"Digital can mean so many things nowadays," said Firstborn Chief Creative Officer JoonYong Park. "It can be a website or a mobile phone app. It can revolutionize the way we think about packaging."
Even when that packaging happens to your own flesh.
Take, for example, Firstborn's Sobe Reskin project, which invited visitors to the 2010 SXSW festival to step inside a special kiosk and "re-skin" themselves with digital tattoos that magically conformed to even the bumpiest contours of their bodies.
Not your typical digital project, but that's the kind of innovation that Park plans to continue at the shop, now that he's slid into the chief creative post. After joining in 2004 as senior art director and moving up to creative director in 2007, last year the Korea-born Mr. Park became the shop's first chief creative officer. Now it's his job to make the entire creative team play well and play together.
That's no easy task since the agency's creative staffers fill three different departments—design, 3-D and video production—and given the many cut-through projects Firstborn has produced in recent years. Take for example, the Mustang Community Customizer, a multi-user platform in which visitors could tag team with friends online to create a car design in real time; sophisticated video-heavy pushes such as the JetBlue Experience, a social media-driven interactive journey and 3-D experience for Wrigley's 5 React Gum (created with EVB); the RMS Titanic's Expedition Titanic, which included a 3-D tour of the ship's wreckage; or the redesign of Aflac.com.
Says Park: "It's like choreography. I work to bring out people's strengths and bring people into the process at the right time. No two projects are the same, so you have to constantly adapt to what's happening each day. This is where it's important to really know all the people on your team. Not everyone's good at brainstorming and not everyone is a technical geek. So much here, at any successful company, depends on relationships and on working together. That's a huge part of my job, creating and maintaining that balance."
Outside of client projects, Park also actively encourages the independent projects of his team, which has turned out inventions such as Dofl Ball, an iPad hockey game that even your cat can play, created by senior developer Dofl Yun.
"Obviously, client work comes first, but side projects like Dofl Ball influence client work and inspire the team so I support them," he said. "I know how innovative the people are here. One of my goals is to implement more of that. I feel like our work shows that we are innovative, but not to what extent. We just need to keep pushing and create opportunities for ourselves. It's becoming easier for clients to explore new territory, but it's still scary for them. I want Firstborn to take the little steps necessary to show what we can do."