For our final session on industry perspectives, we were joined by Ben Templeton of Thoughtden and Preloaded on Monday 16th of March.
By far one of the most memorable talks, Ben’s session was more of an interactive series and thought exercises via the use of Google polls.
For Ben’s final project, he created a web based 3D map version of Amsterdam, pre-dating the Google maps versions available today. The university were so impressed with his project that they paid him £10k to create a version of Bournemouth University with the same technology. Two years later he was approached by Portsmouth University to do the same again, this time for £16k. This gives my hope that my final project can have a large impact on my working career after university, reinforcing the idea that it is important to spend a lot of time crafting a well polish project. After graduating, Ben started an agency, Thoughtden, which he is still the founder of today.
For the bulk of our session with Ben, he gave us a huge insight into how agencies work behind the scenes through the use of polls in which we all had to live vote on. These polls consisted of budgets, team sizes and total work hours on real projects that Ben has been involved with in the past. This is the first time I have personally be introduced into the inner working of agency pitches and the work that is involved in managing projects and teams. Though I find these things interesting, I really have no desire to become a project manager or equivalent in an agency, and this really reinforced these feelings for me.
On Friday 13th of March, we were joined by Seeper founder Evan Grant. Seeper is an arts and technology collective which employees graphic designers and programmers etc, much like a traditional digital agency.
When describing how it all started, Evan recalls a time in 1995 when he came across a midi file version of a song by No Doubt on the internet. Being blown away by the is, Gavin decided to study media at college. After graduating college in 1998, he applied to Bournemouth University as, like still today, its Digital Media Design (under a different name, New Media Design) had a very good reputation. Unfortunately has application was not successful and joined a similar degree in Lincoln. Part way through the first year, after hearing some people had left the degree at Bournemouth University, Evan reached out to Mik Parsons. After faking a portfolio he was allowed to continue his degree and BU.
At this time BU was teaching CD-ROM design. Seeing the writing on the wall, Evan argued for web technologies but BU insisted on CD-ROM. Evan decided to pursue web technologies anyway and started his own company using a VW Camper as his office with some of his fellow students. At this point, Evan wasn’t attending university much, deeming it more important to follow his passion. The university tried to remove him from the course, but he fought for his place as was able to successfully complete his degree. I admire Evan for defending what he believed for and his belief in pursuing what at the time was a new technology. I hope to be able to do something similar with my final project which uses a lot of new technologies and combining them together.
Eventually, Evan grew tired of screen based technology and decided to pursue his interested in other fields of interactivity. For TED talk in 2010, he designed an installation that consisted of a mutli-touch inflatable ball, which Google saw and asked him to create an updated version featuring Google Maps and YouTube videos from around the world in an attempt to making data physical. Similarly with Fishrod, I really like the concept of bringing the digital world in the physical world.
During the session with Evan, he told us that ages from three to ninety should be able to use and interact with his installations with no instructions. This is a concept I have tried to use in my own project, making it as intuitive as possible. Unfortunately, as I am using Google Glass, I have very little control over how a user interacts with it, but I have made it possible for everything to be controlled by simple, plain English voice commands.
On speaking about career paths, Evan had some advice for us that I found really helpful. He says people are most successful in doing what they are most passionate about. Getting excited about a subject in infectious, this type of positively can flow through other people.
On Monday 2nd of March, Gavin Williams and some of his team from Fishrod Interactive came to visit us.
Gavin graduated in 2010 as mature student like myself, and he founded Fishrod Interactive shortly after graduating with another student. They started off focusing on creating websites and had some big clients such as Fiat and Sky. Not being happy with just websites, Gavin decided he want Fishrod to be different and began to move into experiential marketing, which is creating a whole digital experience for a brand.
These new core services include interactive experiences, iOS and OSX apps, hardware integration web apps and APIs.
Some products I personally found interesting was a social roulette wheel game for the iPad for WWE in Germany. Players had three tries to win items and then come back in one hour and share it on Facebook. Doing this would encourage players to come back and play more and spread the word about the game to their friends. Using the free to play model that has had a lot of success with mobile phone games.
Throneoke was a karaoke game for players to sing a long to the Game of Thrones television theme tune. Fishrod created a piece of OSX software that works like Lips or the vocal part of Rock Band and called in Soundcheck. They have kept the rights to this piece of software and have since recycled it for other projects, such as a karaoke game for the Disney movie Frozen.
For Sky and Westfields (a large shopping centre in London), Fishrod created a news section video for the users. With the use of a green screen, users would be inserted into a news report on the fly catching a cricket ball.
I like the fact that Fishrod work on and retain the rights to their own intellectual property, allowing further development on their own software that can be resold to many different clients. However, I think that by limiting themselves to Apple products only could be detrimental to themselves. Relying solely on one company for your income can be troublesome, especially a company such as Apple which has a reputation of changing things on a whim.
I am very interested in combining digital media with physical items in the real world. Seeing that Fishrod have had success with installations gives me more confidence in my final project, Home Automation for Google Glass.
On Monday 23rd of February we were joined by five alumni from the Digital Media Design degree (previously known as Interactive Media Production) which have all stayed local to work in different agencies.
Tim Stone graduated in 2012 and started working in Zeta after university and has currently worked at Red Web for the last two years as a lead front end developer. Red Web started as a graphic design agency fourteen years ago. It now has over 130 employees and over 50 contractors in London.
Ralph Saunders who graduated in 2013 also works with Tim Stone at Red Web on the same development team, but specialises in front end design. Red Web differs from a lot of agencies as it offers long term support contracts as opposed to finishing a design for a client and then ending the contract.
Frank Clark also graduated in 2012 and currently works at Folk Digital in Branksome as a Technical Consultant (mainly PHP development). Frank has worked for Folk Digital since graduating. Initially, the agency started with twelve employees based above a shop. Currently the agency has expanded to 223 employees and they specialise mostly in Magento framework based commerce sites.
Chris Rogers, also graduated in 2012 currently works at Zeta. After graduating he decided to make his own startup agency with a classmate, which unfortunately failed. Afterwards he joined a financing company named Ratio which is part of the Richmond group at Richmond Hill in Bournemouth as a PHP developer, but due to ethical reasons he decide to leave. His current employer, Zeta, now have fourteen employees an open plan office in Poole. Chris started as a front end developer, but now also does iOS, Android and back end development.
Will Squire graduated in 2014 and started working in house for a property company after leaving university. He now works for an agency that also specialises in property as a senior developer specialising in PHP working with frameworks such as Drupal, WordPress and Symphony. Two evenings a week, Will also teaches workshops for current Digital Media Design students at Bournemouth University.
A common theme linking all of these alumni together is the fact that they are all developers. In fact this theme seemed to run through most of the industry perspective module. As I consider myself a developer, this is very reassuring to me. But in the current third year, I would say less than one quarter of students consider themselves to be a developer, while the rest are designers. This is probably something the degree needs to address. The panel advised us that knowing a little about a lot of things is very beneficial, completing online courses, such as those Lynda.com offer can give us the edge when applying for jobs. Good writing skills are often overlooked but are also very important, for things such as writing documentation and comments in code. Going to industry events was also highly advised in order to help us to meet potential employers and colleagues. When finally applying for jobs we should aim for high salaries and not put ourselves or our skills down. Digital Media Design students are very valuable and sought after.
On Monday 16th February Roger Allen, the managing director of Zeta came in to talk to use about his company and his journey of how he ended up there. As a managing director, Roger doesn’t run the company, instead he brings and understanding of business to Zeta.
Roger’s long journey started in 1948, the year he was born. He went to a good school, but was not clever enough to get into university, as so he left school in 1966. Before leaving school he went to careers advice and said that he was interested hairdressing and journalism, but was told that these areas were not for boys, and so was forced into applying for the army, though he was not accepted. Instead he started working in a textiles company in Leicester.
At the age of 23, he was working as part of the sales team selling textiles machinery and was given Africa and was ultimately head hunted by an Anglo-American company for a similar role but to sell to the south-east Asian market. While working in this department, Roger received the first orders for a British textile manufacture in India and Pakistan since their independence from the United Kingdom.
Eventually, Roger was fired from his position and returned to retail in Leicester, got divorced and moved south where he bought a bar. He then sold his bar and went back to retail. Until finally he moved to Weymouth in Dorset, where he came into the world of computers. He studied at night school and learnt how to use computers to design conservatories, and went on to own part of a company designing them.
In 1998 Roger was asked to start an IT contractors recruitment agency in the sale team, working here he was able to hone his IT skills even more.
Roger then went on to found Zeta in December 1999, and registered the company in 2000. Zeta is the sixth letter in the Greek alphabet, and he thought the name would be good for e-commerce and e-zines. Six months in, the company was in huge debts, mainly from advertising. Roger took over as the managing director and stood behind the debts. Zeta then began offering websites for £99, and as demand started to increase, they increased their prices to £299 and then £499. At this point, making websites was earning Zeta the smallest part of their income.
By 2009, Zeta were turning over good money with a large staff, though 2010 brought in a change of government to the UK. In 2011-12 Zeta experienced a huge down turn, almost collapsing the company resulting in losing some of their most important clients. At the end of 2012, Roger was forced to refinance Zeta. During 2013-2014, Zeta were determined not to lose any more clients. To do this, they decided to over deliver on projects and care more about their clients. Most recently in 2014, Zeta, with the help of previous Bournemouth University students, Zeta restructured themselves for mobile development. Roger is a big believer of business tapping into academia for talent.
While giving advice to the students about leaving education and entering into the industry, Roger had a lot of valuable advice to give which is backed up his many years of experience. He suggests we learn about the realities of the business that we are wishing to enter in to. The business actually pays more national insurance to the government on behalf of the employee than the employee pays. Note taking isn’t something that should end when leaving education, Roger advises to take a lots of notes, and more importantly, to listen. When looking for a job, remember than the public and private sectors are very different. In the public sector, such as governments, every decision they make is heavily scrutinised, and strict ethical standards need to be abided by. However, the private sector apply ethics that suit themselves, some good and some bad. When applying for a job, Roger advises that we never lower our standards to some low standard agencies, we should keep self respect and change jobs if needed.
On Monday 9th February Nick Stocks from Internet Dept came in to talk us about search engine optimisation (SEO).
Nick is the Director of Internet Dept Expert on SEO and online marketing, his website can be found at http://internet-dept.com.
During his talk, Nick gave us some advice on how we can improve the SEO on our own portfolio websites. Google search ranks blogs very highly, and WordPress has good SEO built into it already. When used in conjunction with a free WorpdPress plugin names Yoast, the user can have an even greater control over the SEO their site offers. Another thing Yoast offers is an automatic sitemap creation tool. A sitemap is an xml file that can be submitted to Google to help the site index easier and faster.
A sitemap can be submitted to Google via another tool that Nick recommended, Google Webmaster Tools. This service shows webmasters how visitors reached their website or what the user had searched for in order to find their website.
For a while I had been planning to remake my portfolio site because the design had not changed since I first created it in the first year. Taking in all of Nick’s advice, I decided to create a WordPress theme for my site and install the Yoast plugin. Since using the recommended tools I have had some success in Google, for example if you search for something in my portfolio page, such as Pi IP Cam tweeter or Driver Timer Pebble app my website shows up on the first page of Google.