Planning interactive experiences

The other day I was checking out Russell Davies’ (Davies’s?) blog. I don’t know Russell personally… only through his blog. So I’m making some assumptions about who he is and what he believes, but he seems to be a smart, interesting and thought-provoking kind of guy. He does a weekly conversation at a coffee shop/tea shop/place, but he lives in London, so I don’t know when I’d have the opportunity to attend… will have to wait for him to come to Portland.

Russell is a “planner.” Not coming from the advertising world, I’ve made some assumptions on what a “planner” is; if someone reading this is a planner, please help me out here. A planner appears to be a person who works with a client to understand what challenges they want to overcome and/or what objectives/goals they want to achieve, come up with ideas for how to do this, and then figure out how to best implement these ideas. Sounds kind of like the role our Art Directors fill, but with more of the tactical aspects of our project managers. Or maybe its not like that at all.

At any rate, Russell had a post about a presentation he recently gave. I found it to be interesting stuff. The thing that really stuck with me was the idea of process: how we get from the client challenges to the end results. He first theorizes that people spend a lot of time in strategy, without thinking much about the specific creative/marketing delivery/thinking. But what he shows from a “this is the real way to make great ideas happen” standpoint is very different. “Something that people actually want to engage with.”

Now he’s talking about brand communications in general, and a wide variety of ways to translate that (broadcast TV, interactive, print, viral, etc.). But we can take this same thinking and apply it to specific communication paths as well, like interactive experiences (hence the title of this post). I think traditionally, interactive agencies have thought about the strategy for a website, or a CD-ROM, or some other interactive piece, having the strategists and information architects think about the project and how to execute on it from a technological slant. Then they take this strategy to the creative/programming teams to figure out how it will look and how it will be built. But why? Why think about strategy from a content/architecture standpoint when you can also think about strategy from a brand standpoint, and strategy from a technology standpoint? Yes, I know, creative and programming are involved at the beginning in discussions and meetings, but what if people didn’t have titles such as “lead developer” and “information architect” and instead were just people bringing ideas to the table?

Russell says it will be “chaotic, wasteful and unpredicatble.” I agree, and in the best possible way. The interative agencies that will succeed, the ones with the great, big ideas and implementations, are going to be the ones that don’t follow the linear path, but get on the “chaotic, unpredictable” path (I took out wasteful, because there is never something that’s wasteful, only ideas that don’t apply to that specific task at hand, which some might find wasteful but that’s up for another discussion). Oh sure, there will be plenty of interactive agencies that go from Point A to Point Z and build a perfectly fine website. But why settle for “perfectly fine?”

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