Brands' demands

As brands continue to demand that an agency will revolutionize the way their company or product is represented on the Internet, the responsibility for cooking up the next big ideas falls on the entire agency team.

In many cases, I have witnessed the cooking up or brainstorming session attendees being strictly project managers, creative directors and content folks.

Rarely is the developer or multimedia manager circled into the session. Many times this may be because of the developers’ personality type and past attendance record.

Flash developers have varied strengths and skill sets in reference to the flash medium.

Understand your "type"

Understanding your developer “type” can assist in office dynamics as well as the end- product for your client.

The way I see it there are 3 types of flash content creators:

1. Technical Oriented Developer "Code Head"

This developer tends to focus solely on the technical implementation and can lose sight of the importance of the emotional and visual impact of the project.

They shy away from design and concepting meetings/collaboration. Their first true viewing of the site comes when they see their task on the Gantt chart. Mantra: Efficient code and low bandwidth.

2. Design Oriented Developer

This developer tends not to look at technical elements as they relate to the project and solely focus on the visual and emotional impact of the work.

This developer type has more of a design background, and have added animation and light scripting to their skill set.

They generally attend design/concepting meetings – but may not realize the impact of a design decision has on the technical limitations/requirements of the project.

3. Hybrid Developer

This developer can’t necessarily design his or herself out of a wet paper bag. However, they have an eye for design and properly combine the talents of a visual and technical developer mindset.

This developer generally has an excellent rapport and mutual level of respect with designers.

Many technical oriented developers forget that Flash began as primarily an artistic medium with a light scripting language to provide interactivity.

Flash has since become a sophisticated development platform and the roles of developer and designer have become more clearly defined.

The role that a developer takes needs to move more toward the “hybrid developer” in order to meet the needs of the changing industry and client creativity demands.

With the industry demand for multi-talented flash developers – picking up tips on how to improve your skills without education or training can assist your marketability.

If I had a dime for every time a developer missed a detail pertaining to visuals of a site… well I might be writing from my private island somewhere.

Here's one you’ve heard before

Issue: “pixel fonts”

Back in the days before “advanced” text control was introduced with Flash 8, designers often used pixel fonts that would render very crisp characters.

There were a couple rules, though

1. The font size had to be 8px.

2. The textfield had to be “on pixel” (which meant the x/y coordinates had to be a whole integer).

When dealing with pixel fonts, technical oriented developers did not take the time to be sure the design was rendered as intended. This was especially prevalent when menus were generated dynamically and moved.

Solution: To match design, that was really needed was to round the coordinate to the nearest whole integer. This seems simple, but you have no idea how many times it was missed by a developer and in turn continued the rift between designer and developer.

The designers felt that this lack of attention to detail proved a lack of investment in their design, or just pure laziness.

Respect each other as creatives

We have all experienced the rift between the designers and developers – as both are sensitive to their talents and hard work. Looking at their passion for the project, the two groups shouldn’t be so challenged to understand each other.

I hear great ideas from developers who are just too nervous to throw them out to the designers for fear of rejection - thus continuing the cycle of this negative/positive relationship.

When I hear the term “creatives” used , it generally is representing the design team. In reality, this term is descriptive of the entire team and agency for that matter.

Without “creative” flash developers – projects wouldn’t spin, flip and twist in that way that you’ve never quite seen before. Ideally a client comes to your agency because they are looking for something “creative.”

As a developer, understand that this will always be more valued than the complex amount of data sources you are bringing in and the data flow diagrams you created to architect the process with the development team.

In the current progressive industry, creative comes only from collaboration with developer and designer.

Making sure that both developer and designer are involved in the project from day one and regularly throughout will ensure project success and reaching the end goal with a little less drama and headache that you commonly experience.

If you are at battle with each other, the client will realize this and be troubled with making sure the site design is visually appealing and functionality is appropriate for their project.

When you step into an agency and see all of these “creatives” gathered in front of a white board – you’ll find a successful and visual stimulating development.

For developers - remember… your talent in solving complex programmatic challenges can translate into a great asset to solve visual interface design issues, and can make the success of the project that much more rewarding.

To create a successful designer and developer relationship, here is a small checklist of things for developers to keep in mind.

Steps to becoming a Hybrid Developer

• Pay attention to the design comps! designers spend hours making things line up and flow. Attention to visual detail is key.

• Try and be creative. You have great ideas. Even looking at FWA gets ideas flowing in your mind - take some creative license in the project.

• Insert yourself early into the project to offer visual suggestions during UI development. Your technical skill should influence design.

• Try to sit near the designers. You should not be e-mailing jpegs across the room when you can just look over someone shoulder.

• Remember it is an interactive project – that means flash and design coming together to create an immersive user experience.

• Look at sites on the web that have won creative awards. Get familiar with motion design. No one expects you to be a brilliant motion graphics artist, but get familiar with concepts such as easing, smooth transitions and so on…

• Share some of the sites you find with designers – they’ll get inspired as well. You don’t always have to reinvent the wheel with a drop down menu. The more you share the better – you can both get focused on a direction and excitement will make the project more of a success.

• Sit in on design review calls. The client has difficulty grasping the project flat and will most likely ask questions that you can assist with during the review.

• If you work better at night, make sure you try to work a few hours of the day that the designers work.

• If the design is not technically feasible - politely let designers know that an idea is not technically possible in the current scope and delivery expectation. Don’t laugh or belittle their idea. Offer an alternative that’s almost just as cool – if not cooler. (telling them “are you kiddin?!” is not the best idea)

• Remember that at the end of the day it is a creative medium.

Have ideas? Please post comments to www.velloff.com and I will add them to the list.

About the Author, Nick Velloff

Nick Velloff – best known for his work as Director of Creative Development at AKQA, viewable at http://www.velloff.com

When not sitting on his couch with his MacBook Pro glued to his hand, Nick enjoys watching HBO miniseries’, biking down PCH, playing poker with friends (in Vegas preferably), traveling with his fiancée, and surviving with 3 hours of sleep (or less).

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