Monday, January 31, 2011

The Birth of a Self-Promotional Campaign

BFG wanted to let potential new hires, clients and potential clients know just how much WE ROCK! so the natural thing to do was reference some classic Spinal Tap and make a simple promotional piece that people could forward on to their friends. It was a two-week creative process and an absolute blast to work on. Here's the play-by-play that led up to the final piece:

Our artist's rendition of the concept
The Mockup
 After some initial brainstorming with writers, art directors, creative directors, programmers and designers, we came up with this crazy idea of a speaker that exploded with all sorts of quirky stuff after hitting 11. The subject matter would be fun, weird little iconic pieces that represented BFG's personality and character, as well as some Internet trends. Art Director Adam Sidwell, our resident sketch artist, came up with this visual.

Designing for Interactive
After receiving this artwork, it fell on myself and a writer to make it come alive on the web and to make it practical for an interactive deliverable set to go out in a matter of only two weeks. We considered things like viewable area, file size, preloading and the realities of pursuing our level of quality with the time challenges we were up against. There was also an email to go out that promoted this piece.
Photoshop and Illustrator work together
in furnishing a "3D rendered" look

We quickly took up the artists concept and started an initial design of it in Photoshop. There was no 3D rendering involved here, just a guy with a Wacom tablet, namely, me. The BFG "look" employs a lot of grunge but Sr. Interactive Art Director Cyril Guichard's strategy was to start clean and apply that later. To the right was the first comp. My directions were to create something as close to a 3D rendered look as possible, and my tools of choice were Photoshop and Illustrator. Notice the two batteries as our power source. Later on that came to change.

The Writing
Behind the scenes Associate Creative Director Alan Whitley was hacking away at the verbiage that would accompany this piece. This was as much his brain child as it was Cyril's, and it had to work. It had to express who we were succinctly. It also had to be done before any design was undertaken, as the copy was to be hand-drawn and scanned in. It's all part of Josh Weston's very organic style which he will go to great lengths to pursue, and for which I've developed a new appreciation. Josh, BTW, is our newly hired Interactive Art Director.

Experimentation and Revisions
As we moved forward with the design, several good ideas came up. We played with the lighting, and ultimately came to a conclusion that we'd go with a lighter background. We also felt like that the original batteries just didn't have the juice we needed to power our fictional contraption, so we bulked it up a little. I then airbrushed in some electricity and added the copy.

Cyril liked where things were going but felt things weren't enough in the BFG "World" which is very stylized, so we flattened the foreground elements, revisited the background and added further filters to really kick it up a notch.We then added the sound waves and CTA. The rainbow and cutout elements were our first take on this idea. But the rainbow came across as too colorful for the tone we were trying to set.We went for something more thematically consistent. Oh, and Beshlevin had to go.

Coding, Animation and Sound Design
This is where I took everything from Photoshop, exported the elements, and made them come to life in Flash with a little bit of code, some timeline animation and a heck of a lot of planning. The preloader also had to be designed and created within Flash. Sound design was also a key component and Hue Hughes, our video and sound engineer, came through like a champ with the appropriate sounds to make the speaker system rumble and finally explode at the end.

Final Approval and Email Push
The entire site implementation and email push couldn't have been done without Brendan Lamarche, our lead Software Development Manager. Brendan works behind the scenes to make sure we are tracking hits to the site, managing the traffic, and pushing our email campaigns out smoothly. Email and word of mouth is really our sole means of driving traffic to this piece, so Cyril designed an email to go out with a little copy "This is the year to really crank it up" and this simple image.Go ahead, click it!