With a desire to enhance and expand the experiences of everyone that connects with their work, Web Designer talks to the AnalogFolk team and discovers how they develop their world-class skills with innovative digital design
WHAT: An independent global creative agency with offices in London, Sydney and New York
WHERE: 20 Rosebery Avenue, London, EC1R 4SX
CLIENTS: AkzoNobel, Canon, Lucozade, Pernod Ricard, Sainsbury’s
Founded in 2008, AnalogFolk live by one driving force: to create value in peoples’ lives via the digital work they build for their clients. What is clear is that AnalogFolk certainly innovate, but at all times this is influenced by their desire to help the world’s leading brands make lasting and meaningful connections with their customers.
“The agency was born out of a desire to do work for brands that would add value to people’s lives in some way,” explained Matt Dyke cofounder and chief strategy officer. “Bill (Brock – cofounder and chief executive officer) and I met whilst working at the digital agency Tribal DDB. Incredibly, it was during our very first meeting together that we discussed the need for a new model of agency, which we then left to start up three years later.”
Matt continued: “My background was in advertising account planning and before that brand research. Bill had a background in software development before moving into digital marketing. We think that it was the combination of this experience that really shaped the unique capability of AnalogFolk versus other agencies from one of these worlds or the other.”
“The human world we live in is analogue and that digital technology should be used to improve it for us, not replace it”
Naming a new agency is always an important aspect of any business to get right. Matt explained their approach to this vital decision: “Everybody assumes that the agency name is an ironic take on the fact that our creative work is digitally led. However, it is actually inspired by our belief that the human world we live in is analogue and that digital technology should be used to improve it for us, not replace it. It won’t surprise you to know that AnalogFolk was immediately available as a domain name. When we originally sat down to brainstorm names for the agency our only criteria was that it should begin with ‘A’ so that we would appear first in any industry listings. We’ve no idea if that has helped us over the years!”
As a calling card an agency’s website is a vital component of its marketing. Fame Razak, chief technology officer outlines the approach AnalogFolk has taken: “First impressions are everything, our website will be the first port of call for many potential clients and employees to AnalogFolk. Whether they read about a new hire or a pitch win in the trade press or heard about us through colleagues, we’ll be judged on our ability to create a user-friendly and well-designed site with well-written and relevant content.
“Simply, if we can’t do it for ourselves, then we certainly can’t do it for others. It’s only been a year since it was launched but we are already evolving our website. There’s no chance of it getting stagnant, with new content in-line with the launch of a new piece of tech, an industry event or a blog [about] our latest hack on make.analogfolk.com.”
How an agency attracts its clients can be manifold. Often a mix of strategies delivers the best results, as Bill Brock explained: “I’d love to say that 100 per cent of our new business opportunities are proactive approaches that come without a pitch, but that’s not how it works in our business in 2015.
“Whilst we get our fair share of these straight appointments by reputation, we also have a comprehensive business strategy to target and win clients who share our values,” Bill continued. “Besides good, old-fashioned networking, our most fruitful strategy is to unleash our market-leading strategy and technology teams to publish thought leadership white papers or host custom workshops to help perspective clients tackle common digital business challenges. We’re always up for an opportunity to show our stuff!
“I pinch myself when I look at our client list. With world-class brands like Absolut Vodka, Chivas Regal and Sainsbury’s on our roster I’d understand if people felt we had a few tricks up our sleeves. But the truth is that we’ve just worked hard, have never taken anything for granted and always see the opportunity in any project.”
Agencies that quickly become known in the marketplace are sometimes seen as exponents of a particular kind of digital design. Agencies fight the industry’s desire to label them in this way. However, agencies certainly develop their own DNA. Is there a project that reflects the AnalogFolk ethos? Matt explained: “We are very proud of the diversity of our output, it would be very hard to pigeonhole what we do into any one type of digital marketing. However, the common start point for all our work is ‘what value can we create for people?’ A recent example of this would be the Sainsbury’s ‘Spooky Speaker’ app. Sainsbury’s had a range of kids’ Halloween costumes they were going to sell in their stores, but there was nothing about them that stood out from the others. So, rather than simply advertise them, we decided to increase their value to people by designing a mobile app that distorts your voice to the character of that costume when you hold it up to your mouth. Alongside over 40,000 downloads and five-star app reviews, it had a direct uplift in sales on that range of costumes.”
The digital design landscape has become incredibly diverse as new technologies appear almost on a weekly basis. Fame outlined the approach AnalogFolk takes on technology: “We work on a wide variety of projects, each requiring a different configuration of tools. From a technology perspective, there [are] multiple platforms and technologies, from open source to commercial software and because of this, we keep an open mind to the tools we use for communicating ideas to our clients. A prototype can save a thousand meetings and get projects moving quickly, whether it is a paper prototype stitched together in the POP app or key animations and sequences animated quickly in After Effects, prototyping is an essential tool helping to visualise the ambition of the project. HTML5 and CSS3 are very capable technologies for creating semantic content and presenting it efficiently.
“Responsive is a great approach and we use it often at AnalogFolk. But, imagine trying to complete a complicated eight step form using your mobile with a 3G connection. That’s where responsive might not be the approach to take”
And how does the massive expansion of mobile devices influence how AnalogFolk develops their applications? Fame continued: “Responsive is a great approach and we use it often at AnalogFolk. But, imagine trying to complete a complicated eight step form using your mobile with a 3G connection. That’s where responsive might not be the approach to take; sure you can hide an application form with CSS but you are left with bloated code and a poorly optimised experience on that 3G connection. In some cases, you might want to consider an adaptive delivery approach and let the backend serve the most appropriate and optimised content. Ultimately, we keep in mind our users’ key objectives and the business needs.”
Fame also said: “It seems like something new is announced every day and we’re always finding time to experiment with emerging technologies. Wearable devices will be more and more popular and the Apple Watch will give this trend a boost. IoT is taking off and we’ve loved creating prototypes with the Arduino but the Spark Electron will offer a very simple way for beginner hardware developers to build exciting prototypes with a built-in data chip, that can connect to the cloud and communicate with other services such as IFTTT.com.”
“Social media is as much a paid channel as any other media property now, albeit with tremendous upside if your content takes off”
Social media has also had a massive impact on how digital design is consumed and shared. How does AnalogFolk factor in the influence that social media now has? “As consumers, we each live in a media filter bubble that is curated for us by all the links we click, the media we interact with and the social media we follow,” said Matt. “Social media is uniquely capable of quickly propagating content via the endorsement of people that will willingly play this role if the content is interesting enough. It is a modern marketing myth that this is completely organic. Social media is as much a paid channel as any other media property now, albeit with tremendous upside if your content takes off.”
AnalogFolk has rapidly expanded and now has 150 talented creative innovators working out of three offices. How does the agency decide who is a good fit for them? Fame explained: “Beyond talent, new folks needs an informed point of view on the digital world, an open mind and a love of their craft. Having a strong opinion is a must, but it has to be one backed up with knowledge. Tell me about a problem you proactively went about fixing and then show me the prototype you built to solve it. The industry is a great place to be in right now with so many opportunities for folks to learn and network, don’t be scared to get involved.”
And what does the future hold for AnalogFolk? “We’ve come a long way since Matt and I set the agency up in 2008, just seven short years ago,” concluded Bill. “We continue to grow, and are incredibly proud of the journey the agency has taken, the folk we’ve hired, the work we’ve produced and the direction AnalogFolk is heading in. “We’ll always focus our efforts on our ethos of using digital to make the analogue world better, and so we’ll always concentrate our energy on interactive experiences. We are ‘established’ now and so we’ve grown up somewhat. However, we’re independent and we control our own destiny, so we’ll always have a start-up mentality.”
With a roster of clients that include some of the world’s best-known household names, Sainsbury’s, Canon and Lucozade to name a few, enhancing our analogue world will continue to be the driving force behind all that AnalogFolk will accomplish over the next few years.