AgenciesInterview

Pod1

Pod1 is a London-based design agency with a big reputation with clients such as Hi-Tec and Shell. Jen Mie Yoong was one of its first employees and when she’s not doing crockery-breaking headspins at office parties she’s a pretty sharp designer, too.

.net: How did you get into web design?
JMY: I’ve always loved art and all types of design. I went to the University of Western Australia in Perth to study graphic design, but soon got into web and multimedia design which was just being introduced at that time. Since then I’ve been focusing on pure web design which is really exciting. I like the architectural dimension to web design. It’s not just about look and feel, but more and more about usability and accessibility. There’s always something new about the web which makes it challenging.

.net: How did Pod1 come about?
JMY: Pod1 was founded in December 2001 by Fadi Shuman and Marc Caudron, who became friends whilst studying at university. I arrived in London in early 2003 from Australia and was one of their first employees. I literally started at Pod1 within 72 hours of getting off the plane, and whilst here I’ve had the opportunity to work on some really exciting projects and see the agency grow from four to 30 people.

.net: Design briefs are important, but is it still difficult to get through to some clients?
JMY: Sometimes, although clients are becoming more familiar with the net and what’s possible, so things are getting better. At Pod1 we help clients get the most out of their site. They trust us and often let us lead the creative process especially with the emergence of new online philosophies such as Web 2.0.

.net: What cool stuff is Pod1 working on currently?
JMY: A project for the United Nations (top secret). Work for Yahoo! An online marketing campaign for Honda. A website for The Guinness Book of Records, and loads of other stuff I really can’t talk about...yet.

.net: Has designing for the mobile web reached the average agency yet?
JMY: Well I am not sure about the average agency, but we make full use of handheld media stylesheets, which we style to convert the website into a complete text-based version of a site which is perfect for any mobile device. The world is becoming more and more mobile so we believe it is important that all new websites can be accessed by as many people, and devices, as possible.

.net: What new design technologies are you into?
JMY: We have been experimenting with AJAX and use it to make our clients’ websites more intuitive and easier to use. Our initial research suggests that by using AJAX on ecommerce sites it’s possible to increase the conversion rate by up to 10 per cent. Our lead Flash developer and one of our senior technical developers are looking into the viability of Flex and its benefits over currently established solutions such as Flash, XML and PHP, which we already use to create rich media sites.

.net: Where do you see Pod1 in three years time?
JMY: Pod1 has been doubling in size year on year so I imagine at this rate we’ll be in the top tier of agencies for web design and online marketing in the UK. It’s important that as we grow, we remain at the cutting edge of web design, whilst still keeping the fun aspect of what we do in place. We are planning to open offices in New York in 2007 and Beijing in 2008.

.net: With today’s demanding clients, what are the essentials of a good pitch?
JMY: Good creative concepts win pitches! And for that you need to understand the client, their brand and their online objectives. I’m sure the new business team believes it’s slick presentations that win pitches, or being price competitive. Perhaps it’s all these things.

.net: What advice do you have for young people getting into the industry?
JMY: Buy a copy of Dreamweaver, Photoshop and Flash and do the tutorials from start to finish. One of two things will happen: you will either form an allergic reaction to computers and the internet, in which case it is better to find out now than half way into your career. Or you will fall in love with the web and immediately start working on your own website. Look for inspiration from all around you and build up your own online portfolio as this is what employers will measure you on. Going to college or university might be an option, but this is not as essential as it might be for other types of work. It’s your portfolio that’s important and not a piece of paper stating your qualifications. Then get yourself in the face of employers!

.net: What’s your top party trick to amuse others at the Christmas do?
JMY: I’m a pretty good breakdancer and (when sober) can perform cool headspins! Sadly, once I’ve had a couple of shots of Tequila (obligatory at a Pod1 Christmas do), things don’t always go to plan. I once smashed £500 worth of crockery, think it was worth it for the comedy factor though!

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