I try to cut through the BS by putting myself in the shoes of the site visitor.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
My name is Dustin Callif. I live in Los Angeles with my wife and 2 year old son.
I am currently the Head of Digital Content at Tool of North America. We’re a production company specializing in commercial and digital productions. I’ve been charged with overseeing our non-linear, interactive, live-action productions.
I’ve been involved with interactive advertising for the past 10 years. I started by develop some of the first online episodic content and advertising with Digital Entertainment Network (DEN) and EZFlix. I then went on to co-own a full-service interactive agency called Spacedog, running that for 8 years before selling the agency.
What do you do for inspiration?
Read as much as possible. There are amazing things happening every day across multiple disciplines: art, interactive, science, architecture, video games, etc. Often times I find an idea from another discipline can be applied to the world of interactive advertising to create something amazing.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
Full disclosure: Tool produced the CWK project. Yes, self promotion. Had to do it.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
I look forward to accomplishing that.
What software could you not live without?
I can’t imagine life without email, so Mac Mail.
What projects do you have in the pipeline?
We’re working on a really interesting interactive live-action project with Fancy in San Francisco. It’s right up our alley as it gives us the opportunity to tell a brand story through interactive, live-action storytelling.
Who do you rate as being the top 3 design companies?
These are what I consider to be top interactive design firms:
What effect on traffic do your new designs have?
Hopefully a positive effect. If we can get someone to leave a site thinking “that was a smart or fun experience”, we’ve done our job. I try to cut through the BS by putting myself in the shoes of the site visitor – if they are not going to get something valuable out of the time they’ve spent, then it’s not worth it.
Always looking at it from a time perspective, if there isn’t immediate gratification, then it’s probably not worth it. We can create the most amazing world, but if it takes several minutes to load and there is load time between each page, 99% of people are off the site in under a minute.
Who is your target audience?
Depends on the project. Overall, it’s typically someone who is looking to be entertained.
What area of web design lacks the most?
Creating truly interactive, live action experiences. I still feel that most online video is of the play, pause, press fast forward type. It’s an interactive medium and we as visual and interactive storytellers have a huge opportunity to deliver impactful experiences for brands and their consumers.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
First project was a CD-ROM for Earthlink. I believe the first site I produced was for Interscope Records. It was for Fred Durst’s record label, Flawless Records. It’s not up any more…not even on the Wayback Machine. I dug up the design and the site still looks pretty good if I must say so myself.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
No. I’m not ready to share my secrets just yet.
What was the toughest thing you ever did with Flash? How long did you spend on it? Is it still online?
It’s probably the Cold War Kids Interactive Music Video - FWA SOTD on June 28th. There was a lot of prototyping and concepting with our Director and Flash Developer to enable 4 videos to be streamed and synced simultaneously.
The tough part was doing this all in real time and keeping the overall file size low so people can experience this immediately without a long load time. It was close to 2-3 months of development.
Do you think Flash is here to stay?
Currently, it’s one of the most important creative tools we have for producing interactive campaigns. If it ever goes away, it’ll only mean that we have a better tool and I would welcome that.
What are your views on design/graphic school. Do you think someone can get into the field without educational experience in a school environment?
Absolutely. But it takes a self-starter who can soak things up like a sponge and immerse themselves in the software and best practices.
When your company was just getting started, what did you find was most effective for getting new clients?
Even though Tool has been around for close to 14 years, the digital practice is relatively new.
We have an amazingly talented roster of directors who have already shot/produced some groundbreaking interactive campaigns. Building on the Tool digital portfolio, the creative opportunity always comes first. Doing great creative work will trump anything. If you can make it great, you’ll get new clients.
How have you learned so many Flash/design skills and techniques and can you offer any advice for newbies?
Unfortunately, I’m just a producer so I don’t have any Flash skills.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
A pair of bikes for my wife and I. Now we can go cruising along the beach with our son.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
No need for an overcoat in Los Angeles.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
Have fun and try to keep the sense of joy and tireless drive that you had when first entering the industry.