On the Lam

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Francis Lam has found a new home to hone his talents. The tech maven, known for his design-minded, socially-savvy web projects like the website db-db.com, this fall will return to his native China, where he will assume the role of creative technologist at Wieden + Kennedy, Shanghai. After earning his Masters degree from the MIT Media Lab, Lam most recently served as senior interactive specialist at nowTV in Hong Kong. As for his new post, he explains,"It's like being the liaison between creative and technology. [Wieden + Kennedy] is more interested in having digital content and a new way of presenting ideas and selling products. [Advertising] is moving more towards the digital domain. It requires a lot of interactivity, presenting ideas online or using different kinds of digital media like projectors, LED screens and all sorts of sensors."

The current iteration of DB-DB.com
The current iteration of DB-DB.com
Although Lam claims to use technology only as a "flash-in-the-pan" tool when he's conceiving ideas, he built his reputation creating innovative social networking products and applications. This includes a Versatile Messaging System he developed while at Hong Kong telecom firm PCCW that allows for visualized messaging in 3G phones. "They wanted me to do something more interesting than just an MMS," says Lam, "so I developed a system where people could customize not only the text but the visuals in their message. They can choose the look and feel and how the message is to be displayed." But it's perhaps his abstract, ever-morphing "db-db loves you" site that Lam is best known for. Started in 2001 as an art project, the site, which earned honorable mentions at ARS Electronica Prix in Austria, provides a collaborative platform for the online design community and allows visitors to create their own blog and profile, then connect with other users within an atypical, customizable interface. "I wanted to play around with social networking," he says. "I thought people like blogs, but why do all blogs look the same? I wanted to make a blogging tool where what you see is what you get. It has an interface that looks like Photoshop so it might be more catered to designers." Lam does note, however, that membership doesn't come easy. "People really have to put some effort into it. To be a db-db member, you first have to submit a photo of yourself with a handwritten sign that includes your username. You have to use your own creativity to make it nicer."

At Wieden, Lam will channel his expertise to help extend the agency's creative ideas through technology, but perhaps more importantly, he hopes to strip away the complexities of tech to make it less intimidating for creatives. "My vision is to present technology in a more invisible way," he says. "I want to make it feel very normal and inject it into their work and have it run seamlessly. It's not just about using really hi-tech stuff and doing something just for the sake of having really good technology."
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