In ten years we won't be typing at our websites. We'll be talking to them. And they'll talk back.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
My name is Dan Fox and I am a VP / Creative Technology Director at CP+B. We moved to Boulder from San Francisco about 10 years ago for my wife's medical residency. At the time we thought we'd move back "home" to San Francisco after she had completed her program. But somehow we got happily stuck here. It's a great town.
After we arrived in Boulder I became a founder and partner of an interactive agency called Texturemedia. In June of 2008 we sold Texturemedia to CP+B. Since then, through some serendipitous twists of fate I have had the opportunity to be the technical director on seven FWA award winning projects. Not a lot of people know this but after six you win a free toaster.
I never figured myself for a career in advertising. After all, I'm really just a software engineer. But it turns out that this is one of the greatest places to be for a curious technologist. This job allows me to work on an incredibly diverse set of project types including mobile, web, social media, and digital out of home. Plus my toast comes out perfectly browned every morning.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
I have two young boys who apparently believe they are indestructible. Keeping them alive on a daily basis feels like an enormous achievement. From a career perspective selling Texturemedia to CP+B in 2008 was a great honor. It was a validation that we were on the right track. It made seven years of tears and sweat worth it.
What software could you not live without?
The modern mobile operating system has changed human behavior more than any other technology development in the last 10 years.
Besides your wedding ring, what other physical artifact do we keep as close to us as our phones? How often are you apart from your mobile device? Do you sleep next to it? Is it the last thing you look at before you go to sleep? Is it the first thing you look at after you wake up? Isn't it in your pocket or on your desk right now? Or maybe you are actually reading this interview on your mobile browser.
The modern mobile operating system has made my phone an indispensable part of my life. I really don't know how I'd manage my life without it.
What area of web design lacks the most?
I still see a lot of sites optimized for the high-bandwidth desktop experience only. The best sites today acknowledge the growing market share of mobile and tablet browsing and respond with designs appropriate to the given device. Although TV browsing hasn't hit a tipping point yet. Hang on because it's coming.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
I told you man. Perfectly browned toast. Every morning.
Are there things you do OUTSIDE of work to ensure that you are in the right mindset to be creative and/or successful in whatever you are doing?
I spend the majority of my time at work trying to discover new ways to connect people to brands through technology. Outside of work I recharge my batteries by driving my family to remote and beautiful places in Colorado in our old camper trailer and completely disconnecting from everything.
What was the last digital effort you saw (or were a part of) that used social media in a way that really made sense. Why?
I hear complaints about the the new Spotify Facebook integration but I really like it. I can browse the playlists my Facebook friends have endorsed right in the Spotify desktop application and also go to a single page on Facebook to check out what everyone's listening to. I know which of my friends have good taste in music so it's been a great way for me to discover a lot of good new tunes from trusted sources. For me it's a social media integration that makes a ton of sense.
Have you been a part of a campaign that was rooted in digital and THEN reached over into other consumer touchpoints? Did this happen organically or was it a part of the plan from the beginning?
CP+B did a campaign for JELL-O called Pudding Face. We created a website for the campaign that took the current mood of Twitter by comparing in real time the amount of smiley face and sad face emoticons being tweeted. When Twitter got sad, the face on the website got sad too and we gave away free pudding to make people happy again. Then someone came up with an idea to put a 20 foot mechanical face on a billboard and power it with the same of Twitter services that powered the website. We put the billboard up in Soho. The face was kind of creepy but the idea was totally fun.
Looking 10 years in to the future, how far can websites go?
In ten years we won't be typing at our websites. We'll be talking to them. And they'll talk back. Spoken language has evolved over thousands of years as the most effective means for humans to communicate with each other. We don't sit across the dinner table and type at each other. We talk. And Siri has shown us how far natural language processing has come in computers. By 2022 natural language processing services will enable our websites to have spoken conversations with users.
Of all the websites or apps you/your company have produced, which one are you most proud of?
I was the technical director on vw.com for about two years. Managing a car site is challenging. It's large and complex and you basically have to remake the entire site every year based on the new model lineups.
But in terms of pure fun I had a blast working on Best Buy Movie Mode. It was the first mobile app designed to be used during a major motion picture. It translated the unintelligible language spoken by the "minions" in the movie Despicable Me. Initially we got a lot of resistance to the idea of encouraging people to bring phones into the theater. But we designed the app to be a good citizen and used it to silence the phone's ringer and dim its screen during the movie. The producers agreed to write a special sequence for us during the end credits and the app woke up at the end and translated for the minions during that sequence. We got to spend time at Skywalker Ranch working on the movie's audio mix which was a huge highlight for a big Star Wars geek like me. I was also named as an inventor on the patent for the work. It was a hugely rewarding project.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Flash is going away sooner than you think. Apple is shunning it on their mobile devices. Adobe has given up on developing new versions of the Flash player for mobile browsers. Microsoft has recently indicated that they will not support Flash in their next version of IE in "Metro" mode.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
I'm not a designer. But I got into a technology career without any formal schooling. I believe if you have a passion for your trade you can find your way into it.
What would be your ultimate vehicle to travel in?
Remember the old people movers at Dulles? I always wanted to take one of those cross country with a bunch of friends. We'd have to take side roads because the fins on top would probably do serious damage to most overpasses. (What were those fins for anyways?) It'd be an awesome moving party. Check it out: http://bit.ly/vf39yy
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
Looking people in the eye and telling them that you were going to do everything you could possibly do to make the job successful. And meaning it.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
My advice to young developers is never to get too committed to one technology. Technology keeps moving and if you become too aligned with one flavor of it you'll become obsolete quickly. Instead you should be committed to a lifetime of learning. Once you get tired of learning it's time to step out of the game.
How do you keep your finger on the pulse of the latest web trends?
I'm fortunate to be surrounded by a lot of very smart people. I carry a notebook with me wherever I go and whenever I hear about something interesting I've never heard of before I write it down. Then I go back to my desk and get smart about it. Of course there are many other ways to keep up but I really love being able to learn from the people around me every day.
What country excites you the most in terms of innovation?
CP+B has an office in Gothenburg, Sweden and I have always been impressed with the people I've met there. They're well-educated, conscientious, fun and very digitally savvy. There is a digital media school in Sweden called Hyper Island. This fall the students from Hyper Island teamed up with the folks in the CP+B Sweden office to spend 72 hours thinking of creative ways to use technology to foster peace in local communities. The concept is awesome and the ideas they came up with are amazing. http://www.72hoursforpeace.se
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
I don't spend a lot of money on things. I prefer to spend on experiences. Last week I bought four airplane tickets to Maui for my family. I'm going to spend 10 days there in March with family and friends.
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
Thank you. This has been fun.