STRUCK Takes Us Inside NAS

A few vitally important lessons learned from last month’s Digital Dialogues with STRUCK at Smarsh:

  1. Getting “slimed” is pretty easy if you know how to make it at home. Learning the recipe for Nickelodeon’s trademark green goo is not.
  2. A puppet will make for great stand-ins, when your star is camera-shy.
  3. If you’re a talented animator and don’t think you want to work at Nickelodeon, it’s probably because you have no idea what you’re missing.
  4. A redesign project, is never just a redesign.

STRUCK’s Digital Design Director Abe Levin and Digital Strategist Ben Peters shared with AIGA Portlanders an insider’s look at the process behind the recently “redesigned” Nickelodeon Animation Studio’s (NAS’s) website.

Things were moving along as expected, when deep in discovery STRUCK realized there was a huge misalign between the stated goals of the redesign and the true needs of the project. What NAS really needed for success was to use their website to attract top talent. And the best way to do this was to rethink everything.

Photo by Pxlvue.

For those of us who grew up watching Nick, it’s hard to believe they have any trouble attracting top talent. It turns out that what with competitors (who will go nameless), and other changes inside the company, it was getting harder to lure the best and brightest Creators out there to the studio. Fortunately, the competition doesn’t have the creative minds at STRUCK on their side.

After a long process of talking, listening, and exploring inside the Nickelodeon Animation Studio, STRUCK came up with a plan. Not only would they complete the task of the redesign by combining the content of four pre-existing websites into one, but they would also conceive of a unique way to capture the essence of the NAS and share it with audiences in an authentic and transparent way.

Light-bulb moment: the biggest asset for the Studio was the Creators themselves! Who better to feature than the heroes behind the shows, the crafters of the stories, the makers of all these kooky characters? STRUCK realized that what draws true talent is revealing the process behind the creation. So they opened up the world that is NAS — discovering mistakes and flaws as well as brilliance and creative genius in the making.

A few of the biggest highlights from the presentation were exclusive behind-the-scenes moments. There was the ultra-fast motion video STRUCK folks created out of cameras they set up everywhere at Nick. We might have dreamed, but now we know for sure that Creators have office walls made of cheese (no, it’s not edible), and grab lunch from food carts before joining in a game of Frisbee on the company lawn. The Creator who will forever be known as his puppet alter ego was another highlight, one that also displayed some fast-thinking pizzaz on STRUCK’s part. When one of your interviewees changes their mind and decides, only a few hours before the interview, not to be on camera, what do you do? Make a puppet out of him of course! The scruffy puppet chatting it up with fellow employees, leading meetings, and describing his process was a perfect blend of take it seriously and outrageous weirdness that fit Nickelodeon to a tee.

Photo by Pxlvue.

What did we really learn?

STRUCK showed us how to get to the heart of what a project really demands — and what a company and a culture really means. They reminded us to take risks, especially when we don’t know if they’ll pay off. They showed us that there is no end to what your creativity can offer if you allow it the freedom to ignore the clock and go where the project honestly and soulfully is asking to go. They reminded us about the crazy uncertainty of the creative process, and the beauty of watching someone in the process of creating. They reminded us that for our clients, creating web content can be a lot harder that it looks and that a solid discovery process is the key to any project’s success. And mostly, Abe and Ben reminded us that the feeling of being inspired, of seeing experimentation, freedom and energy at work is what attracts us most.

Now if I could only get them to share the secret recipe for slime…

You can find Abe Levin @AbeLevin and Ben Peters @benpeters. Peruse photos from this event on Flickr and then subscribe to our email newsletter to stay in the loop about the next Digital Dialogues event —where Portland’s best interactive studios pull back the curtain on a different project case study each quarter.

By Darcy Miller
Published May 4, 2015
AIGA encourages thoughtful, responsible discourse. Please add comments judiciously, and refrain from maligning any individual, institution or body of work. Read our policy on commenting.