Marcelino Alvarez, David Mikula and Shawn Bernard, a trio of agency alums and self-professed techies, recently left the agency world to immerse themselves fulltime in Gorlochs. For those of you who get the reference, yes, they're Dungeons & Dragons nerds, but no, they won't be up to any role-playing. Rather, they're hoping to fulfill a serious fantasy and walk a cross-platform, tech and ideas driven path like that carved out by companies like ACNE, The Barbarian Group, Crispin and others. Launched as a side project in 2008, Gorlochs, based in Portland, Oregon, is now the main pursuit for the trio. Alvarez most recently served as executive interactive producer at Wieden + Kennedy, after working at shops like Crispin and JWT, and will serve as Gorlochs CEO/EP; Mikula will take on the role of interactive director, after stints as an interactive AD at JWT and Wieden; and Bernard will act as tech director, a position he's well prepared for after building high end CMS and e-commerce solutions for TBS, CNN, TNT, NASCAR and leading backend technology at Nau and then at Wieden, on projects for Nokia and Careerbuilder.com.
Creativity caught up with Alvarez about Gorlochs' recent developments.
Tell us about Gorlochs.What inspired this venture? What's your M.O.?
We launched in August 2008 as a creative side project making iPhone apps following our initial foray into the space while at W+K for CareerBuilder.com. Our first original project was Campaign, a political newsreader app for the 2008 Presidential election. We followed that with Boombox and Boombox Pro, the first Blip.fm apps for the iPhone. We were having so much fun in the space that a few of us decided to take it full time in 2010 and focus on creating other types of original IP, regardless of the platform.
We've always been inspired by companies like The Barbarian Group, Unit9, Acne, Valve, CP+B, and Wieden + Kennedy. They each have a core set of values and guiding principals that make their work, regardless of the medium, stand out from the rest. We want to find a way to bring pieces of each of their philosophies, as we've experienced them, into our mix of creative projects. And that's really our M.O. - to blend our unique approach of problem solving, storytelling and logic with our clients interest to create something culturally compelling and relevant.
We love the digital space as much as everyone else; hell we were the first generation to grow up in it, but it'll never drag us down or stop us from doing things that make companies look great without a keyboard.
What inspired you to leave the agency and devote yourself full time to this?
What inspired the name "Gorlochs"?
It's a Dungeons & Dragons thing. We could tell you, but then we'd have to roll a 20 and crit you with a Magic Missile.
Can you describe your business model? Will it be similar to a digital agency/boutique agency? What sorts of relationships are you hoping to have with clients?
It will be a hybrid between a boutique agency and an R&D lab. In some cases, we'll have project by project relationships with clients (whether they be agencies or companies). In others, we hope to have long-term relationships where we not only build a product, but create a platform that can evolve as our clients' consumers evolve.
Part of our R&D efforts will be handled in conjunction with an incubator experiment that's based in Portland. It's a local technology cooperative featuring a group of brilliant tech minds and small startups working together on their own projects and pitching new IP to the local Portland VC community.
What are you working on now? Anything interesting?
We've been working on Kickball, a Foursquare application for the iPhone that's built around collecting points by exploring your city and/or spend time with your friends. When version two rolls around, users will be able to leave goodies (photos, videos, songs and more) for each other and potentially find physical goods (i.e. Kickball shirts, artist prints and coupons).
We've also been messing around with an app we're calling Abstracts, which offers a simple way to track your mood, thoughts and anything else worth tracking daily through statistics and multiple choice—super low hurdle and fun.
We're also working with W+K on a couple of R&D type projects for some of their clients.
What sorts of projects are you hoping to do in the future?
We're looking for projects that might not be projects yet and a space to be creative in. We aren't looking to push specific technologies unless they're relevant for the brief. Clients are looking to hit certain key points—social media, new tech, etc.—and we'd like to work with them to figure out how best to approach the notion of "we need to be on Facebook," which sometimes might not require production of a creative idea as much as a solid strategic point of view. The ideal agency project would allow us to express our creativity across various platforms, whereas the ideal R&D project is one where we can license a piece of tech we've built for others to use.
We're beginning to think through a logic/puzzle game, which is simple and exciting.
We would love to do non-traditional/interactive work with in the game industry. Tons of potential and common interests.Some of the Gorlochs founders' previous work: