Join Petrula Vrontikis for an in-depth discussion in this video Erich Joiner, Tool, part of Real-World Design: Live Presentations from Creative Leaders.
- I'm Petrula Vrontikis. I am a professor here, of Rough Design. Each term, the graphic design department at Art Center invites three design professionals to speak on a particular topic. And tonight is The Power of Media and an examination of that. And I just happen to know, like, three of the smartest guys in the room. So I asked them to join us, to examine that topic. Our first presenter is founder of Tool, which is a bicoastal award-winning production company.
And they represent top live-action directors and interactive directors for advertising projects. He was selected as Ad Week's Ad Director of the Year for two years in a row. As director, he's won a wide range of the most prestigious industry awards, including several Cannes Gold Lions, a Directional DGA nomination, and two directorial Emmy nominations. He's directed several commercials, and his work is part of the permanent collection of the New York Museum of Modern Art.
He's also an alum of Art Center, in Advertising. He graduated in 1990. In addition, his father graduated from Art Center in 1957. So it's all in the family. Please join me in welcoming Erich Joiner. (audience applauds) - All right.
It's a little weird for me, driving up to campus today. I haven't been here in probably 15 years. It's nice to come back. It hasn't changed all that much. It's a little different. So, I guess, in a way it feels like coming home. I graduated in '90, I took my first job in San Francisco for five years. I worked at an ad agency.
Goodby, Silverstein & Partners. In '95, I decided I wanted to direct and open my own company. That was Tool. It was a struggle at first, and now it's, in February it'll be 20 years. And so, I'm gonna show you a little bit of the work that we've done fairly recently. To start out, we really are a production company, and we represent artists and talent.
The bulk of the talent, we call them directors. But they're not all typical directors. Some of them are film directors and they direct feature films. Marc Forster is up here. And Marc is really, you know, a very true kind of feature film maker. He's done a James Bond movie, he did World War Z, Finding Neverland, Monster's Ball. And, I'd say a good portion of these people are people that migrated out of the advertising business, ad agencies, and moved on to direct.
And then we have other artists now. And about six years ago, I opened up this part of Tool that is an interactive division. And before this, the first 14 years of Tool, we really concentrated on what we call traditional media, traditional advertising. And we really just made 30-, 60-, 90-second commercials. And I was really kind of drawn to the interactive space, really primarily because it seemed like creative area that hadn't been explored yet.
And at the time, there was not a lot of money it it, for the, you know, the budgets, you know, to make these things. And we had much larger budgets in making traditional advertising. So a lot of the people up here now, you know, have come out of the ... are into the new media and do the interactive work that we do, which, about six years ago, I also, I embraced it myself and jumped into it, and I really, really enjoy it. I still will direct and shoot traditional, 30-second, stuff.
Three days ago, I was at Virginia Tech shooting stuff for Microsoft, which will be a series of commercials that are, you know, just run on television. And yesterday I had a meeting in San Francisco at AirBnB, doing stuff that'll be non-traditional, or, I guess, for this meeting, will be new media. So this is sort of a smattering of different projects. I have 15 minutes, so I just chose a few that we'll go just through very briefly.
I guess we can start out with the one on the upper left, which is, it's a piece for Budweiser I shot a few years ago. - Hey Dave, the day's over. Time for Bud Light. - I can't. I have to cut the cheese. - I thought you cut the cheese already. - That wasn't me. - I heard you cut the cheese this morning. - I like to cut the cheese in spurts throughout the day. - You should cut the cheese first thing in the morning, like me. Otherwise, it starts backing up. - I couldn't. My girlfriend was here this morning. And you know how that goes. - I cut the cheese in front of my girl once, I never heard the end of it. - You ever see a woman cut the cheese? - Nah. They don't do it right.
They're too delicate. - My grandmother cut the cheese all the time, especially as she got older. - Hey, guys. I'm gonna be in the back. Gonna pinch a loaf. (grunts) (grunts and strains) - Want me to pull your finger? - Will you pulling my finger help me cut the cheese? - Oh, yeah. If I pull your finger, you'll be cutting cheese within seconds. - Oh, yeah. (mandolin music) - So that's, it's always a nice one, to start with something like that, to get everyone laughing a little bit.
So that was, you know, a traditional piece that, it aired on traditional media. But it also was, they aired it on the Internet, too. And what a lot of brands do is, they'll have a website, and some of them will have a YouTube channel, you know, like Anheuser Busch. And they'll put it out, you know, in other ways, also. The next one, which is another traditional one, is for American Express, and it's with DeNiro.
(dramatic music) - [Voiceover] I come from Kenya. - [Voiceover] I come from Berlin. (multiple voices talking over each other) - [Robert DeNiro] My oldest friend. My first love. My East. My Far East.
My West Side. My private side. My heartbreak. My heartbeat. My life happens here. My card is American Express. - So those are two things I would say were, as far as media goes, were traditional things.
And I know the, you know, the other subject that we wanna talk about in this room is also design. And I have to say, for me, design and craftsmanship and ideas, it's something that this school helped instill into me, that I carry with me today, that, I really feel like the design and the craftsmanship is a part of everything that I do or strive to do. And all the way from the Budwiser thing, the way the color of the film looks, the grittiness of the place, the production design, to the American Express piece, all that, there's a lot of thought that goes into all the design for this, the lighting and everything.
Check my time. Okay. So, let's see. Which one are we gonna go to next? Which one, Jacks? Oh, okay. That's right. Okay. So I'm gonna just talk about this. This now, this is something that I did with another friend of mine that works at Tool, Ben. And we co-directed this project for the John F. Kennedy Library. And so this gets into the newer media stuff.
The Library wants to, I guess, their mission, really, is to prolong John F. Kennedy's image and what he did for all of us. And this was coming up on the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis. And so we were tasked to think of an idea that we could bring to life, that would help explain what happened during the crisis and what John F. Kennedy's role was during that crisis.
So I'm just gonna play, just for time's sake, it's what we call, occasionally we do these things called case studies. So, instead of seeing the whole experience on the Internet, you can just watch the case study and it'll sum it up, so ... (slow, somber piano music) - [Voiceover] Then there, all I remember is, big flash.
- [Voiceover] (speaks foreign language) - Everybody we knew was gone. - [Voiceover] To remind us just how close we really came to nuclear war, the JFK Presidential Library created Clouds Over Cuba. The interactive documentary commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis follows the developments that led to the crisis, beginning with the 1959 Cuban revolution led by Fidel Castro and continuing on until the missiles were removed in October, 1962.
Along the way, the user is invited to explore 15 related events in greater depth, via expert interviews, including Sheldon M. Stern, former historian at the JFK Library. - I can remember saying, "Wow. These tapes, "this is gonna just blow the roof off so many assumptions." - [Voiceover] And Sergei Khruschev, son of Soviet premier Nikita Khruschev. - To show Americans, If you attack Cuba, it will be nuclear war. - [Voiceover] Topics such as the fear of Communism, the Bay of Pigs Invasion, and the secret ExComm Recordings are all explored in detail, from multiple perspectives.
- [Recording] What is going on in Cuba, that is what has got to stop. - [Voiceover] The film ultimately builds to an alternate 2012, in which the crisis escalated into nuclear war. This short film tells the intertwining story of four fictional characters who each remember the horrors of the war in their own way. Since launch, thousands of visitors from over 154 countries have visited the site, and the world was once again reminded what would have happened had diplomacy not won out. - What kind of a peace do I mean, and what kind of a peace do we seek? Not merely peace in our time, but peace in all time.
(gentle music) - So that, this was a very in depth piece. This only lived on the web. It was a big challenge. It was a lot of assets to tell the story. And ... obviously, it was a huge challenge to organize this and make it interesting, where people could jump off at any point in the linear story and get more information about things.
The other thing it was alluding to is, we came up with this idea where we launched this site 50 years to the minute of the 13-year crisis. And if you got logged on, you could actually relive that 13-day crisis, sort of in real time, 50 years later. So you would get, let's say, on day three of the crisis, if our U2 planes flew over and got new spy photos of Cuba, you would get send a message to your phone or an email saying, "New photos have come in." And the history buffs loved, you know, this aspect of this.
You could actually reset your, if you wanna log on now and you wanna reset your date and time back, it'll do it for you again. I can just ... I'm gonna have to speed up a little bit here. Let's go to the next one, Jim. Oh, okay. So here. So I just brought a few slides to just talk about the design, as far as the new media. What we did is, we came up with, at the bottom of this, is sort of a timeline for this. So, at any point when you're watching this, the timeline goes away if your cursor kind of goes down.
But if you brought it up at any point, you could see where you were in the piece or the film, with the date and where you are in history. There's a little folder that we designed on the right, and we call it a dossier, that, as you're watching the piece, more assets would accumulate in there. But you wouldn't get all the stuff toward the end of the story until you got to the end of the story. So at any point, you could pause that, hit the dossier button, and it would open up this and you would see these other assets, as far as the story went.
So you could dive deeper into it. We had all this stuff because the library had released it and the government, it'd gone past a certain date, so the government released all this stuff. And, you know, what they told us is, Kennedy, because of the Bay of Pigs, didn't trust some of his cabinet members, or, actually, some of the generals that were working for him. So he installed a tape recorder under his desk, where he had a button that he would push. And he would record all the meetings that he would have with the generals and his cabinet members and stuff.
And so now we had all these tapes released. So we had hundreds of hours of audio tapes. We had pictures, we had spy plane stuff, we had all this stuff that now we had gotten back from Russia that know later. So we organized this in this system. And, again, whenever I feel like I'm tasked with one of these things, which I love to do, the design is so important to me, and the craftsmanship and the way that, when you roll over things, the way they animate and the motion graphics happen can be so beautiful.
And I feel like, whenever we have a whole team of designers at Tool that work on these projects, when I come in and look at what they're doing for me or whatever, I am constantly saying, "Is that the simplest "that we can make it?" And I think in this new world, there's so much that you can do. But it's about simplicity and elegance. Even if it's something that's meant to be disruptive or some wild music thing. It's still, it's a different kind of elegance that might be bizarre or crazy.
But it's still, it's rooted in the design and the idea and the design. Let's go to the next one. - [Voiceover] Introducing the world's first way to truly explore a city before you even arrive. Say hello to the Melbourne Remote Control Tourist. Melbourne is a city that lends itself to discovery. So we made a web experience that enabled potential visitors to do just that. Through Twitter and Facebook, users could decide what they wanted to see and do, all through the eyes and ears of our remote control tourists.
- How's that? - [Voiceover] Real city explorers, connected to the world via the Internet. What they experienced, you experienced. Over five days, our tourists received almost 9,000 requests. - [Voiceover] Mark and Greg want me to try a chili. You know what? I knew this was coming. (exclaims) Oh, it's hot. - [Voiceover] They sampled cheeses, learned the art of pizza making ... - Just so you know, James online wants anchovies on the pizza. - [Voiceover] They delivered cupcakes. - [Voiceover] Can I order 24 cupcakes, please? Free cupcakes! - [Voiceover] Traveled by foot, bike, taxi, tram, boat, even helicopter.
- [Voiceover] Check this out. What an amazing view we have. - [Voiceover] Took over 2,000 Instagram photos. - [Voiceover] Oh-oh! (gorilla growls) Whoa! - [Voiceover] Experienced firsthand some of Melbourne's best events and festivals. - [Voiceover] I'm gonna run the final 100 meters of the Melbourne marathon. See, I've even got my number. - [Voiceover] And checked into hundreds of great locations. And if you didn't know Melbourne, an interactive map showed what was nearby and worth checking out, with over 500 Melbourne businesses featured.
- [Voiceover] Ding dong? (everyone cheers) - [Voiceover] And the more requests that tourists got, the more amazing Melbourne content we created, resulting in a city guide like no other, with over 80 hours of unique first person footage, pictures, maps, and city highlights for people to use for years to come. (upbeat music) In all, 158 countries and almost 4,000 cities participated from around the globe, with an average time on site above six minutes exploring the depth of what Melbourne has to offer.
- Using social media, your suggestions will help you to live vicarious through real people out there in Melbourne. - [Voiceover] So far, we've generated world-wide press coverage, reaching an estimated global audience of over 150 million people, equating to a PR value of over $3.7 million. To date, we've generated over 49 million earned social media impressions. We even had a successful marriage proposal. - [Voiceover] Adam says to Alex, "Marry me!" Adam, she said yes!! Wooo! - [Voiceover] The Melbourne Remote Control Tourist, setting a global benchmark in tourism advertising.
- I brought that because, again, talking about new media. It's a different use of the media. It was a live streaming thing. You know, the idea was that you could actually, if you wanted to experience Melbourne but hadn't gotten there or wanted to get there, you could actually, in real time, you could log on and see this. And you could tweet in, or through Facebook, you could say, "Hey, I always wanted to go to this cheese shop," or, "We'd get on a bike," or, "Do this," and you could actually see it happening. It was a huge success.
We've been asked to do many things now. I can't remember if we did that ... I think it was last year we did that. It went on to win, you know, a bunch of awards, and we've been asked to do more things like that. Let me see what the next one ... So the next, we could just speed through this. This was, I was just gonna show you, this was just getting to the design of that. These were the, we call the wireframe, of it, is basically the architecture of something like this, of how it -- you can go to the next one -- of how it just sort of evolved and evolved.
And again, it it's like I say, it's just making it simpler. And this was going through the exercise of going, "Hey, on a project like this, what's more important, "the map or the video?" And you're always faced with, you know, we have all these elements that we wanna show, and what do we hide on, kind of, roll-over stuff? What do we make big? What's a priority? What's not? But it all goes back to the design. Here's another exploration. And another one.
And now this is getting closer to where it ended up, which, in the end, we decided the video was the most important. You would see the tweets on the right-hand side, a map that was smaller down here. But, again, the design is so important to communication and presentation. And then, I think the last one is the Apple project that we did this year. So we've done stuff for Apple.
We didn't bring the whole thing. We just brought a little pie- or did we? But maybe we shouldn't play it, I think. Anyways, we did a piece for Apple. We do work for Apple. A part of it lived on their website, which is precious to them. We went through this (chuckles) kind of weird ... Projects like these take many months to execute. And about halfway into this project, Phil Schiller and the Apple people asked us to just come up there and live in Cupertino for, I think, the last two months of this project, which kind of set everyone, and we'd shot a bunch of stuff all over the world for this project.
And so we probably had, I don't know, a dozen or so of our people that are doing design and code and whatnot go up to Cupertino, to sort of be embedded with them, because this was on their landing page for many months. I think it just went off recently. And it was the 30th anniversary of the Mac. So we went back. And I flew around the world, shooting all these people that had done amazing things. That's John Maeda, who, he's done amazing things early on with the Mac.
So it's people like him. There was a guy in Japan I went to see, Daito, that does amazing installations and things, and worked with him for a while. Moby, I went and talked to him and shot a bunch of stuff with him. So anyway. So I think we are, sort of, at the tip of the iceberg, as far as new media. Like I said, I was in a meeting yesterday with Brian Chesky, who started AirBnB.
And, you know, it really, the big thing, which we've seen this coming about two years ago, is now, we were just talking about this, is mobile right now. Is people ... I just got this new bigger iPhone. Is, people are really using their mobile devices more and more. So I think mobile is, you know, the next thing. I think wearables is on the horizon. But this is all stuff. But the nice things about it is that, for everyone here as artists and designers, it's all, it really doesn't matter what the media is.
It's nice to be aware of it and see it coming. But it's all about your ideas and your design. And that's, if you have a good sense of design and you are open to any kind of thinking, and push on your ideas, you're gonna do well in any type of media. But I think the nice thing about the media, it's just like giving an artist a different canvas to play with.
For me, personally, I graduated here in 1990. There was no Internet. We barel- I remember we had a couple of the first few Macs down here that we would come down and do ... But what you did ... You know, I just took my sense of exploration and never being happy with, or compromising is always ... I look back on this stuff now, even watching, going, "Man, I could have done better with this," or, "I should have done something with that." And it's always pushing. And it's the craftsmanship and the design.
Anyways. Thank you. (audience applauds)
The second round of the series, recorded in late 2014, features Erich Joiner from the design firm Tool, Dave Bullock from the crowdfunding site CrowdRise, and Peter Lunenfield from UCLA talking about the power of media in design. The first panel features the 3x3 group: YO | LAI | DO event, featuring Yo Santosa (Ferroconcrete), David Lai (Hello Design), and Chris Do (BL:ND). This transmedia trio presents projects from the fields of branding, web, and motion design, touching on the challenges of running their own firms and the importance of story, inspiration, and constant evolution.
Art Center professor and lecture series leader Petrula Vrontikis guides both panels in round-table discussions about managing client expectations, overcoming professional uncertainty, and much more.
Skill Level Intermediate
Q: This course was updated on 05/22/2015. What changed?
A: We added a new chapter, featuring new talks by Erich Joiner from the design firm Tool, Dave Bullock from the crowdfunding site CrowdRise, and Peter Lunenfield from UCLA.