Code and Theory is a big player in the digital agency world. It has a team with over 500 strategists, technologists, designers, analysts, and content creators in offices across New York, San Francisco, London, Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Manila.
We had a chance to talk to Senior Creative Technologist, Danny Lee to find out more about the company’s discovery process and the use of technology for its projects.
Danny has been designing and building interactive experiences for over a decade. His peers describe him as a nice and quiet developer guy that brings with him the strength of a giant super efficient destroyer of problems and roadblocks.
Clearly brave and with a flare for experimentation, the Brooklyn-based developer, would be happy to be a pilot or a chef, if he wasn’t a developer.
What is your definition of creativity?
Creativity is a thought process that allows us to think past a relative norm. It is a process that allows us to think outside of normalized perceptions of what we know and/or have.
In a broader context, creativity is a means to innovate and express just about anything based on our own contextual knowledge and experiences through imagination, analysis and experimentation.
What is your favorite discovery process when you land a new project?
I believe that creativity comes from ideation and iteration. “Make. Break. Iterate.”
For discovery, I like to have a period of detachment, where I take the brief/concept and then brainstorm with only things that are peripheral and which might have nothing to do with the end goal.
I also like to start considering the medium for what we are going to be building or designing. For example, when I am working on a project that requires true creative coding and procedural process development using x, y and z technologies, I tend to find myself visiting the Metropolitan Museum, Cooper Hewitt, or the Whitney to get inspired.
How do you carry out user research?
To begin, I tend to read a lot of relevant articles and tap into our network of people who are experts in their crafts. The idea brief or the concept usually entails target intelligence, so that’s a great place to get a frame of reference in what we are going to be creating and/or building and for who our audience is.
I also tend to rely on our past learning’s and experiences, along with overall industry knowledge to start to understand the groups of users that would potentially be using our product or experience. Depending on the scale of the project, I have worked with dedicated user insight research experts in agency, as well as those on the client side.
At what point do you decide what technologies you will use on a project?
Once we have enough overall knowledge of the project, as well as an understanding of what the client goals are, what our creative aspirations are, and most importantly, where and what requirements are expected of the experience, that’s when we will start to consider technology types.
Does your agency have a particular building process? Can you please describe it?
We have varying build processes that are dependent on the type of project, who the client is and the scale of the project. Some projects require full life cycle agile processes, some have very rigid waterfall processes, and some have very fluid collaborative processes that helps fulfill the needs for the projects demands.
How difficult is it to convince clients they should use the technologies you recommend?
With regard to my experiences at Code & Theory, we have a great relationship with our clients when it comes to tech vetting.
If there are no business-mandated requirements, or physical limitations that prevent us from using X or Y technology, our clients are very open to us using the technologies that we think would work the best for an intended experience. With that said, if we are working on a project that has bleeding edge technology requirements, I like to build out prototypes, test and consider feasibility and then take all that research and knowledge (along with a working prototype) to the client and show them a tactile object, more so than only telling them that X technology is the best for this use-case for reasons a, b, or c.
Transparency and informed knowledge are crucial when it comes to determining technology use, and then convincing others.
What challenges do you face today in your agency in this respect?
We have some projects that have very short timelines, and many times, these projects require a technology that might take longer to prepare and build with.
As a means for us to make the best work possible with these technologies, we try to be proactive about experimenting, prototyping, documenting and archiving tech stacks, processes and learnings from previous client and internal projects.
How do you explain what you do for a living to a child?
I make fun things out of cool technologies!
Where do you live? What makes your city special?
Brooklyn. It’s quiet but not too quiet.
Where do you go if you want to get inspired?
Museums. Art exhibits. Concerts. The Interwebz.
Where do you relax?
On the ice. I try to play ice hockey 2-3 times a week, and oddly, it’s the best form of relaxation for me.