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SXSW2016 - A Year Without Tech


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Our views on SXSW 2016

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SXSW2016 - A Year Without Tech

  1. 1. A Year Without Tech
  2. 2. This year, you didn’t have to wait until the alcohol cleared the bloodstream, the leg cramps from the must-view-session-sprints eased, or the pressure around the waistline caused by inhaling every taco known to Texas had abated, before realizing that this year at SXSW, something was different. Where was the ‘breakout app’ from SXSW? Last year everyone was breathing nitrogen, oxygen, and Meerkat. Where was the awesome breakthrough technology? We’re used to jumping off a wall with the Game of Thrones cast to prove the power of Virtual Reality, but this year it all felt so functional and, well, practical. The desperate need to find big news stories about the imminent transformation of our lives through tech is what irks many observers about SXSW; there’s a perception, which is not entirely inaccurate, that a bunch of hipsters and VC junkies feel they can change the world through the power of their own start-up chops. As with most things in life, there are shades of grey to this. While Meerkat, a live-video app, has failed to take off, its legacy lives on through Facebook Live and live video in general, which is indeed set to be highly impactful for media consumption. Then of course there’s Firechat, a messaging app that serves as a classic case of a one-use app guaranteed to be a one-South-By flameout. But this year was different. As we gathered our crew around for breakfast on the final day, we realized that none of this had taken place. Perhaps we have more important things to worry about, typified by the packed hall that turned out for an audience with Henry Louis Gates and Ken Burns on “Race and America.” This year our SXSW crew included two young moms, an expectant first-time dad, a young designer fresh out of college and our just-married marketing coordinator. As the grizzled veteran approaching his third tour of duty in Austin (with the tequila scars to prove it) I was keen to see how this might change our perspective, or how people with different life perspectives might react to the hype and hullaballoo of the self-appointed tech maven community that can dominate SXSW. As it turned out, something quite different transpired. Instead of chasing round the latest VC-inflated and VC-hopeful start-ups, or queuing in line for the latest headset, the sessions we were all heading towards were about using data to measure inequality and gentrification, technology and children, or the ongoing issues women face in the workplace, not least in STEM sectors. One popular session was “Stop Talking Bullshit,” a passionate plea to use real human language in communication instead of the babel of clichés and catchphrases that bedevil so much of marketing and communications today. Another, the Rise of WhatsApp as a CRM Tool in Brazil, considered how business relationships are moving away from formal channels and on to tools such as Whatsapp, where consumers feel more natural and comfortable. Even Isobar’s session, “Kill The Spam In Omnichannel Experience,” was about our process of user-centered design, where all tech is defined by the end user experience. Altogether, SXSW this year felt like it was more about people than it was tech. It’s not like there wasn’t any tech on display; Virtual Reality was a big player and was fairly ubiquitous around the city. But the way it was being used was mature and functional. Rather than generating excitement, it just seemed like a sensible way to design and walk through a new house, or give kids a bit of fun while waiting in a restaurant. It wasn’t really earth-changing in its scope or capability. And no one seems to mind. I don’t know if this swerve towards human issues is down to a lull in the tech curve, or if the event’s programming has caught on to a larger trend. Perhaps as we strive to make our industry more inclusive, we are making it more thoughtful and enlightened. Perhaps the creative community has indeed decided to lay down the Arduino boards for a while and solve some real problems. Perhaps we are all just growing up a little. Tim Dunn, Director of Strategy BLOG POSTS 01 The Realm of Robots Account Manager, Shawna Ramsey 02 Sucking Less When Presenting Creative Account Lead, Dina Sorser 03 #killthespam in Omnichannel Experience Director of Strategy, Tim Dunn 04 How to Stop Speaking in Bullshit Account Lead, Dina Sorser 05 Whatsapp—the next generation of CRM? Director of Strategy, Tim Dunn 06 SXSW: Screen Time Real Talk Account Lead, Dina Sorser 07 Six Things Every Designer Should Do Right Now Art Director, Jake Silva 08 #confidenceisbeautiful Visual Designer, Steph Wulz Marketing Coordinator, Laura Martin 09 Parenting Tech–Savvy Kids Well Account Manager, Shawna Ramsey 10 Machine Learning Advances Director of Strategy, Tim Dunn A YEAR WITHOUT TECH
  3. 3. One of our favorite sessions was about how to speak like a normal person, rather than constantly using agency jargon and buzzwords: innovative, ideate, disruption. AKA Bullshit. EXAMPLES OF BULLSHIT: Are we targeting thought-leaders or trend-setters? How about thinkfluencers? How do we create more synergy between our brands? Can we leverage mobile moments to plant a seed and enhance the consumer journey? Let’s create an innovative strategic campaign. Can you pull together a deck on that? TIPS FOR CUTTING THROUGH BULLSHIT: • First and foremost, be honest. Really look at your communication and ask yourself if you’re being genuine and true to the company. • Speak with a purpose and have something to say. • Speak like a normal human being – communicate like you would if you were having a casual conversation with your friends. • Don’t be afraid to call others out on their bullshit. • Use humor in the right way – the best jokes are ones that are honest, so don’t be afraid to say what’s on everyone’s minds. • And the golden rule: treat others like you want to be treated – which means don’t make fun of others who are brave enough to communicate honestly. Read more about how to stop speaking in bullshit here. HOW TO STOP SPEAKING IN BULLSHIT FAVORITE SESSIONS DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGY DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGY DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGY DISRUPTIVE TECHNOLOGY HYBRID CLOUD CLOUD BURSTING CLOUD BURSTING INTERNET OF THINGS INTERNET OF THINGS INTERNET OF THINGS VISUALIZATION VISUALIZATION PUBLIC CLOUD STORAGE PUBLIC CLOUD STORAGE PUBLIC CLOUD STORAGE SOFTWARE AS A SERVICE SOFTWARE AS A SERVICE HYBRID CLOUD HYBRID CLOUD BIG DATA BIG DATA BIG DATA BIG DATA BIG DATA
  4. 4. On Monday Isobar ran a two-hour workshop for a large room full of people keen to learn more about data-driven experience design. As a first-time SXSW presenter, Strategy Director Tim Dunn wanted to avoid a common error of some workshops, where attendees expect to actually do something but find that the opportunities for real action are limited. As such, our workshop was designed to be almost all interaction. Our ambition was not a small one – to design a complete digital experience for four major industry verticals from scratch: Health Plans, Sportswear, Cable Provider, and Automotive. Check out the full recap here. #KILLTHESPAM “Our ambition was not a small one – to design a complete digital experience for 4 major industry verticals – Health Plans, Sportswear, Cable Provider and Automotive – from scratch.” - DIRECTOR OF STRATEGY, TIM DUNN FAVORITE SESSIONS
  5. 5. One of our favorite sessions this year was by LEGO Group and Cartoon Network. Both companies have found themselves naturally drawn together to partner on new ways of telling stories for their shared audience. This session outlined their collaboration and shared two of their recent hits, Ninjago and Mixels. They even revealed a new LEGO set, “Adventure Time.” During the talk, a LEGO master builder put together a collage of 1x1 LEGO plates and at the end, a lucky audience member got to take it home. Check out the full talk here. #LEGO: GROUP AND CARTOON NETWORK: BUILDING FUTURE FANS FAVORITE SESSIONS “Partnering on new ways of telling stories for their shared audience”
  6. 6. Another notable session was presented by our partner Adobe. They shared tips and tricks that help get work done faster and easier for overall design, HTML, CSSs and images and the Adobe Creative Cloud products. Check out some of our favorites for Photoshop and Illustrator below: 01 PAY ATTENTION TO CURRENT DESIGN TRENDS… • Double Exposure • Low Poly (artificial 3D) • Long Shadow • Zentangle • Hand Lettering • Murals • Calligraphy • Creating vectors from objects in photography (Adobe Capture) 02 SPEED UP YOUR WORKFLOW (IT’S HARD TO BREAK FROM WHAT’S FAMILIAR) • De-clutter your desktop workspace regularly by using CMD-H (hide) • Shift-Option M (multiply) to jump right to a layer, specific blend mode, etc. • Command – J to duplicate a layer • N and K are the only (non-used keys) on a keyboard available to assign to a shortcut • Layer pallet filter: filter the layers palette by Kind, Name, etc. to find artwork faster 03 WORK NON-DESTRUCTIVELY • Convert layers to Smart Objects • Use layer masks and brushes rather than eraser tool • Hold option between layers to make a clipping mask 04 USE THE RIGHT TOOL FOR THE JOB • Check out the Adobe Experience Manager (XD) For the full list of Ps shortcuts: Read more on our blog. SIX THINGS EVERY DESIGNER SHOULD DO RIGHT NOW FAVORITE SESSIONS
  7. 7. The SXSW Interactive Festival is not just about the sessions, but also about the art installations and brand activations. All around the city, brands and agencies pull out all the stops to make their mark. Venues range from downtown bars to street corners and activities can be found at every turn. Check out what we found interesting this year. 3M set up shop for the weekend at Brush Square Park to cultivate the conversation around what the world will look like in 2050, by which the earth’s population is expected to reach 9 billion people. Emphasizing the importance of taking steps towards a sustainable future, 3M showcased their water and air purification products through a brilliantly built art installation that navigated participants through a dark maze signifying over-population and ended with a ‘purified’ area full of light. Anima was one of the most unique installations at SXSW. When participants enter the dark room they were immediately standing in the presence of a large, color-shifting sphere that drifted a couple feet off the ground. The room was filled with a wavering humming, as if you were in the presence of a large alien life form and could hear it slowly breathing. Created by Dutch artist Nick Verstan, the sphere was designed to react to the positioning of people in the room. Its surface rippled and changed direction based on the viewer’s location and how fast they brushed by it. A Microsoft Kinect, along with other motion sensors placed in the room, captured people’s movements so that the sphere was able to react to them in real time. As the abstract imagery was projected from within, the sphere was continually inflated. This allowed the visualizations to feel smooth and organic as if it were a living, breathing thing capable of basic communication. 3M INSTALLATION ANIMA ACTIVATIONS AND INSTALLATIONS As an official sponsor of SXSW, McDonald’s could be found in various places around the festival. Most notably, the McDonald’s Loft boasted a VR demo featuring, among other things, the “inside” of a Happy Meal box that artists could decorate. Using the Vive virtual reality headset, participants were able to express their artistic abilities via the VR Happy Meal Painting Lounge. MCDONALD’S LOFT
  8. 8. Making its debut last year at SXSW, Mr. Robot is back and bigger than ever. For those unfamiliar, the USA Network show focuses on Eliot Alderson, a cyber-security engineer who turns hacker at night. A hard-to-miss activation at the festival this year was the Mr. Robot Ferris wheel, recreated by USA Network to mimic the same ride at New York’s Coney Island amusement park, which is near the hackers’ headquarters in the show. MR. ROBOT ACTIVATIONS AND INSTALLATIONS The Girls’ Lounge was a place for women to gather and network at a hectic, male dominated event. At their pop-up location, interactive badge holders could take a moment out of the hectic day to connect with other females in tech. Women’s empowerment messaging was everywhere, from the candy dishes (men must pay more) to the seating area with the hashtag #confidenceisbeautiful. The Girls’ Lounge helped women embrace their feminine leadership powers and work together to transform corporate culture. GIRLS’ LOUNGE
  9. 9. 01 AUSTIN GRAFFITI PARK If you’re looking to find an urban escape, make your way west to the Austin Graffiti Park. You’ll find a great mix of artists, local bystanders, and tourists climbing throughout the dusty maze of an abandoned structure. All the wall real estate is up for grabs, so bring a can or two of spray paint to contribute your own vision to the massive collaborative outdoor art piece. While you’re there make a point to talk to the veteran graffiti artists, who come out every weekend to invest time into large-scale pieces, to hear about what the park means to them and their artistic background. The best part is that whether or not you’ve been here before, it’ll never be the same! 02 CAPITOL BUILDING When feeling the need for a bit of history, take a stroll up Congress St. to visit the Capitol building. While the building itself boasts beautiful architecture and statues, the surrounding lawn is open territory for a break. From here you can see the downtown Austin skyline, but also let your legs take a rest from all the walking between convention centers. 03 FOOD TRUCKS Food trucks are the most common places to grab a bite during your time in Austin. Most people go to the food truck yard close to the conference, where you can find everything from lobster mac n’ cheese, kimchi fries, and fish tacos. The true trick to getting your food truck fix is finding where the locals go when everyone takes over their city. We found food truck gold in East 6th District, where a beloved Cajun truck brought us gumbo, fried jambalaya, and poutine and a local taco truck where the guaca taco did not disappoint. 04 THE REAL EAST 6TH STREET The bar scene on 6th Street is where the people are at. Since they block the road for people to wander from bar to bar, the true gem is going to the east end. Many conference attendees don’t cross under the overpass, bringing you to an undisturbed artistic neighborhood. Wanderlust bar provides a great local feel, Sebastian Foster print shop is your go-to for any and all design withdrawals, and Bee Grocery is perfect for baked goods to a cup of coffee. 05 TEARS OF JOY They said it would be hot in Texas, and they did not lie. Tears of Joy is a beloved spice shop that sits on 6th Street and has free samplings of their hot sauces and salsas. Never will leaving a shop in tears feel so good. Plus, the owner will give you a great breakdown of spice spectrums and provide some good insight into the top spice brands. Our favorite: Yellowbird Sauce. 06 BAT BRIDGE A must-see in Austin is the Ann W. Richards Congress Avenue Bridge. The largest urban bat colony in North America lives under this bridge, and every evening around sunset the bats emerge all at once to fly east. It’s an incredible site that can take two to three hours to complete. It’s definitely worth a stroll over the bridge to check it out. 07 TRUST THE LOCALS The people in Austin are so nice that at times we thought they were messing with us. Along with free tacos and friendships made in line, we found the best suggestions from our local connections. A highlight of the trip: La Condesa. Though tough to get a reservation, we managed to squeeze into this contemporary Mexican tapas styled restaurant with delicious sangria, taquitos, and hands-down some of the best paté ever. SXSW’ers pack their days with sessions and meetings and parties galore. There are so many things to do and see, the culture of Austin often gets lost in the mix. Here are the 5 must-see attractions (outside of the conference) that Austin has to offer. If you get a moment to yourself to wander, check them out! CULTURE OUTSIDE THE CONFERENCE 01 02 03 04 05 06
  10. 10. BIOS DINA SORSER Account Lead Detroit, MI JAKE SILVAArt Director Boston, MA TIM DUNN Director of Strategy New York, NY STEPH WULZVisual DesignerChicago, IL SHAWNARAMSEY Account Manager Detroit, MI LAURA MARTIN Marketing Coordinator Chicago, IL
  11. 11. Isobar is a global full-service digital agency, creatively solving critical, complex client challenges in the digital era. We conceive, design and build innovative experiences for the world’s largest organizations, and we enable brand commerce by connecting powerful brand narratives with commercial interactions. We relentlessly focus on delivering “Ideas without limits,” and take pride in helping clients transform business processes, disrupt industries and find new ways to connect with customers. With over 4,500 people in 70 offices worldwide, Isobar has built a borderless agency that tackles global assignments with local depth. CONTACT INFORMATION  (800) 700-0098   @isobarUS  CONTACT