We got a chance to speak with Jason Walker this week. Jason is a Senior Designer at Digitas in Detroit. He talks with us about the role designers have at Digitas, the type of projects he works on, and his favorite sneakers among other things. Check it out:
[21:30] BW2.0: Hi Jason
[21:30] BW2.0: ready when you are
[21:30] Jason: Hi Angela
[21:30] Jason: all yours
[21:30] BW2.0: Great!
[21:32] BW2.0: So you are currently a Senior Designer at Digitas, what is your day to day like at such a huge company?
[21:33] Jason: Ha that’s interesting. I guess the simplest way to explain it — we senior designers take more of a developer/designer roll.
[21:33] Jason: Digitas has a lot of clients, GM, Amex, Sara Lee — my being in the Detroit office I’m on the GM team.
[21:34] Jason: Part of the Detroit ad culture — you can’t work in interactive and not touch the automakers in some way,
[21:35] Jason: So most of my day is spent as part of the team overseeing development and design of Buick.com, Pontiac.com, GMC.com
[21:35] Jason: with enough online media fit in there to choke someone
[21:36] BW2.0: LOL
[21:36] BW2.0: Very cool how are your project teams configured?
[21:37] Jason: Our company is kind of a conglomerate of companies … we’ll have our creative agency of record side which is tasked with all the idea generation, and then the digital solutions group which does all the execution. I’m part of the later. Which I prefer because brainstorming makes my head hurt.
[21:37] Jason: Give me Flash, Photoshop, and a team of programmers and I’m much happier.
[21:39] BW2.0: Interesting, so your role is part of the execution phase.
[21:39] Jason: Exactly …
[21:39] Jason: As a senior designer we often have projects that we’re only meant to manage … leaving it to our vendors to do the grunt work. You just need someone with a wide enough array of talents to be able to understand what’s going down.
[21:39] BW2.0: Are there any technologies that you guys specialize in or do they run the gamut?
[21:40] Jason: They run the gamut. Part of our culture is having such a long-term client that you have a certain bag of tricks they come to expect.
[21:41] Jason: LOL forgive me if I’m not long winded enough.
[21:41] BW2.0: LOL
[21:41] BW2.0: Nope, you’re good!
[21:41] BW2.0: So sounds like your Sr. Designers must also have some project management skills as well?
[21:42] Jason: Exactly. One of those things where you spend so much of your day with your head down in the foxhole you forget how to explain the whole thing. You have to have a great deal of project management skill.
[21:43] Jason: One thing I found different in my current gig — things aren’t handed to you.
[21:43] Jason: I’ve had other design and art direction jobs where you can slide under the radar, wait to find out which project you get next.
[21:44] Jason: At Digitas it’s much more hands on. It’s up to you to form the relationships with development teams, push back on execs, etc.
[21:45] Jason: To be fair, I think every decent designer/developer understands that its not just about knowing how to make a PSD or write a function … 75% of the job is relationships and time management
[21:46] BW2.0: Right!
[21:46] Jason: Particularly with our clients … in the auto industry they can be a bit — flakey, when it comes to what they expect. Deliverables, etc.
[21:47] Jason: Anyone that shows up for an interview here should be able to show they can handle what will be thrown at them.
[21:48] BW2.0: You have done some very cool Flash work, do you currently still work a lot w/ Flash where you are now or do you produce more “static” designs?
[21:49] Jason: Thank you. Actually I do end up with a decent amount of flash work. What’ll often happen … if we find our vendors are too backed up work, or we want to be more hands on with the project because its sensitive, we’ll keep it in house.
[21:50] Jason: Allows me to keep up with AS2 (ActionScript2) just fine, but unfortunately I gotta admit I need to get up on AS3 (ActionScript3) before the newest version of flash hits.
[21:51] BW2.0: LOL, I don’t work w/ flash but I know what you mean ?
[21:51] Jason: LOL don’t worry, I barely work with it myself sometimes it seems.
[21:50] BW2.0: Since you work w/ automakers do you get to work on any really cool projects involving concept cars?
[21:52] Jason: LOL yeah, when I’m lucky I get to see a new vehicle or two. I got to build the launch sites for the Chevy Tahoe, Suburban, and Avalanche when they rolled out the new models.
[21:52] Jason: You also get the interesting tie-ins when you’re lucky. Halo 3 and Pontiac, Transformers for obvious reasons.
[21:53] Jason: That’s a benefit to being out here. GM has their hands in everything
[21:53] BW2.0: I am sure
[21:53] Jason: You work with one client and seem to touch a million other clients.
[21:54] BW2.0: Ok, going to start asking more fun questions…
[21:54] Jason: LOL good, cause I’m awful at spouting the company line
[21:54] BW2.0: LOL
[21:54] BW2.0: What is the biggest mistake you have made?
[21:54] Jason: HAH!
[21:55] Jason: Actually — I started out in web back in 98. My two older brothers own a logistics company here in Michigan.
[21:55] Jason: I had a design background, but the extent of my web experience was AOL and Prodigy when they hired me,
[21:56] BW2.0: LOL!
[21:56] Jason: so I learned everything I could to become their IT guy. Learned enough to be dangerous, and delete a large portion of their Paradox DB.
[21:56] Jason: The shock and horror when you realize what you just did.
[21:57] Jason: And that you were too green to have better backups.
[21:57] BW2.0: LOL
[21:57] BW2.0: Wow!
[21:58] Jason: All employee records, data, gone. Was able to backtrack most of it that night but lost most of the days work.
[21:58] Jason: Yeah that was fun
[21:58] BW2.0: ROFL
[21:58] BW2.0: Ouch
[21:58] Jason: Particularly when its family. They’ll tell mama.
[21:58] BW2.0: Yankees or Tigers (baseball)?
[21:59] Jason: Pistons. Period.
[21:59] Jason: and no that’s not a real answer.
[21:59] BW2.0: hah
[21:59] BW2.0: LOL
[21:59] BW2.0: No baseball?
[21:59] Jason: With my age, most of my life the Tigers weren’t doing very well (understatement)
[22:00] Jason: not much to root for until recent years LOL
[22:00] BW2.0: I am a basketball fan myself, LOL
[22:00] BW2.0: Fave sneakers?
[22:00] Jason: Keep going back to an all white pair of Nikes,
[22:01] Jason: though I’m trying to get saucy in my old age
[22:01] BW2.0: Air Force One’s?
[22:01] Jason: Zactly!
[22:01] BW2.0: ROFL
[22:01] Jason: Throw a pair of pumas in there somewhere
[22:01] BW2.0: Facebook or MySpace?
[22:01] Jason: Facebook. Facebook. A million times Facebook.
[22:02] BW2.0: MAC or PC?
[22:02] Jason: MAC, MAC. And once again MAC.
[22:02] Jason: Give me two Macbook Pros and I’m happy.
[22:03] BW2.0: Fave iPhone App?
[22:03] Jason: Is it that obvious that I have one?
[22:03] BW2.0: LOL, name a designer who doesn’t
[22:03] Jason: Great point
[22:03] Jason: I can’t decide yet. Twinkle has gotten me lately
[22:04] Jason: but NetNewsWire actually…
[22:04] BW2.0: Hmmm, I may have to try Twinkle
[22:04] BW2.0: still hooked on Twitterific
[22:04] Jason: Don’t. The curmudgeon in me is still not sold on Twitter.
[22:04] Jason: I actually prefer Plurk.
[22:05] Jason: Sure it’s a bit juvenile, but at least its sincere
[22:05] BW2.0: Interesting
[22:05] BW2.0: I can’t get w/ the UI, feels awkward to me for some reason.
[22:05] Jason: I don’t blame you.
[22:05] BW2.0: But I do like how they group conversations.
[22:05] Jason: I like the immediate response. Invites more conversation in my opinion.
[22:06] BW2.0: True.
[22:06] Jason: Twitter seems to offer all of the overblown “Here’s the techy thing I’m doing now” without the sincerity
[22:07] Jason: but I guess that’s my dad speaking.
[22:07] BW2.0: Very true though
[22:07] BW2.0: There will be a new app out any min. now that will take its place
[22:07] BW2.0: LOL
[22:08] Jason: This is true. And its very telling when you look at how young Plurk is.
[22:08] BW2.0: I agree.
[22:08] BW2.0: I won’t take up anymore of your time,
[22:08] BW2.0: Thank you for taking the time out to participate!
[22:08] Jason: It was an honor. Hopefully I gave you something useful LOL.
[22:09] BW2.0: ABSOLUTELY!
[22:09] Jason: Thanks again Angela
[22:09] BW2.0: My pleasure, thank you!