May 21, 2008

Seasoned Phronesis and A Side of Sophia

As we round the bend here in the 2.0nd lap of the Internet grand prix, neck in neck, tight packs at blinding speeds, all neatly nestled, gently shunting one another to gain a slight lead, the much needed pit stops and then the checkered flags, flash bulbs popping every second, the smell of burning rubber, the occasional crash and burn and the sight of skid marks strewn all over the landscape, the excitement of the race is really what makes this interactive industry so special.

I liken the industry to an auto race not because I am any kind of NASCAR Fan, I honestly know nothing about it, however I do know that when I look at a race it completely reminds me of my work week. How fast I need to get things done, how amazingly fast everything is.

Our world is very different from those in finance, civil service, publishing, fine dining, nonprofit and other industries, however like those other industries we are thoroughly human in every sense of the word, yet at the same time for 80-120 hours a week we create for, and live on and in this completely inhuman machine.

As "interactive" professionals we tend to be highly emotional, passionate, aggressive and competitive, we embody extremely exaggerated emotions and personality traits for a group that communicates, lives in and creates ideas and content for a virtual world.

It is almost as if we need to over compensate for the fact that we are buried in conference rooms and behind computers all day long and in many cases all night long.

The many wonderfully strange and creative personalities who drive the diverse cars in this giant race throughout the interactive industry tend to be people who are very exacting yet abstract, creative yet extremely scientific, bold and daring yet cautious and timid and extremely intelligent in terms of how much we have to actually know from a trend, technology, psychological, physical and business point of view. It is a very polar environment to say the least.

As a father I love watching my kids grow up, it never ceases to amaze me how spectacular maturation is and how impressionable its evolution is and how it is effected by everything around it.

No matter how hard you plan, organize, specify, and try to control the environment around the child it is inevitable that its maturation is ultimately out of your control.

As professionals in this very young industry where environmental control, precision and creativity are all meticulously filtered through media like krill through baleen, where everything is carefully scrutinized and then swallowed only to be spit out again and reused. Where sensitivities are put aside, we tend to develop a tough skin after a while as to not let every detail drive us insane. We now stand, tough skinned and weathered ready to take on the next phase of our maturation.

It has been about 10-12 years since the big boom, the bang, the divergent evolution that resulted in the increasing morphological difference between who we are now and what we were 10 years ago. Those of us who have survived that evolutionary shift have absorbed the lingering effect of the once doubted but now highly touted internet and have attained the experience and knowledge and an almost practical wisdom for something that is very impractical. It is something that we have gained from what we have observed, developed for, designed around, encountered, and undergone.

I started this entry with a rather haughty and pseudo-intellectual title, I am sure many people didn't quite get its source. I will explain.

The great Aristotle produced a work (I do not believe it won an FWA or a Webby) called Nichomachean Ethics, what this work is comprised of is ten volumes of his lectures at the Lyceum just outside the walls of Athens (not South By South West) and the works focus on the importance of behaving virtuously and developing a virtuous character.

Aristotle's definition of virtuous was "a person who was able to recognize the best possible course of action for any given challenge." By doing this a person would reach a state of eudaimonia (happy state of mind) and would therefore not be effected by all the other small petty bull shit that would typically ruin a person's Monday morning.

The first word used in the title is Phronesis, this is a Greek word typically translated as "practical wisdom" and its concern is with the particulars, it is involved with how to act correctly in particular situations. Phronesis is about applying the best possible principles of action, but applying them in the real world or in this case the virtual world of the internet, in situations that a person is not prepared for but one that we would attempt to create, based on the killer proposal we just submitted and got a sign off on! This requires extensive experience of the advertising, design, development, technology and internet worlds.

The second term I used in the title of this entry is Sophia, this is the Greek word for wisdom or the ability to discern universal truths.

The combination of these two virtues is what we call maturation.

This is the main topic of this entry - Maturation.

I can go on and on about maturation of ones personality, of ones relationships and of ones self but we all know that we are probably one of the most immature industries that exist or that have ever existed, I think the circus might be a close one but they took things pretty seriously up on those high wire acts. We play video games and wear funny sneakers, we blog and surf the web, chat and come up with funny ideas all day and then as a reward we are challenged to make those ideas come to life in all kinds of different ways.

Aristotle was quoted as saying "Whereas young people (young designers and developers) become accomplished in geometry and mathematics (flash and motion graphics), and wise within these limits (able to make them kick ass), prudent young people do not seem to be found (Shit always happens and the project some how gets shelved). The reason is that prudence is concerned with particulars (strategic process management and clear vision of clients goals) as well as universals (money money money), and particulars become known from experience, but a young person lacks experience, since some length of time is needed to produce it (about 10-12 years in this very young industry) (Nichomachean Ethics 1142 a)."

Your probably asking yourself, what drugs has the author ingested or inhaled, what does this have to do with anything?

Well if anyone reading this (Google analytics says that about 400 people should be reading this at this very minute) knows my style of writing and my passion for this business, will know that I am getting to a very serious conclusion.

The conclusion that I am getting to is the reason I joined the team at Freedom + Partners.

I had been pretty burned out after my years at Firstborn and was looking for something "different" something that made sense. Young sexy shops were opening up left and right but I just couldn't see myself at a place that would be making the same mistakes again and again and going through the growing pains of the industry, I didn't want to go to an agency because of the fact that its primary focus is not on interactive and they tend to be bogged down with bureaucracy.

Right now I am at Touro College in NYC, designing, developing, experimenting and innovating about 20 different websites. Loving the "hands on" in this safe cave i sit in. Im cozy next to my MacBook Pro and the warmth emanating from my cinema display. Im on a healthy diet of CS3, AS3, and some PHP. But I stir inside, I crave the speed of the race and my hibernation seems to be thawing itself.

The majority of my best work was done over at Firstborn, I love that place, its where I grew as a person and as a professional, it was the resistance I needed to build my interactive muscle and to gain the confidence and experience to take on ANY project that came my way.

When the news broke that Freedom Interactive Design (now called Freedom + Partners) had hired the former co-founder and creative director of Firstborn Vas Sloutchevsky and the 10 year vet, technology guru and CTO Robert Forras something in me clicked.

These were two men who I myself worked with and admired, something clicked in me that kind of made a lot of sense.

I realized that what I was looking for all this time was MATURATION!

It was not a new sexy shop that housed the best looking kids from Billysberg, or the agency that didn't get it, it was a mature, experience laden, interactive shop that had weathered the storms and had come out ready to take on the next set of challenges of our industry.

It was a shop that had people who embodied the phronesis and the sofia of this industry, a place to do things better, to apply the experience and to avoid the same stupid immature mistakes time and again.

So yes, i know this is just another plug for Freedom + Partners, a long, well thought out, mature, and experienced plug that will not only let you know who we are, but where we come from and where we are going.

It is a plug that lets you know that we represent the maturation of this young industry. We are all still fairly young, but all weathered, battle tested and mature in our field. We know how to communicate with our clients and how to hang out with our studio designers and developers, we are the vets who saw the beginning of this industry and helped shape its growth and now we are the ones who are ushering it along into its next phases.

Its not about the money, not about the awards, its about the idea and the execution. Its about applying our experience and to work hard.

We have nothing to prove to any one now other than to ourselves and that is to continue to lead by example and to help agencies, brands and clients all better understand how to make the transition from what we knew to what we now know.

Seasoned over the past 12 years, our now current core leadership at F+P has been responsible for some of the most talked about sites in the industry spanning from technology to beauty to entertainment, publishing, architecture, food and beverage and original content.

As a group of industry veterans we have all converged at F+P for the purpose of providing a more value added service based on experience to agencies and clients as well as providing leadership and maturation to this still young industry. Our goals are quite unique and very much rooted in where we all started and where the industry is today.

Freedom. The power to determine action without restraint, to think big and to think smart.

Plus. Is more value by the addition of experience, the positive sign that expresses our design and development culture.

Partners. All of the contributors in what we do – clients, staff and most important our end users.

Freedom + Partners

Get excited! A new site is coming soon.

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