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Professional Studies - 5: The Client Factor

Our last lecture on this unit was by Richard Wallis, where he focused on the client factor in our digital environment. He started by saying no matter what area we end up going into after we leave our course, "the client is everybody's business" (Wallis 2012) and it is important to understand how to work with them and their significant role in the commissioning and production process. The lecture was broken up into three sections looking at the client in a changing media landscape, how to identify and win a client and once you have the client on board how to manage and look after them.

Richard started explaining what a client is and the key relationship between them and the audience/user and the producer/agency. He then explained to understand a client we need to recognise trends so we can ultimately create something engaging, current and a solution that makes the client happy. Technology convergence is an example of this where it is changing cultural perceptions. This is the process where existing technologies merge into new forms that then bring together different types of media and applications. For example, SMS wasn't new when text messages were invented it was just re-modelled. This suggests that technology is changing and rather than lots of devices achieving a single task, devices can now be used to do multiple things. It is also important to note that ideas can now be cross platform - such as on the TV and your mobile. Understanding these trends allow us as media producers to target these new platforms and engage users in new and advancing ways. This is a common theme that I have seen throughout this unit, where guest speakers have highlighted using new platforms and to be ahead of the game by trying out new ideas.

Richard then talked us through how to win a client, and that it is important to target the right kind of client in the first place. This involves deciding on the right market, researching and then understanding it, knowing exactly who you are aiming the product at and most importantly having a good idea in the first place that is a great solution to the brief. This is so that the right kind of client comes to you and you know what they are wanting. He created a check-list for when we make a new solution:

B - Benefit-ability (make sure it solves the problem and achieves something)
U - Usability (easy to use)
M - Measurability (important and stands out)

S - Sociability (can be easily shared and recommended to friends)
H - Hook-ability (makes people want to come back)
E - Enculture-ability (it is relevant to targeted audience/culture)
R - Reliability (it works)
I - Incomparability (it is best at what it does)
F - Flexibility (it can work on multiple platforms)
F - Find-ability (easy to find)

(Wallis 2012)

With this in mind, Richard then explained some of the key elements to include in an ideal pitch, such as a short summary at the beginning, explaining the user experience, how it works, the look and feel and also how it is different from everything else (USP). Richard finished off the lecture by highlighting the most common breakdowns in client-producer relationships. These include, missing deadlines, spiralling costs, failed expectations and poor communication. He emphasised that this reduces trust and will result in you loosing the client.

These important factors along with the check-list above will help me throughout the rest of my course when I have to pitch my idea to the rest of the group, but also later in my career. I can also take these pointers and improve the quality of my design agency (8bit Lemon), when describing solutions to the client and also to ensure I keep them happy.

Professional Studies - 4:

Evan Grant talked about his successful company that he had started up during an earlier version of my course in 1998 and how it has developed and grown since. Seeper was originally a design agency that focused on web design and graphics that he ran from his hall of residence flat. However, he soon realised it needed to be different and that he also had a passion for art. With this in mind, he decided to develop Seeper into an arts and technology collective that had a specific niche. Rather than creating solutions that followed the traditional concepts of being on screen and used interaction through the keyboard and mouse, Evan realised he could "create art outside of the screen which was more natural." Seeper's aims were now to "create and capture the essence of experience" through new technologies and real world interactive installations.

To begin with, he wanted to focus on 'touch' outside of the screen interface. He created a spherical screen that allowed you to touch and play with shapes. At first this was simply a toy that you could play with, but was then developed into a live YouTube location visualisation of recent video uploads and their geographical location. This allowed you to see information in a new and maybe more realistic format. A few years later, Seeper started to try out new technology and take installation art to another new level. Evan started playing with Gesture and the movements of our body. His team created a piece of interactive art that produced sounds according to the user's movements. There were four screens, which each focused on a type of sound, such as bass, drums, instrumental and strings. This idea played on people's vanity of seeing their shadow reflected onto these projection screens and also the fact they could create music using their movement.

Seeper has continued to try out new techniques and technologies to impress their clients and engage users in different ways. As Evan explained, projection mapping has most recently become a new platform for large clients and is a great method of wide scale advertising. It is all about "what captures the magic and how you can get people in the zone. Projection mapping helps to capture a child like sense of fun" (Grant 2012) and is perfect for attracting users attention across a large area. An example of this is a projection show celebrating the Asia winter games in early 2011. The building comes to life and animates with bright colour along to a soundtrack.

I found this lecture to be particularly inspirational as Evan showed how he has built up a successful company. I can relate to this, as I too have set up a digital design agency with other course members (8bit Lemon) and it has been useful to hear from him how he has managed to succeed, but also how you have to be different and try new platforms. He explained that you do not have to create work just for clients; you "can spread ideas and publish the work online" (Grant 2012). This means, "rather than working within restrictions from a client you have the freedom to create what you want and let them come to you." (Grant 2012) This allows you to build up a great reputation and the clients that do approach you will relate to the work you have created, knowing that you want to try out new ideas. I can take these thoughts and try out new ideas in 8bit Lemon or in future projects on my course.

Professional Studies - 3: Copyright

Our third lecture was based around copyright and how different types of data can be protected along with its benefits and problems. Kris Erickson began by explaining the core concepts of intellectual property, where you can protect work through trademarks, patents, and copyright and that each of these protections can be used for different purposes. For example, a patent is used to protect an invention and can last 20 years, whereas a trademark is registered to protect signs/logos associated with a brand or service and only lasts 10 years. Also, copyright's key attribute is to protect originality and artistic work such as software. He also mentioned that there are secondary senses of owning intellectual property, such as buying a domain name, having a certain 'look and feel' for a website or having the 'know how' of a particular skill or profession. However, as Kris explains, "copyright protects the expression rather than the idea" (Erickson 2012) and this is how mechanics and similar products are able to exist. For example, in a shooting game, "hiding behind cover cannot be protected, it is the source code which can" (Erickson 2012).

Copyright can help protect the work that I create as a digital practitioner, but as Kris mentions, it is also important to watermark your work and write 'confidential information' in the corner of my portfolio. This then allows me to show my work at a job interview without the worry of it being copied. As an extra precaution I could even keep a copy of the work in an envelope that I have sent to myself, as this would have a date stamp on it.

Even though copyright can be great for protecting your own work, you also have to be careful not to infringe other people when creating something new. Often multiple copyrights can exist in a single piece of intellectual property. When looking at a film as an example, you have to check the script, music, performances and any other archived footage that you want to use in your work. This helps to keep content safe from being copied, but at the same time can act as a hindrance when trying to produce new content. If you want to include a particular song or video in your movie you would have to find out if it is in the public domain. This means looking into who created the content and to see if 70 years has passed since the creator died. This can be a lengthy process and as Bartolomeo Meletti explained, there are some problems associated with copyright. Firstly, it is territorial, meaning that something in the public domain in the US might not be in the UK, as there are different rules in different countries. Also, many works are named 'orphan' material, where no one knows whom the creator is, or they cannot be found. This could be a photograph in a newspaper where the photographer was not published.

From this lecture I have learned the various types of intellectual property, and the benefits and consequences of copyright in particular. It can be useful as it protects my creative work and software, but at the same time creates more work when trying to find material that is in the public domain. There are also some websites on the Internet that I may use in the future, such as that try and help solve this problem by providing downloadable royalty free music that I could use in a new project.

Professional Studies - 2: Stages Of Production

Today we had a second lecture for our professional studies unit by a freelance digital producer Joanna Lush. She began by introducing herself and showed to the group some of the previous design agencies she had worked with, such as Chemistry and Toast. It was nice to see how she had changed her interests as she moved from job to job and how each job role affected her choices in the creative industry.

She then explained how agencies work and that there are lots of people that all work together but are focused on specific parts of the project at different stages in its development. For example, there is the account management team who look after the client, helping to steer their needs and look after the overall running of the project, and the creative team who do all the designs. However, as Joanna explained, I was not aware that there was as many job roles and tasks involved before the production stage of the project. Business and Technical Analytics, as an example, "scope the solution and find out what it needs to do and how it should work" (Lush 2012). A user may need to login on a certain page and details would need to be checked against a database, or the process on how a user may need to reset their password.

I also found the stages of development in a project very interesting where Joanna highlighted the 'Waterfall' approach, which "is like building a house. You can't draw the plans until you know what you want" (Lush 2012). This is where you first start by defining the problem, identifying the strategic requirements, how long you have and the budget. Also two phrases she introduced to us were to define the ROI (return on investment needed) and the KPI's (key performance indicators). This helps to plan the project successfully and how to check the project is achieving its aims such as increasing awareness or getting enough hits/visits.

The problem with this approach is that each section of the project has a set time and will affect the next stage if it is delayed. For example, if production takes longer than planned then the testing time would be reduced. However, Joanna explained that it is important to plan spare time at the end of the project to overcome this problem and so you don't miss your final deadline. An alternative approach that I found useful was the 'Agile Development' method that is essentially smaller divided up timelines of different sections within the project, such as working on the home page first. Once this section has been made and tested you can move onto the next page and test that section. This avoids leaving testing to the last minute, allowing you to create a more successful overall product.

To summarise this lecture, I have found out the working procedures of a design agency, the various job roles involved and also how important it is to work in a team to get the job done. It is also vital to test a product and I might try the 'Agile' approach with the coding of my next project.