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This course introduces Branden Hall, a software architect and programmer, who has spent well over a decade pushing the limits of the web, and teaching others how to do the same. The cofounder and CEO of Automata Studios, Branden is an acknowledged expert in the field of interactive media, producing award-winning work and authoring books that serve as touchstones for the design community.
Branden opens up his personal studio and explains his fascination with "making," whether through programming or woodwork, and the magic behind bringing his ideas to life. Branden and crew also visit the BLOOM installation, a project designed to display artwork for La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, a museum dedicated to Mexican American history and culture in Los Angeles. Lynda then interviews Branden one-on-one, and they talk about Branden's beginnings, most notable projects, and where he sees himself and technology headed in the future.
Lynda Weinman: I also notice that another theme in your career is that you really seem to love collaborations, like you are a collaborator with your best friend from grade school. You are really active, you were really active in the Flash community. I don't know if that's still the case. But tell me a little bit about how collaboration has played into your career and your life. Branden Hall: For me, collaboration is huge. It's funny, there is actually a kids book that I've been reading to my kids a bunch lately, and one of the last lines of it are, "Toys are fun, but friends are much more fun," and that's absolutely how I feel.
I always say that line with a lot of emphasis, because for me, there are only so many original creative ideas bouncing around my head. When they really start bouncing is when they've got something to bounce off of. As soon as I start chatting with someone about a creative idea, the fireworks just start going off, and it's been a huge part of my career. There--at the beginning of my career, as you said, I was extremely active in the nascent Flash community, just as it was forming, made some of their first mailing lists and helped write some of the first books and stuff like that, and I loved it.
I worked with anybody and everybody I could. But I was also twenty, and I was not necessarily the most socially adapt. Much to their credit, a lot of my friends saw past that, Joshua Davis in particular. I met him at your conference in 2001 in New York, and I am a bit embarrassed to say, I walked up to him after his talk and I said, "The stuff you do is just absolutely beautiful, but your code is awful." I said that right to his face. I don't know how I did it, but very much to his credit, he said, "Great, show me how to make it better," and we have been friends and collaborators ever since.
And so I am always looking to work with more people, doing different things. Sometimes it's on projects; sometimes it's just on personal stuff, where we are just making things; sometimes it leads somewhere; sometimes it doesn't, but for me, it's just fuel. If I am sitting there by myself, trying to come up with an idea, it rarely comes. It's just, there's just nothing there for me to play off of. It's sort of an empty room. But when there's someone else there, another creative mind that wants to make things, the magic just happens.
Lynda Weinman: What about collaborating with clients? Have you found that to be as fruitful? Branden Hall: Absolutely. A big part of how we run our company is that we know what we know and what we don't know. All too often, I think developers in particular take over a project, and they're sort of the high priests of it, the technology. They are defining everything. And I hate that. I really, really do, because if I am working with a client in a field, they know that field much better than I ever will.
I know my field. I know what I do well. I know creativity well. So, we will work with the client to help bring their creative concept to life and teach them what's possible and what's not and let them play, because then they have so much more ownership of the product. It came out of their mind too. And then secondly, they just end up being that much happier with it, and it ends up being just so much better, because it's our creative and technical skill, and their skill in their field and their creativity, knowing what is best and works best in their field. And that kind of collaboration I think is what is, in many ways, defines us as a company.
We always want to work with our clients that way. It's not a, you send us an RFP, we build it, we hand it back. We just don't work that way and if a client wants to work that way, we say no. That's not how we work. We need you to be engaged and help us make this the best it can be.
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