I Saw It On The Internet
If I recall correctly, when I was at art college, one of the main things that gave you kudos wasn’t how good you were at screen-printing or how many pints you could down. It was how obscure your music taste was. If you were listening to a band no one had heard of, went to gigs where there were more people on stage than in the audience and you got hold of those rare CD imports, you were cool.
You got a bit of buzz out of it…
The fewer people who knew about this band before you introduced them to your peers the better. All you needed to qualify your claim and show their potential was usually just their name and who they recently toured with. But finding those bands wasn’t easy. This was before you ‘Googled’ so much, or trusted the clever recommendations by Amazon, and had a Facebook account full of friends and brands, or used last.fm and Spotify to discover music to fulfill your every mood… But you still had a problem even after you discovered these fresh sounds. You soon realised the band was actually boring, they just had one catchy little song that you overplayed, or very quickly everyone else – including your mum – was buying the CD.
A similar motivation happened while I was studying multimedia… full of naive enthusiasm, I’d listen out for what was the cool software and code bases. I’d then spend hours and many sleepless nights learning it, believing in it, creating something with it, and then never use it again. Why? I moved on, technology moved on, it wasn’t quite right, and my needs didn’t match it’s potential or vice versa. At the time I wanted so much to be doing something new or niche, I forgot to question whether or not it was relevant. Its unique obscurity ended up forcing the idea somewhere not quite right – and back to the drawing board. But you learn from this, and grow slightly skeptical. You pick up how to assess, test and play with something for long enough to know if it’s right – and if it isn’t, to move on.
The world and technology has evolved yet every day you still see people forgetting to ask if something is relevant to their needs, just because it is new or ‘bleeding edge’. It’s plastered all over the internet just how cool ‘this’ technology is, so we should use it, right? And there’s the problem. You’re getting caught up in the hype. Just because it appeared in your news feed a hundred different times doesn’t mean it’s relevant to your needs, your audience or your current brief… yet.
The key is collaborative thinking and shared knowledge. Let an idea grow, establish the experience then question what is suitable technology and research it and play with it.
That’s why we need to sense check all these wonderful digital things with discussion, collaboration and hands-on experience – to validate ‘the next big things’ by asking the right questions. First ones being: will this give our audience a great experience? Is it relevant for them and our brand? And swiftly follow that with a ‘why?’ If the answer is simply because the technology is cool, you might find yourself running into problems.
The trap we try to avoid is letting the technology be the idea – rather, the technology should empower an idea, and enable the experience to reach its full potential.
So what’s the moral of this? Don’t trust it ‘til you’ve tried it.
Jonny Goodall is Interactive Creative Director at VCCP