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Takeaways from SXSW

Austin, March 2015

South By Southwest, or “South by” as it’s known by its friends, is a true nerd’s Spring Break. Technological breakthroughs, innovative ideas, self-driving cars, and creative masterpieces all converge into one immersive cloud of genius, ready to be soaked up by the thousands of pilgrims who venture there every summer. It’s too good for closerlook, inc. to pass up. So this year, Jonathan Sarmiento, Associate Creative Director, took a trip down to Austin to see what was going to be changing the world, and the industry.

Data creates inspiration

“One main point many speakers made was that big data is everywhere. Getting data is the easy part. But sifting through it to find insights and inspiration requires a human touch,” Sarmiento says. Big data shouldn’t just be used to justify actions or campaigns. It’s useful for gathering learnings from past work, sure.  But it should be used to inspire future actions. “That’s where you find the story you need to create and where it needs to go.”

One key closerlooker who decides where this story needs to go is Autumn Piece, Strategy Director. “Yes there are mountains of data, but just because you have all the data doesn’t mean it’s all meaningful. We find the data that shows clients where they are and move them toward meeting their business goals. It’s all about selecting the right data to utilize,” she says. That’s really what makes our relationship marketing tick.

Design creates interactions

“Another big takeaway is that the line between designers and developers is continuing to blur,” Sarmiento says. “As technology evolves, and as more people embrace existing technologies, knowing how a new medium can process and convey brand stories is just as important as designing and telling those stories.” Developing and designing these stories are both equally important aspects, because for each campaign closerlook crafts, it determines how a story will be told, in what medium it will live and how the users will interact with it, he adds.

Nathan Henry, Interactive Technical Director, notes that the line has already been blurred at closerlook. “Our designers are web friendly and our developers have a design eye.” As each department learns about the other, designers and developers cross-pollinate creative ideas, which leads to smarter work. This applies to strategy, as well. As Henry points out, “We gut-check our offerings in the developmental phases. We are thinking about how to measure the success of a campaign and how to optimize it before any work goes live or even gets created.”

That’s the sort of practical application that was the king of the conference. “At South by Southwest, and here at closerlook, a lot of importance is placed on the convergence of disciplines. It leads to a term that we’ve heard lately: ‘agile development.’ We work together in a smarter, quicker way to produce something better,” Sarmiento concludes.


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