which approach we think is best for them. If they still disagree, at least they are aware of the choice they are making and the alternatives. It is obviously always tempting to take the easy route and tell them what they want to hear, but for us, it has not been the right way to go. Dialogue is the key to any successful project.

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

Internally, we have an imaginative company called Hello Funday through which we can live out our design dreams. This way we don’t have to wait for the right client when we have a great idea. 90% of the work we will do in Hello Funday will probably be a world wide waste of money but we need this to blow out some creative steam and give wings to some of our many ideas. These include ideas for innovative ways of navigating the web, packaging for candy, edgy illustrations etc. The draw-navigation for was developed in the realm of Hello Funday, and this was indeed an exciting project.

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?
We plan our time so we have a maximum of three projects at a time. The good thing about having more than one project is that you can let ideas marinade while you work on other projects.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?
It is easy to find designers, developers and strategists, however, it is very hard to find the right ones. The perfect team consists of talented, innovative and passionate people.

Q: How do you ensure that your client's best interests are met?
We talk to them. Then we talk some more, and afterwards we talk a little bit more. Communication is key to understanding our clients’ interests. If the concept is strong and the output reflects the vision for the brand, we know that we have elevated our client’s business.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?
Two letters and two words: 4D and virtual reality. No, seriously; I have absolutely no idea what the next phase will look like. It will definitely be new and different, and I can’t wait to be part of the development.

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
It might sound like a cliché, but it’s important to have fun while you work. For obvious reasons this is not possible all the time but try to do it as much as possible. When you stop having fun, your projects will look accordingly.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Welcome to Quenneville

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
Hi there, I’m Trisha Quenneville, Director of Digital Production at Lowe Roche in Toronto, Canada. For over 10 years now I have produced online and offline content at a variety of places, both freelance and full time, but coming to Lowe Roche has only been a good move. Living by the philosophy of “innovate or die”, everyday is an opportunity to push boundaries and produce really exceptional work here. Being one of the few agencies in Canada not to silo web, mobile, social media, and offline experiences from the rest of the core creative services, we offer a unique 360 degree approach to every project and are proud to be different.

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?
In 1997 I was creating targeted maps in a geographical information system for the media division of a giant ad agency. Simply put, I was targeting flyers to peoples homes (yuck!). I got into the digital field after receiving my very first interactive greeting card from the tiny interactive arm of the agency. Sad as it sounds, it was then that I fell in love with the idea of online creativity. I soon managed to switch departments and was officially their new Production Assistant. Since then, I have worked on projects for a variety of ad agencies, animation/production houses and television stations across North America, delving into all aspects of digital production. Looking back, it was definitely a great decision.

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?
Keeping on top of emerging technologies is a full time job in itself! I mostly use my Netvibes, social bookmarking and Twitter, but my secret weapon is really my digital team. We’re constantly looking at, brainstorming and developing ideas for real life or virtual applications. It’s definitely an exciting place to be right now.

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?
Having worked with animation, audio, music, and motion graphics for all kinds of brands, I’m comfortable with pretty much anything. Honestly, nothing phases me in this realm! My ideal scenario is a cross-platform project with high value content. Something that involves planning and executing a shoot, audio record and fully functional website, all with a strong communication strategy to back it up. For those reasons, one of my favourite clients is Purina Petcare Canada, and I assure you it has absolutely nothing to do with the adorably cute puppies and kittens I get to work with.

Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?
When working with clients the best way to educate is to collaborate. An informed client is one that’s fully involved and understands what to expect. Of course, that’s the best-case scenario! For a client that cannot be quite as involved, or not fluent in ‘digital’, I usually start by going through our statement of work. I do my best to explain each process in our timeline and what they should expect along the way. It’s a basic thing, but it works. I'm also constantly advising clients to get online and use the internet for more than checking mail, and often showcase a tid-bit or relevant site to them when sitting with my laptop or iPhone.

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

Ever? This is a tough one to answer, I have so many! I think it might be the one I’m currently on for Purina but, I can’t talk about it just yet. Another fave was last Christmas working on In collaboration with Psyop we created a new theme and global content in lots of languages. It’s a high profile site, so working on this was a challenge, but at the same time, totally exhilarating.

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?

It depends on the scale of the project, I typically oversee 5-10 short term jobs and 1-2 larger initiatives are on the go at any given time.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?
My dream core team is an art director and copywriter working tight with a strong tech lead that has expertise in modern web 2.0 experiences, rich interactive media and back-end integration (either client-side or custom). This way, when it comes to establishing the production or build team, we’ve identified all the creative and technical requirements and can apply the right resources to the job.

Q: How do you ensure that your client's best interests are met?

The one and only way I ensure that that the client’s best interests are met is by being a project’s best advocate. It all comes down to formalizing the project at the beginning so that keeping best interests is forefont to the deliverables.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?
My ‘vision’ (gosh, it makes me sound psychic) for the next phase of our industry is (as always) a mix of being afraid and excited about new possibilities. Technology will continue to seep its way into the lives of the consumer and grow exponentially. Future generations will be harder to reach, and yet at the same time, be more accessible and connected than ever. It all comes down to targeting. The consumer will effectively be in control of how companies talk to them and brands that decide not to have a 2-way conversation will suffer. Don’t worry, it’s not all doom and gloom, we just have to be smart.

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.

Always understand the risks, but do it anyway.

The Seen

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
Adrian Morley, Managing Director and founder of award winning company The Seen, started in 2003.

The Seen is a creative design business with strategic thinking and a stand out attitude. We apply creative logic to big ideas. Based in the UK

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?
My love of type, layout and graphic design was born out of a love for graffiti in the mid 80’s. After watching Style Wars on TV my friends and I were converted immediately.

One of the first in the UK to enjoy a BA degree course specialising in multi-media (at Wolverhampton University) with classes from leading American multi-media experts. This was my first encounter with interactive design as we had projects focussing on dynamic CD rom design and build and early website construction.

In 1992 my formal design career began at Helix, the international stationery organisation, where I was a key designer in launching highly successful nationwide licensed product ranges for Pepsi, Friends, Warner Bros and more. In 1995 at Helix I began my serious journey into online website design.

After launching a fully interactive children’s website for Helix, in 1999 I took up position at Plus Two Studio a small design studio specialising in the Music and Extreme Sports industries. It was here where my full creative website and progressive graphic design work really flourished with some great wide open creative briefs.

In 2001 I was lucky enough to be head hunted by the BAR Honda Formula One Team, as Graphic Designer, working under the leadership of both Craig Pollock and also David Richards (Prodrive & Aston Martin Racing). Here I worked for the Business Development and Marketing departments, helping to secure a number of high profile sponsorship deals for the team and developing a dynamic and interactive post race flash device that was sent out to all sponsors and VIP’s after each race featuring race analysis and driver interviews etc.

I was also a member of the radical BAR Honda ‘Pure Racing’ rebrand project working with a London Creative Director of Tango and First Direct fame. It was through this process that I learned first hand the power and depth of successful branding.

I was also a key decision maker in bringing the award winning Fingal Design group to the team to design and build the team website. They won 2 FWA awards for their two Honda Racing F1 Team websites.

All this lead me to realise my long standing dream when in February 2003 I created The Seen. A multi-disciplined creative design business specialising in Brand Experiences, Graphic and Website Design. Since then a number of well know names have joined the ever-expanding client list including: Aston Martin Racing, Honda Racing F1 Team, Drayson Racing, UK Trade and Investment and more.

To go back to the essence of the question - my love for design including interactive design stemmed from graffiti, hence our company name which pays homage to the legendary New York graffiti artist Seen. Now there was a man all about recognition!

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?

The internet is an invaluable source of new tricks and ideas. I think the quality and breadth of design and implementation has come on in leaps and bounds certainly over the last 6 or 7 years. Designers are becoming more complete now with a good understanding of different principles and a heady array of services to offer.

We are all avid readers and RSS subscribers of FFFFound, Smashing Magazine, Surf Station, Fubiz, and most of the Tuts network sites and we follow the following technology resources: Adobe Labs, A List Apart, Script and Style, CSS Tricks and Net Tuts and many more.

If we see something neat we then try to get our hands dirty by trying to recreate the technique.

I make sure all software is kept up to date to take advantage of latest techniques and tricks etc we use majority of Adobe packages.

We are all naturally self-motivated ... no dead wood allowed.

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?
An entrepreneur who is building up a team around them. All team members excel at what they do and are left to do it by the entrepreneur.

Entrepreneurs tend to understand the positive outcome of letting people be free to do what they do best and understand the value of being different and taking a radical step in their design communication and market place. This helps us create progressive yet functional solutions for their business.

Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?
Sometimes with smaller clients they can feel the need to have to control what you are doing, which is fine as it is their business you are working for, but at the end of the day if they have no design training and experience this often gets translated into the final production(s). We try to avoid this dilution by offering their solution but at the same time offering our own interpretation backed up with rationale and examples of experience.

A good designer or design team should always steer their client towards the best route. This for us is often as important as the work itself and tends to provide the most successful outcome for the client at the end of the project.

Milestones are essential for larger projects and help to keep all heads on-track, including the client.

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

Hard to pin point one as they all have different qualities from a design and working point of view, however:

It is always exciting working with Lord Drayson, the British Minister for Science, as he embraces new technologies and features for his racing team website.

Our Honda Racing F1 Team wind tunnel book was good for us as we claimed our first design award and publication for the pulp styled cover design.

Our own current site was a step forward for us and was noted by many web design showcase sites, it is also due to be published in the Web Design Index book later this year.

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?
5 ... anymore and it becomes harder to apply a deep level of thinking and rationale to our work/solutions.

It’s important to be able to step away and clear the head so I personally enjoy Muay Thai training twice a week and learning off camera strobe lighting photography, the latter still keeps me creative and working with layouts but in a different way (I am a Strobist nut:

Q: What does your dream production team look like?
Red Interactive Agency for web.
Wiz for video production.
Dave Hobby (the Strobist legend) for photography.
Joey Lawrence for post production photo work, this guy’s work is truly amazing.
Peter Saville for ideas and off the wall production possibilities.
Neville Brody for graphics and print.
Steve Jobs for marketing and project launches.

Q: How do you ensure that your client’s best interests are met?
Make sure that we are designing for their target market, that we are also in tune with their business strategy and that the design is on-brand.

I do not design for my own satisfaction or to look cutting edge to other designers. This feel good exercise does not provide suitable solutions for a client.

Our design has to communicate clearly and not be cluttered. We stay on message.

A detailed brand guide is always the essential piece of documentation we produce for our clients and their workforce.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?
Mid sized studios and agencies may find life tough. Small studios working as collectives seems to be a very flexible, cost effective and successful way forward for both client and designers. However, there will still be the need and justification for the big players - Fitch, Pentagram, etc

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
Keep it real - If you’re a designer remember who you are designing for. Design should be functional and serve to win and keep customers or viewers for your clients business.

I love the off-the-wall, pushing-the-boundary type of design that is out there but often this does not serve realistic markets. Communicate to the masses not the minority.

Know when to stop - Like all great artists, painters photographers a great piece of work is one that has not gone too far with superfluous details.

Think deep - Your design(s) should tell a story and have an essence that permeates throughout all communication channels.

Enjoy what you do.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Hugging Trees

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company
This is Lukasz Knasiecki, partner and flash developer at Huncwot (

We are independent interactive studio based in western Poland working with rich Flash applications and interactive video mostly for culture / art / fashion world. In a meantime we are organizing a lot of gigs – improvised music concerts and 16mm experimental film screenings.

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?
I became computer addicted in the early 80s and started programming first Sinclair ZX-Spectrums as a kid. My first game was published as a program listing in 1987 in Bajtek – the only computer magazine in Poland at this time. Following years I was creating and publishing by my own multimedia CD-ROMs for MS-Dos and MS-Windows – sold dozens of thousands of them in the 90s in Poland. After finishing MA at Culture Studies in 1999 I opened small, avant-garde club and kept running it for 6 years, organizing concerts, exhibitions and film screenings. In early 2007, with Arek Romanski – a great graphics designer and animator - we started Huncwot – independent studio devoted to interactive design.

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?
Well, there is no choice. In my short life I used so many computer platforms (Spectrum, Atari, Amiga, Dos, Windows…) and languages (8 and 16-bit Aseembler, Basic, Pascal, Delphi, C++, PHP, Actionscript…) - so learning new technologies is just part of the game. And to be honest – programming Actionscript is a piece of cake comparing to coding in Assembler.

Anyway, the best thing to keep us motivated is trying to design each project completely different from the previous - in terms of aesthetics, navigation and user experience.

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?
We are not a big studio so we choose our clients very carefully taking only jobs we are really interested in, as we don’t need to feed dozens of accounts and other staff. The only thing we expect from the client is to trust us – as we know our job and will never release anything which we won’t believe in for 100%.

As we mostly work with art/fashion world – people there are really open-minded and we had never any bigger problems with forcing our (sometimes completely crazy) ideas.

Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?

Showing our previous work and some of our favourite sites always helps to introduce current technical possibilities to the client. Finally we always try to give more than they expect.

Q: What was the best project you have ever worked on?
A Commonwealth of Diverse Cultures ( was a special project for many reasons. There were many great designers involved in the project – logotype and all the prints were made by two of the best polish typography masters (Kuba Sowinski and Jacek Mrowczyk), short films and animations were made by Platige Image – for sure best polish animation studio – and after all – a man running the projects from such a big and noble institution as The National Library Of Poland – Mikołaj Baliszewski – was very creative and helpful. It’s always a joy if you can create something with important and not easy content in this quite shallow world of Internet.

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?
We try not to make more than 2 projects at one time but you know, it’s not so easy to keep it that way.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?
Professional and open-minded specialists inspired rather by history of art / culture and beauty of nature than current design trends. Good table tennis players are also welcome as we lately spend hours playing it in our studio.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?
You mean Flash Player in 2020? No idea.

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
Go to the forest and hug a tree!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Novo Mesto

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
A: My name is Miro Koljanin and I am owner, founder of DrawingArt -, interactive web design and development studio from Slovenia, Novo mesto. In same time I am designer and flash developer in DrawingArt.

We provide our clients with the most innovative approaches to website creation. DrawingArt has become one of the world's highly respected website design studios, known to constantly push the boundaries of website creation to its limits with high level of small details. We have built a strong reputation as a leading website design company by consistently designing and developing websites that are simply outstanding and technically excellent. Our motto is very simple 'You have to stand out of the crowd', and we are determined to make it happen.

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?
A: My story behind my design and development path began 5 years ago when I wanted to present my drawings online to other people. This how I said I need a website and I started designing it and eventually start learning flash and html-css. Before that I was really big fan of flash sites and I was amazed what you can do with interactive approach in this field and that is how my path in web started. Since my first version of my site dedicated to my drawings hit the public I never drawn again. I was changing version of my sites every few months, learning, designing and I really fell in love with it. This how all evolved slowly from drawings site to design and development studio site with the name DrawingArt that still captures my past inside.

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?

Overall I try to stay in focus and read as much news, blogs, ... as I can online. In same time I try different ideas, different approaches from site to a site I do so this how I slowly progress in that field constantly as well. Our work is our motivation ... that keeps us passionate for what we do.

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?
Ideal client ... hehe tricky question ... maybe I can say ideal client doesn't exists but good clients exist but again it is hard to say this client is good, this client is bad or what I would like good client to be. Each project, each client has good and bad sides like we all do but each project is our challenge and passion so we love them all.

Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?
Generally through our meetings and our talk I try to explain every detail how it goes. I'm always open with my clients and I always tell them this will take this much time and unfortunately we can not do it earlier so that every client knows why one thing takes so much of time or budget. Usually until now our clients always understood everything when they got explanation and answers on when, why, how much, how do we do it, ... so I think this is the main part of the project to educate clients so that they know what they will get, when and for how much.

Q: What was the best project you have ever worked on?
This one is tricky again but if I must pick out then I certainly pick Ciril Jazbec Photography - website that we did 2 versions already and it is our most recognizable and awarded website till today that also won 2 times the FWA site of the day award. With second version it was a big challenge to beat first version but I'm glad to say it confidently that we did it.

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?
It depends on project size but I can say 2-3 flash sites or 3-4 layout designs with 1 flash site together ...

Q: What does your dream production team look like?
2 designers and flash developers, 2 php/mysql programmers and 2 video / 3d modelers. But overall I have to say my current team of 1 designer-flash developer which is me, 1 php/mysql programmer and 1 3d modeler is everything I need now and fits my needs and my clients needs more then perfectly so I'm really satisfied.

Q: How do you ensure that your client\'s best interests are met?
If we satisfy our client with quality and then if visitors - users of my client are happy and final product is recognizable then we are all happy.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?
I will say that quality will be much more needed ... Quality matters, specially in my eyes quality is crucial thing for this business. Design ! Design will have even bigger role on everything since that is first contact with user - visitor so design quality, design idea will have even bigger impact. In same time video and 3D will evolve to have even bigger part then now, since connection speed of our internet providers are evolving, good quality or HD video is much more easier to stream over internet from a day to day.

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
Hard work brings results, quality brings even higher results and satisfaction in yourself. Every passioned work is something we are proud of on the end. So again, quality matters.

Digital Sherpa

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
My name is Simon Conlin. I'm a Brit living and working in Canada as a Strategist / Producer. Essentially, I like to find solutions for unique problems. I came to Canada in 2001 as a Digital Strategist, possibly the first of my kind much to the confusion of many a HR director. Now that everyone knows what a strategist does, I have changed my title and role to Digital Sherpa to differentiate myself (and to confuse HR directors).

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?
It all started, once upon a time, with playing the Atari 2600, and then I became exposed to playing (& trying to build) games in BASIC using my brother's ZX80 and ZX81 over the years. Starting of with 1k ram & 4k rom was like a gateway drug and was not long before I progressed to harder stuff like Dragon 32, Spectrum 48, Commodore 64 spectrum 128 so on and so on. I was keeping bad company by hanging out with a few of my older brother's friends who were making serious pocket money on the side by making music for games.

The second stage of the evolution of my digital addiction started when I was studying Music technology and learning midi, the history of synthesizers and sampling. I was sequencing with cubase v.1 on an Apple || which became my first exposure to a timeline. I had always enjoyed art and music and was excited about the future of the Internet when the thoughts drifted to visions of how art and music on the Internet could meld as a media. I thought about the future and realized I should investigate to see if this could be a possible career. I had young, foolish plans to set up my own Internet company at a time when a .jpg was rare, a .gif was a luxury (this was long before any rich media, music or video).

The only real serious money being made on the Internet was either building unstable applications or simply buying and selling & .com top level domains (which I thought was kinda sleazy and exploitative, nothing really to do with creativity or art). Shortly after this time, around the tail end of Future Splash, I joined a web design company (around the same time Macromedia set up an office in Berkshire, UK) and was lucky enough to see a demo of Flash and it was love at first sight. What appealed to me was that Macromedia had alliances with everyone, while everyone else were feuding. I started telling companies about how flash was going to change the face of the web as we know it. The year was 1997.

The Internet has changed a lot since then and has become everything I had imagined it to be and more. The title of "interactive producer" was never globally recognized until recently (thanks to this blog), so needless to say, I had to wear a lot of hats before becoming a producer / strategist. Some companies struggled to understand how to fully utilize me to the best of my abilities. The role of "Project Manager" to me always felt similar to asking a chef to take someone's food order.

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?

For the most part, I stay on top by playing an active part in the community, quintessentially I surround myself with very talented people and I enjoy cross-pollinating energy and information between groups. I like to energize groups of people and in turn I get energized. It's something I have done since I was a kid while I watched my brother's friends make music for video games. Back then, I was a valuable part of the team despite not having the dominant skill-set.

I live by being on-line and constantly "plugged into the matrix". Today's news travels so fast with blogs and twitter and video that we've all become information junkies. I like to keep a close eye on developing areas and also attend conferences to network with old friends and to make new connections. It's hard to describe the joy of watching (from a distance) the growth of something like Flash Lite, Flex, Processing, Aviary, PV3D or the adoption rate of FLVs or a bizarre viral adoption of something like Twitter.

I find that keeping myself and my team passionate and motivated comes naturally to me, however, I have encountered many business owners who have misunderstood just how vitally important this is in our industry.

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?
In an ideal world, the initial boardroom briefing would go something like this:

CLIENT: "So here is our is our desired goal... let us know if you need any existing assets such as video or text... please tell us how long it could take to build... here is the budget with a buffer... now go do your thing because we trust your vision and direction will get us to where we need to be ...and remember any awards that are won are to be shared with all the teams involved".

An ideal project would include working for a respected brand, or worthwhile human cause, or better still, a combination of the aforementioned. A brand with a cause / charity is most appealing to me, i.e. something that makes a small, positive change to the world we live in. Ideation and conceptualization would be given as much importance as the promotion. Production techniques would include many of the Adobe suite of tools and most likely have some special ingredients thrown in.
Ideally, a project would include some advanced CGI/motion/video assets, a social media campaign and some live event promotional elements. Thought would also be given to the end or continuation of a campaign, i.e. the "after care" or the "follow up".

Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?

At the very start of the discovery phase, I try to learn if any of the stakeholders are creative or strategic thinkers. If so, I like to include them in my thought process when it comes to overall strategy (long before the execution). If they are not creative thinkers, then alcohol and dinner helps to extract the information you need to make them feel involved with the vision. I find that trust in your expertise (if gained at the start) will carry you a long way, but also I find that passion should be shared by the stakeholders.

If a client can feel that you:

a) have a basic understanding of their business model and their needs
b) care about their product / brand / service etc.
c) have become part of their team (and on occasion vice-versa)

then chance at success and overall client satisfaction has a much higher percentage.

Each party might have a different yard stick, i.e. the VP of Marketing might think number of unique visits is success (even if those people only stay a few seconds); the Director of Digital Media might think an FWA site of the day is the most important; the CFO might be looking for a spike in revenue for that quarter, etc. So, knowing how the client is measuring and gauging success is important in setting expectations.

Education also involves showing clients current statistics and past case studies (not just my own work, but the work of their competitors). I also conduct strategic sessions, deep brainstorming and creative sessions and work with the clients to understand the legal issues or ramifications of taking a certain approach with a brand. Nothing is worse than spending weeks in production only to have the legal department shelf your project at the last minute.
Pre-planning discussions are key to overall success.

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

In terms of revenue, one of the first sites I built back in 2001 eventually sold for 5M GBP back in the UK.

In terms of personal pride, building Flash in the Can (FITC) from scratch back in 2002 is the event I'm still well known for in the industry. My goal was to make it a sold-out event and to make the award show known worldwide. I achieved both of those things in my first year as the Executive Director.

As a recent, small client project, my solo production work with The National Ballet of Canada was very rewarding as it allowed me to meld traditional, classical and digital art while allowing me access to some great talent. As part of a viral video contest / campaign, I was allowed to shoot (on HD) ballerinas dancing in public places at a handful of famous Toronto landmarks and then to set the footage to Tchaikovsky music, I can safely say I have never heard of that being done before. It wasn't the largest production I have worked on, however, having full strategic, creative and production control made it the most enjoyable. The project was five times more successful than original target goal.

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?

Three. If I work on more than three, I find that I become flustered and rushed and this leaves clients feeling under-valued and under-appreciated.
I see projects like children and if you have too many of them, none of them get the individual attention they deserve.
I once tried to take on too many projects and felt like the man at the circus who spins the plates on wobbly sticks.That approach is a disaster waiting to happen as you can only keep the plates spinning for an amount of time before your energy or attentions wears thin.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?

My full dream team would look something like the speaker line up for Flashonthebeach mixed in with SoDA.

My business model is essentially creating teams of people for any given specific project no matter the size. I've spent my career being a talent spotter.
Ideally, I look for team players who possess all-round skills and who have plenty of industry experience. It's also important that they have a great attitude, stay cool under pressure and most importantly, contribute great ideas, passion and input to every project. All of the team members have skills in many areas and specialize in something unique.

I like to borrow a lot of analogies and transposed principals from the music entertainment and food trades when building my teams. For instance, in a band, let's say the Beatles (with the exception of Ringo), each member knows who is playing what, why, when, where and also how. The same is true in any kitchen at a top restaurant. The executive chef knows exactly when, where, how, why and what each other chef is doing when preparing the whole meal for a table of customers.

Q: How do you ensure that your client's best interests are met?
I gain a deep understanding of the client's business, customers, desired target market, etc. and also keep on top of the current climate of the industry in order to offer the client a solution based on the classical tri-dynamic equation of what is possible based on time versus money versus quality. Once I am retained, I'm available for clients around the clock, and as many producers can attest, we go to bed thinking about a project and awake pretty much the same way. Some may argue that it's not healthy to submerge yourself into your work in that manner, but as an artist, it's a natural "Altered State" (movie reference for those who get it), and for those who don't, think of something close to Jeff Goldblum in "The Fly".

However, that's just one side of business and passion and dedication can only take things so far. I try to research as much as possible beforehand and some examples might include monitoring current climate, conducting competitive intelligence and swot analysis. Another side is also to act as the custodian of the client's interactive budget, so I will also broker deals in terms of support and give advice on areas I am not involved in such as media buy or placement, SEO, SEM, etc., basically, all of those areas where a client can get gouged.

The clients interests become my interests. The project becomes an obsession to succeed because after all, it's not only time and budget at stake, but also reputation.
I think 99% of people who are in the Flash side of the business are there based on passion for the most part. I have never really encountered such loyalty to a software tool. Since working with Flash can be as equally frustrating as it is ultimately rewarding, many designers / developers would never want to see a project fail.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?
Only the foolhardy could try to predict our industry. Quad- and Octo-processors are released. Wacom, M$soft surface, touch technologies suddenly see the potential in allowing digital media designers to design without a mouse or pen. Social media will continue to steadily grow, obviously, as more and more people join the surge. Mobile will eventually make it to the tip of the CEO and CMO tongues. Mass expansion in user-generated content via mobile, circa 2011; Twitter is just the tip of the iceberg (I think Facebook will attempt to buy Twitter this year, outbidding M$oft and many others while Google will set up their own version of Twitter). Flash lite will enable better mobile experiences and finally, the flood gates will open. The public will eventually demand that the carriers stop holding back on the technology. Adobe and Apple will make headway on "iFlash" as batteries become less of an issue with the final solution being a combination of mutli-interchangeable batteries (think batman utility belt), but also public places, bars, restaurants, coffee houses, etc. will allow patrons to charge as they shop. Should I be making these revelations? Sure, of course! It's not top secret, it's logical. As a consumer, you should be able to make these demands TODAY. Perhaps consumers won't have to wait too long to make these demands because once M-commerce kicks in and consumers are shopping with their phone instead of their credit cards, eventually some young bright spark at one of the major telco carriers will realize that an uncharged phone is potentially lost revenue for shopping.

Can you imagine: "this recharge is brought to you by Visa"? :)

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
I have nothing wise to say that won't be soon outdated. Although, I would offer, keep an eye on the past, your mind in the future, and your heart in the here and now.

I also really want to share this quote:

"Art, the end result of perception, wisdom, intelligence, discipline, hard work, passion, luck, accident, and coincidence."
(Source Unknown)

thanks for reading.

Simon is available for questions, comments, payments, sexual advances or general hate mail [at]

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Focus On Quality

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
I am Mircea Turcan, a founding partner and creative director of Restate Media, a multidisciplinary, culturally-diverse, strongly opinionated media lab / interface design / software development studio based in Monterrey, Mexico. We are a small (hence, happy) studio that, in good modernist tradition, striving to find the perfect mixture of technology and design to help our clients truly find their potential in their businesses. Generally that leaves advertising out of the picture and replaces it with useful tools, modular web software, great interfaces and a keen eye for details.

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?
Personally, I'm a business manager that fell in love with graphic and interface design. A decade ago I became a lone Internet evangelist among a horde of video and print professionals: after working a while in television, video production and advertising, I came full loop to open a web-oriented studio. My partner in crime, Joe Flumerfelt, is a graphic design graduate who spent time working in video games, design, video, 3D and finally fell in love with web and software programming. Everybody in our studio shares a passion for typography, electronic music, video games, fashion, architecture and the hardcore... so you can imagine the vibe.

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?
We go through 1000-1500 bits of news everyday (anything from RSS feeds, forums, messengers etc.), and share all relevant links among ourselves. As for motivation: we have used chocolate quite successfully in the past...

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?
Our ideal client is the client that believes that we are his ideal design partner. She’s also 90-60-90, 5’2” and has a great letterpress business card printed on Fabriano paper, all perfectly set in Arno Pro...

Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?
We use a self-developed breed of Agile Development (an iterative methodology for building software on time and on budget, by trimming and prioritizing requirements), which, by definition, makes the client a part of all the major decisions in the project. So, instead of "pitching" the client with great ideas, we make him bear the grunt with us, so that at every step of the way he knows why we took certain decisions. This facilitates decision making and shapes the project along a more organic path: by working “with them” instead of working “for them”, we influence many other aspects of the project, from scope to budgets to deadlines. Just as all of us trust that our client is an expert in his/her field, the client needs to feel confident that he’s working with experts in our field – and while your portfolio can say a lot about you, the unseen part of your offering as a designer is your process. If you have a polished methodology, the battle is half won. The other half is actually coming up with relevant solutions.

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

Because of its sheer size and scope, I'd probably have to say Good Neighbor. Two years ago, we partnered with another company to build and market a platform for “intelligent homes” that uses a combination of web-tools to provide communication, security, administration, e-commerce/services, infotainment and home automation to houses or apartments in residential complexes. This project taught us plenty of valuable lessons in business-strategy, marketing, finance, and not least pushed our project management and technical skills to new levels.

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?
Depends a lot on the size and the specifics of the projects... but I’d say anywhere between 2 and 6.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?

I’m very happy with our current team, so it would probably look quite like it does today.

Q: How do you ensure that your client's best interests are met?

By focusing on meeting the interests of our client’s clients.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?

I think the industry will transform inevitably in a myriad of niches: large design studios will have to split in smaller divisions in order to attend very specific project types, with increasingly more elastic requirements and needs. Many designers and interactive producers will probably be laid off in the process (which is a good thing, since we will have new players bringing on a bolder, fresher and more diverse industry), and the ones that will remain on board will probably have a broad skillset, ranging from actual design to media production to marketing to copywriting. Because of that, designers will become more and more involved in developing not only imagery, but will shape the actual products and services of the client. And because these clients are sitting on huge data-sets (that grow every day), those who will be able to sort out the mess (aka visualization-gurus and process designers) will have pretty nice paychecks etc. Bottom line: the sooner we’ll understand that pretending to be good at everything is bad for your business, the better.

Another trend that has been going on for a while, but will become even clearer in the near future, is that some studios will probably go on and license components, tools and software that they developed in house to third parties, as a way to boost revenues.

Finally, interface design will play an ever increasing role in interactive projects, especially as things move away from mouse and keyboards to gestures, voice, biometrics and location-based services. So you'll probably see us all embracing more work in these fields.

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.

Focus on quality and more work will come your way.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Siga Sus Instintos

Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
My name is Daniel Granatta, i'm from Spain and i work as Technological Creativity Director at Grupo W, an interactive agency located in Saltillo, a small place located in northern Mexico, an hour from Monterrey and the Texan US border. We mostly do interactive campaigns for local and international clients doing both creativity and production and also we work as a production company when required, most often for Goodby, Silverstein and Partners and Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam, which is kind of cool because we learn a lot about new technologies (that in Mexican interactive industry cannot be proposed yet because of technological infrastructure) and methodologies taken in larger companies and adapt it into our own schemes.

We're pretty small (32 people and 6 more coming in the next couple of weeks) and we're trying to remain as that, with people enough to take two or three big projects at a time without wondering if we'll be able to do so. Our main characteristic is that we are insane about detail in each and every one of our projects, so we want to live to that and take care of every work we release, instead of growing so much that we are more worried about money than about quality.

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?
I always had a computer at home. I remember an old Vic20 and a Commodore64, which are now more of a legend than a reality, but they're for real! So when i finished high school i studied Computing Engineering, although it wasn't exaclty what i expected. Then one day i discovered Flash 3 and started doing my things. It was 1998 or so and when Flash 4 was released I started to apply some of the coding knowledge that i had learn at college (i'm still missing three subjects so i didn't finish it)

The thing is that back in those days using Flash was like being challenged all the time because of the limitations it had so i had lots of fun finding out things and tricks to overcome that limitations, and one day i decided to ran my own Flash-design shop. I was more into it because of interactive capabilities instead of animating so I ran it with two friends for 6 years and we did pretty well, we had our clients, our big clients and also we collaborated with some offline agencies that asked us to develop the interactive part of their off campaigns; we even got showcased by Taschen in a couple of books called "90 best agencies" and another one showcasing their own selection of best Flash sites and spoke at a few conferences and seminars, like Adobe's, OFFF and Mad in Spain. So, as we were just three people, we got all involved in the whole production process, from coding and animating to quality check and controlling versions, kind of creepy today thinking about how much stuff we worked out a day. Even in those days i started to write Flash and ActionScript books for spanish market, so i became well known in the Latin community of developers.

Then one day i felt frustrated and started to think that i was doing the same thing as two years before, then i thought that in two years i'd be doing the same thing as that day, so i decided to quit myself and start from scratch. A few months before my good fellas at Grupo W had offered me to join them, they were 11 people then and they were about to be bought by a large company (thanks to God that it didn't happen), so although at first i said no, in the end i moved to Saltillo as interactive director, doing some Flash programming and taking care of the interactive creativity and techniques applied for every project. I remember my first full project there was our beloved Stuntman ( in which i coded the stunt guy, being dragged and all of that kinetic stuff. It was fun and we didn't know yet how successful was that project about to be.

Last October, i quit programming, at least from production projects, and what i do now is about creativity for our campaigns and also studying and learning digital insights, how people surf the net or uses social media apps, so our team can develop creative strategies a kind of R+D process for our present and future projects, involving Flash prototypes, developing FB apps and many other things... in the end 24 hours a day are not enough, but i do really have fun doing that, in fact it's like i always have fun when i change things and start from scratch about what i do.

But as i still love rock'n'roll i'm in charge of every project involving banners when they're needed. Looks like everybody hates banners but i love them, little pieces conceived and developed in a short period of time, so it's more like a rush for me, as the opposite side of doing my R+D stuff.

Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?
Grupo W is an amazing story of constancy, hard work and a bit of good luck. We learn a lot using trial and mistake method, so that's kind of dangerous but also rewarding, when you accomplish things just by pushing your own limits, then discovering that you have new limits to push. It was like that for many years (the company was founded in 1999) but now we have grown and now we have a R+D and strategic departments in which we are all the time looking for what's been done and what's happening, reading RSS feeds, tweet's and trying then to filter all of that information to our mexican context. This is interesting because Mexico has now 30 million of broadband connections, which is a lot in absolut terms, but really small in %, as the country has over 100 million people.

It means that our industry is like two-three years behind US, UK or Sweden, for instance, but then we can use what we learn from studying and working for larger agencies into our local/regional market, what makes us kind of state-of-the-art here in Mexico and Latin America.

We travel a lot too, to every major festival everytime we can, both creative (i.e. Clio) and technical (i.e. Flash in the Can) so in the end each part of the team is updated with the latest news in their respective fields.

Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?

Our favorite client is the one that teaches us what his brand looks like and tries to push the boundaries of it, being humble as to learn from our digital knowledge. It's an exchange in which each part gives the best of it to the other one. The more it happens in equal terms, the more succesful the project is going to be, because then the relationship is non about client-agency, it's about a common goal set by the two parts. In the end, if you join us for a meeting with some of our favorite clients you couldn't say which one in the room is from the agency or from the client.

Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?
The closest the relationship between us and the client is, the easier to work with. One thing that worked out pretty well for us was taking our clients to festivals such as One Show, Clio or Cannes, for them to know what is been doing in the interactive field these days and then expanding their horizons and getting them ready for our proposals. We do not have a manual on how to deal with clients but trust me that nurturing personal relationships is one big giant step.

Another goal to achieve is making them understand that success/failure is relative for a project if we're talking about brand building, because in the end that is such a long road and each failure is a learning to apply in future projects. Also success is relative because it sets high expectations for the next piece or work and this one will be measured not for itself but compared to the older one, even when they are maybe, i don't know, a viral-intended video and a game, which are not comparable under the same terms.

Then, having that bond, things are much more under control, taking each step together and taking the goods and the bads of each project. Then the expectations for the next one are collective, and not just from one side.

On the other hand, when you're not able to build that bond, it's kind of uncertain, as you'll never knew what is really expecting your client even if it's written in a brief document. Then the process becomes more much aseptyc and hard to measure, as the parameters of success or failure are so many that i don't think that everybody remains happy after the whole thing has ended.

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

I have so many memories but the one i liked the most is one in which i didn't take any part on the production thing, but on the strategy one. The project is "Detective Stripes" (, our last release for our client Unilever-Rexona (although i think it's called Degree in the US and Sure in UK)

2008 was a weird year for us because we won so many things because of our Who's Fermin campaign ( but inside we had many turbulences, as we grew up from 14 people to 25 and that adaptation was really difficult both for the new and for the ones already working there. In fact i think that for a short period of time we lost our identity not knowing who we really were, the ones receiving awards or the ones struggling time after time at home. Then fall came and Unilever-Rexona called us to run their new global campaign (our first one!) and we got very excited about that, all the pre-production phase, storyboards, dummies for filming, etc. After the shooting we all checked the stuff we had and then everything and everyone clicked in the same channel, so although there were many sleepless nights, in the end everybody made their best effort to make the project happen and transforming the bad vibe into good vibe, testing the project all the time and suggesting things like what about this, you could take out that, and so on. I believe that it's pretty obvious the collective effort when visiting the released work.

As i said before, i have many memories about Stuntman or another projects less known as Semillero (, a school for creatives in Mexico City, but not as intense as the Stripes' process.

Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?
Due that i'm not a producer in the orthodox way i don't think i can answer the question properly... I enjoy a lot being involved in as many projects as i can, from the creative or the technological side, whatever stage the project is in. When it's banners time then i feel it like if they were different projects even when the campaign is the same, as the specs for each portal is different and technologies such as Eyeblaster are just beginning their operations here in Mexico, so optimizing banners is such a challenge... and even more funny because we're not just in contact with the client, but also with the media agency that buys the spaces in which the banners are placed in.

Then you can count like 4 or 5 projects at a time, being responsible or not about the timings. Fortunately we have various people (Rodrigo, Pit, Alexandra) that are capable of registering the whole production process in their minds so it's very easy for them to identify if we're going fine or if we're going under a red alert. I admire and respect so much what they do.

Q: What does your dream production team look like?

More than particular profiles, i feel comfortable working with people that understands that we all have to learn and walk together in this media, because nobody knows shit. That means that everybody should be committed to get the best out of them and don't be scared about proposing new things or complain and let the producer know if they feel that something is not going in the right direction. Transparent people, i think, i'm really lucky to have met a lot of cool people here at Grupo W, all of us kind of weird in a sense, but transparent them all.

Q: How do you ensure that your client's best interests are met?
Indeed we are so hard between us before releasing anything just to try to meet client's best interests, even from the idea and many times also after the execution, sometimes we've been polishing a project during two or three weeks after the release of it.

When being a producer it's like being a digital Mata-Hari sometimes (working for two bands) and it's hard because you're being shot from both sides, haha, so in the end and in front of the client i prefer giving credit to the team when things go well and take the blame if they're not so well, as it's easier then for the client to channelize their worries and i can modulate them into the different areas of the production.

Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?
It's amazing the way that social media has reached our lives. A couple of days ago i was writing at that in my opinion, the microsite format, as we all know about it nowadays is coming to an end because it reminds me of an expensive interactive version of the old TV spot format. Formerly, people watched TV ads and then they went to the related site, now this kind of site is not enough. Not the information has changed, it's just that there's a lot much more of information flowing, and campaigns running succesful are not using single microsites as a dead end, but as an intermediate level into social media or into another actions from the same brand. In fact, it looks like the Facebook app became the new microsite, as it is easier to share while inside of a social network.

I found out particularly interesting too that the success of many collaborative campaigns is obviously in a deep relationship with the way in which users embrace technology as a habit. That is maybe the reason of why US and specially Japanese campaigns engage people in such an outstanding way, and makes me think of the face that many brand managers would show if we'd propose such things here in Mexico, for instance, haha.

And finally, there's a LOT of cool stuff already done for mobile devices; it was often said that mobile connectivity was the future but apps weren't worth of that quote. But now, and not because of the content available as a content itself, but because of the content that allows the device to become more of a tool or an interface to get people involved, i think that mobile is now a driving force for interactive experiences.

Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
I wish i had more wisdom (if any) to share but here in Grupo W we try to follow our instincts when working, even if it sounds weird or unrealistic for other people, trying always to push our boundaries even when we're not supposed to. Last year we were ranked 4th interactive agency in the world by Gunn Report, and i think being dreamers instead of realists helped a lot, so as to finish i would say something like "realism is the most refined way of cowardice"... sounds really deep huh? But my advice is that you don't be afraid of struggling, there is a lesson in everything, and someday struggles becomes success as the most natural thing in the world.