Q&A with Andy Tipping, Creative Director, Mischief Media

Andy Tipping portrait designed as RGB colour seperations

For any endeavour it is important to understand that you need to talk to other people by asking questions and learning from their answers. It is the answers that will help you in all your creative opportunities and future journeys. In this special blog posting, I will be providing a Q & A blog interview, with, Andy Tipping, Creative Director of Mischief Media. In this interview I ask questions relating to his experience when he took the one-year New Media Program; an equivalent of the one-year Web Design Program that my colleagues and I are taking.
The following interview was done via Skype November 24rd at 9:15 am.

JB: First off. Is it okay if I record this interview? …I have to provide a transcript of the questions I ask.

AT: All good.

JB: You are a graduate of the Sheridan College, postgraduate New Media Program. Can you give me a little bit more background about yourself?

AT: I went to the University of Guelph were I studied for a Bachelor of Arts with in a specialization in Fine Art and then after finishing my 4 years there, went to Sheridan to do the New Media Program and finished off a year there and went to work in the industry. Went to work with a company that was just changing its name from Digital Renaissance to Extend Media and then a few jobs after that.

JB: When you finished your four years at the University of Guelph, Fine Arts Program, did you know then, at the end of 4 years that you wanted get into digital.

AT: Yes, I did. At my time at University, I did, basically two… two-three years of University, but could not afford the last year. But consequently at that time I started working in the industry. So talking with someone, at Canadian Tire, Canadian Tire was my student job, I started working in the industry doing CD ROMS. The Internet was just starting to present itself …so there was not much Internet stuff… so I started doing CD ROMs, that was a big important thing at the time and that job took me to Florida, so I was in Florida for six to nine months.

JB: Oh wow, that must have been fun.

AT: It was fun! I lived a block away from Universal Studios in Orlando Florida.

JB: Oh Cool.

AT: I went to Disney World like every weekend it was great

JB: (laugh)

AT: The Company I was with was rather shaky. Sometimes my pay cheques would bounce.

JB: Oh, dear.

AT: I saved enough money to comeback and returned for the last year at the University of Guelph finish off my degree. At that time too, there was no new media or digital stuff within a Fine Art Program. But I knew that is was the industry that I was going to get into.

So from there I looked around and the only people that were doing this kind of stuff, at the time, were at Sheridan, where they had the New Media Program. In those days, when I took the New Media Program it was run in the same room with the 3D Animation students.

JB: Ok!

AT: Yes, it was a very interesting environment back then, it was kind of neat.

JB: Did you have contact with the 3D Animation students a lot?

AT: Yes, we did actually our classes were run separately. But we are in the same room all the time, walking pass each other. When there was a weekend parties and basically both programs were invited to the parties and we got along very well. It was a kind of neat environment. And in those days 2D/3D Animation was an emerging field, it was a really hot topic at the time.

JB: Cool.

“Yes it was really great, not only from the learning, but the sense of community that was in the class and learning from your community and from your peers.”

AT: How did you learn about the postgraduate New Media Program?

AT: I am not sure was kind of common knowledge…

JB: Interesting.

AT: It must have been word of mouth I suppose, but then I looked it up in the course calendar, but it was always well known by reputation for the 3D Animation, then looking up in the calendar and see what else they had going on. And that is where I ended up.

JB: How did you find the year? What were some of the challenges and highlights?

AT: There were challenges, challenges in learning new software and that sort of thing… it was an excellent year. Yes it was really great, not only from the learning, but the sense of community that was in the class and learning from your community and from your peers.

JB: What were some of the other organizations you worked for?

AT: Work for Extend Media, started out as Digital Renaissance, back in those days there were two big main shops doing new media. CD ROMS were just ending and the Internet was just taking off, went to Digital Renaissance, at had 165 people at the, It was a great experience; it was sort of the new office. They had a beer keg in the office and had a Sega!   

JB: (chuckle) Oh, Wow.

AT: Yes Sega, they had video games in the office, people could play on the couches and there was a dog in the office too; it was a new modern style of office… an anti-agency sort of movement and a new concept of office space. That was kind of exciting and spent some time there, but later the whole industry shrunk and industry collapsed in around 2000. At the time I was still at Digital Renaissance, but then moved to a company called Infinet, they focused on pharmaceutical interactivity that was interesting, in that there were a lot of regulations when dealing with the pharmaceutical industry.

JB: When did you start getting into the web design and web applications?

AT: Pretty much right away, when the Internet came along, CD-ROMS soon lost their purpose and pretty much everything was moving to the web. Right when I was starting to work…even when I took the New Media Program was sort of split fifty – fifty, some people did their projects on CD-ROM, other people did a website for the Internet. For me I did a little bit of both. For my final project I did a CD-ROM that linked out to websites that I also built. Then when I started working more in-depth creating 2 CD-ROMS. This when everything else moved very quickly to the web and the Internet took off.    

“I try and get as many assets, as I can for a project to try to learn about the branding that I am working on”

JB: What are some of the questions you ask when starting a new project?

AT: Learning about the project, there is some tactical things like: what is the brand, is there a brand guideline, can you send logos and assets… I try and get as many assets, as I can for a project to try to learn about the branding that I am working on. Including any other marketing materials that they have or may have. I take a look at everything, even if it does not directly relate to the project on hand, but to evaluate it and look to grab elements of that design to move forward in to the new project. But beyond that a conversation with the client ask questions to get them talking and get them to give an overview of what they are looking for, try to understand… sometimes how they express things isn’t always the type of language we would use, because we are not in there industry nor they in our industry. We try to ascertain or understand how and what they are asking for, it may not exactly what they are looking for. But try and meet those needs of understanding what the project is and what clients are asking for.

JB: So, there is a translation of the client ideas, what they are trying to tell you and then you translate, to them, your ideas.

AT: Exactly.

JB: Can you describe a typical day as a Creative Director at Mischief Media?

AT: Long and energetic, we have a lot of work coming in, but it’s going very well, very busy. A typical day starts at 8 o’clock and then can go to 3 in the morning. It’s good! Often it is dealing with the design of projects and then there is that we are starting to grow. We added a few new designers and helping them to meet the quality and design we are looking for.

JB: What is the one project that you are most proud of?

AT: There are a few… there is one we did for the Show the Big Bang Theory.

JB: Really?

AT: Yes that project was really exciting; the title of the project was ‘Big Bang Yourself’ which is kind of funny that we got a project release that was called ‘Big Bang Yourself’.

JB: Wow!

AT: But the idea was that you could upload a picture of yourself and nerdify yourself. For example you could drag on images of funny glasses or different clothing on to your image. This was all done in Flash: at the time. It was all fun, you could cut out your image all in Flash, all live. The idea was you would post your image online, post it to social media and you earn point for doing these things. Every time you made an image you earn points, if you shared your image, you earn points. It was all a contest leading up to someone winning the experience to go watch a taping of the Big Bang Theory.

JB: Wow!

AT: It was very immersive, experiential, had a lot of motion to it, a lot interactivity and even audio. There was even a point when we were about to write scripts for the actors, so for Jim Parsons and people from the show, the creative developed would look as if they were actually reading. When you were interacting you could hear them interacting and you could hear them saying funny things, but it just happened to be at the time they were in contract negotiations with the show, was just taking off and I did not want ask them to do anything new, because they were in contract negotiations.

JB: What are some of your favourite development tools and why?

AT: Well, I still like Flash… I do not know if you knew, I used to teach Flash at Sheridan.

JB: Really!

AT: In the program, I used to be the Flash teacher. I still like Flash: like the ability to create the interactivity, but I know that Flash has kind gone these days. It was a different style of interactivity; with HTML5 being great for mobile devices, we are not doing that same kind of projects we used to do when Flash was around. We really created experiential projects, it used to be about sound, motion and interactivity in a way that was really kind of fun to work with. But beyond that, in the modern world, some of the cool tools are HTML5, combination of CSS with JavaScript. I am using an animation library, Green Sock, that works really well. For coding I am using Coda. Other software: Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign.

JB: What kind of tip and tricks can your share with someone training in the digital industry?

AT: Depends on what area you are in. For a developer, learn the tools really well, learning CSS, JavaScript create layouts that work with the designs. Other tips are: work well with people, be friendly, enjoy your work, enjoy the people around you and learn from the people around you that kind of thing.

JB: Do you still keep in contact with your fellow graduates? 

AT: I do talk to my fellow graduates, once in awhile. We see each especially once year at the Sheridan Grad Show, it’s nice to see everyone.

“Not only is quality of the work important, but also the quality of the work process…

JB: What do you look for in a potential candidate for helping with digital creative?

AT: I look for quality in design, an understanding of branding, look for a good knowledge of type layout and content layout. So I find that is important. A good background in typography is good; it lends itself well to the structure of content layout, that’s important. I also look for someone who is good to work with; I often test new people, with some freelance projects, give them small projects and see how they perform. Not only is quality of the work important, but also the quality of the work process, are they responsive to the project, do they answer back quickly with emails, are they eager for the work and it is the soft skills and personal skills of responsibility.

JB: How do you see the web and digital applications changing?

AT: I see more movement towards HTML5 and even less so within Flash. I see almost a merging between mobile and desktop, I see as one development, rather than separate things. We often design a mobile site then desktop site… really should be thinking about it as responsive design, create one product, one development adjusting and adapting to the proper medium, be it desktop or mobile.

JB: Andy, thank you so much for your time.

AT: No problem, no problem at all.

That was a Q&A interview with Andy tipping Creative Director at Mischief Media.
I found it very interesting that many of Andy’s experiences and situations are similar to mine. It is safe to say that we’re both still moving through our own journeys. Sometimes there will be hurdles but we can always overcome them by continuing to move forward and always learning. It was also interesting to hear that he has worked on some of the most important and unique projects such as the one for the hit television show Big Bang theory and it was good to hear that he enjoyed that particular project.

This blog Q & A was particular interesting in that it took me out of my element and established a conversation with and another professional. I hope to do another Q & A project in the future.

Here are some links to some of the projects that Mischief Media are currently running: graciously provided described by Andy Tipping, Creative Director Mischief Media.

This site allows you to create your own personal Toronto Maple Leafs dressing room image. You can select which era you’d like your jersey to come from, enter your name and details, and you’ll get an email back with the link to a webpage with your custom jersey. The final Image is created at runtime using an HTML5 canvas. The site is fully moderated to prevent inappropriate content.’

This application coordinates with the Raptors schedule and Ticketmaster to show real-time up-to-date pricing of raptors tickets. As you explore the schedule the seating chart to the left highlights the section you roll over in the table.’

These are a series of contests for a chance to win tickets to some major NHL Events’

‘A lot of the other work we do for our clients is internal or sales support material and presentations.’

Andy Tipping, Creative Director
Mischief Media

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