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.Net Article

I was asked to write a little advice piece for .Net Magazine this month. Here it is…

Screen shot 2009-12-08 at 14.50.15

And in legible form…

The Importance of the Pencil

No, not the Yellow ones that the D&AD gives out for flashy goodness. The ones that have lead in them and are available from all good stationers. Really? Why would you possibly need a pencil when you have Illustrator, Photoshop and all its fabulous filters? It ends up on a screen so why not start on one, right?

Wrong. Architects conceive whole buildings on napkins and receipts before thinking about CAD, Fashion Designers wouldn’t dream of lifting a needle and thread before repeatedly sketching out and refining their designs on paper and Film Makers plot out whole movies in storyboard form before turning on a camera. So why do so many web designers think they can bypass an essential, time honoured, problem solving technique and reach straight for the mouse?

At Franki&Jonny there are two things that have to happen before a site can be ‘designed’ (in the sense of moving onto a computer). A brainstorm, strictly away from the mac, where tech, design and admin come together to discuss the purpose of the site, the user journey and the ‘big idea’ should there be one – essentially refining the brief. Then there is a visualisation stage that involves scribbling, sketching, pinning up references – ‘feeling’ the site and the users’ journey in a physical way. We also rarely reference other websites at this stage (no macs, remember?), preferring to create mood boards, referencing art, illustration, shoes or cheese – whatever inspires us at that point. Typography, colour, mood, form should all start in the real world and keep a good designer in the realm of original thought.

All the templates, effects and filter options lurking within the walls of Adobe software can give the designer the impression that the answers to their problems are just a few clicks away. However, the computer is a tool. It does not solve problems for you and, more often than not without a clear vision at the outset, it will create them. We have all been there; pushing text and image boxes around a screen like a picky child trying to somehow make his dinner disappear without eating it. The solution is to step away – draw it out, cut it out, rip it out. Do whatever you have to do to figure out your direction before returning to the glare of the screen.



Posthumous Technology

Yesterday I met with the guys from TYO Interactive Design. We took over the upstairs meeting room and had a lovely mutual show and tell over some iced coffee. In the meeting were Takashi Sugimoto, (Senior Administrator) – who very kindly organised the afternoon, Issaku Masuda (Creative Director), Yukiya Shimba (Creative Director), Yuko Nishimura (Art Director), Natsuko Nodomi (Designer),  Kurumi Honda (Designer), Junichi Saito (Project Manager) and Captain Kero.

TYO-ID are a team of 35, with 15 creatives and about 4 Flash developers. In general they work as a team of rostered digital agencies for the 2 largest advertising groups in Japan – Dentsu and Hakuhodo. Their clients include Pepsi Nex, Mercedes, and Sony. They also work directly with clients such as H&M and NHK – Japan’s national broadcaster – Captain Kero is a regional reporter created by TYO (the client didn’t ask for a character but they got one as a labour of love thrown in with the project, “Kero” is the sound a frog makes in Japanese). We very quickly got around to mobile technology (Japanese phones have Flash.. listen up iPhone) and I learned that while the agencies themselves are not pushing these technologies as there is more profit in traditional platforms the clients are driving the demand. We all talked of a utopian world where campaigns were integrated across all media but here, like everywhere, it doesn’t often happen.

We also discussed free pitching (only when direct to client and not very often – it’s a competitive market in Japan but there is generally enough work to go round to avoid it), working hours (11am to 9 or 10pm ), Awards (Cannes Lions and Tokyo Interactive Awards are the big ones here), CMSs (The nature of the promotional sites that they do doesn’t often call for it but they have plugged into clients existing systems and are increasingly using Flash Air and Moveable Type.)

It was a really interesting and enjoyable afternoon, spent with a group of people clearly excited by the work they do and the people they do it with. My favourite discovery of the day was that the Japanese have so embraced QR codes (the better-than-barcode things you can scan with your phone to get more info about something) that people have taken to putting them on their gravestones… How. Good. Is. That?

Brainstorms are good but the people in them must actually have brains

The W+K Reception - an idea for F+J.. Naked portraits of the staff?

The W+K Reception - an idea for F+J.. Naked portraits of the staff?

Today I met Shingo Ohno he said that. I will be saying it again. Quite a lot. He is a Creative Director at W+K Tokyo. He does some great work for clients including Google WHO, by the way, are the SECOND most popular search engine in Japan. Yes that’s right. The Japanese prefer to “Yahoo-whack” which is surprising to say the least. I also learned that the Japanese phone systems here use a smart card system called FeliCa which means you can use your phone as, amongst other things, a subway pass and an internet credit card. This offers lots of interesting opportunities for print ads effectively driving to URLs as you can literally walk up to a poster and touch your phone on it to visit a site.

Shingo is also a bit famous for holding a world tour from his bedroom using Ustream. A problem borne out of having too many international friends and not being able to settle on a single time for them all to see him play he ran a program of events at different times for Europe, the US and Japan.. theming each gig and even selling T-shirts. What a dude.

On a culinary note (I have decided this blog will have a ‘today I have mostly been eating..’ string to it) we had a delicious lunch involving steamed, thinly sliced pieces of pork, cabbage and beansprouts with a sour dip, chives, a green paste that was made out of a special kind of lime on the side, pickled fish, an orange root vegetable that was sort of candied and rice. It was fabulous. Thank you Shingo. You rock (from your bedroom, mostly).

Hello

I'm Franki Goodwin - freelance Creative Director and Digital Strategist. This blog was started whilst on sabbatical in Australia and Japan in 2009 and is now my day to day professional ramblings, drawings and interesting-ish happenings. A selection of my work is also showcased below. franki@frankigoodwin.com