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.


  1. Hey Mircea,

    From your name you seem to be from Romania. So how come you have started a business in Mexico?


  2. Glad to see a fellow countryman here, ha! Indeed, I am Romanian (born in Blaj, raised in Oradea and Bucharest)... Since 2000 I've been living and working in Mexico.