Creative Technologist–Division of Labor vs. the Return of the Generalist?

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Image courtesy of Stev.ie.

Starting B-Reel 11 years ago, we three founders had clear roles.

Petter [Westlund, left]: designer, programmer, motion artist; swiss army knife in all things digital production.

Pelle [Nilsson, center]: producer, director. Swiss army knife in all things TV and TVC production.

Anders [Wahlquist, right]: business / key account. Swiss army knife all things Sales / HR / Business / legal / admin.

Like a cell structure B-Reel has since developed organically looking for people beeing very allroundish. Generalists.

Basically we have been happy with that. People overlap.

Starting projects, we brought the whole team to the brief and collected ideas from all angles. Team effort.

All in all we feel the seemless intertwining of tech / creativity / concept / production had a decent chance with us, and when the notion of "creative technologist" started to evolve we thought, Yep, that's what we are, all of us and the whole company.

But, looking back at it, it's been on and off, really.

1999-2005, we were venturing into different media and platforms for every project, one man, one vote in creative concepting. Great team work—check.

2005–2008, there was more of a divide between art and developers. Production-wise, it was the period of high visual and high motion quality, film heavy campaign sites. Great looking work, process too linear.

Now we are back into developing in a variety of different screens and different platforms, and the technology perspective in setting off concepts is ever present.

How does that affect the swiss army knives, crea-techies and the process?

We do division of labour. We got a proper TVC production company with name directors doing the storytelling. We look for people who want to be world class in design and happy with that, maybe not always careering for CD. Half of our developers are still developers, and the other half are creative technologists in body and soul. Some of our art directors and CDs are from a pure "technical" background.

So we actually specialized a bit more, but the ways people end up in a certain role might be unorthodox. We feel, with growth and new demands from agencies, we have to keep adding some specialization still. Our process is still collaborative but with more people in the group, slightly more specialized.

What do the creative technologists do?

A creative and technically skilled individual to work as part of a team that creates concepts and who builds innovative prototypes and projects—this role requires a wide array of design and technical skills, as well as the vision necessary to develop a prototype from concept to implementation. (borrowed and tweaked from a recruitment ad, thanks and props NYTimes )

The CT here is directly involved in the everyday creative work, closing the gap between concept and production, between "creative" and "tech". A full-on member of the team all along the production, as natural in the team at any point as the art director is, and as the copywriter was, in the days.

We still look to hire nice people who have a broad view into the needs of everyday digital production, and are super skilled, but with a more diverse production landscape, and a more developed digital industry, the need for more roles and a little more specialization is there.

Weird footnote is: when a big agency brings in the creative technologist in their organization, it's probably a generalist role by them. For us, adding a new role/title is a sign of specialization, as we are a flat organization, with a lot of general knowledge and no organizational layers.

To the generalists! To the specialists! To the creative technologists!

Anders Wahlquist is CEO/co-founder of hybrid production company B-Reel

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