Blog 53

Charlie Anstey

Last Wednesday my colleague Richard and I went back to school - and not because our bosses here at Degree 53 felt we needed some further schooling! Instead, it was part of the BIMA Digital Day, an initiative founded by the British Interactive Media Association to promote the digital industry in local schools and colleges.

As part of the scheme, Degree 53 were invited down to Prestwich Arts College for the day and what a rewarding and insightful day it was!

Just a short drive away from our offices, Prestwich Arts College is a fantastic school, with a strong emphasis on media and the performing arts. Upon arriving, this focus was very apparent: with an extensive media lab fitted with 15+ iMacs and a large theatre with cutting edge sound and lighting equipment. As digital professionals, from the moment we arrived, we felt right at home!

Once we were all set up, it was time to run through the presentation one last time before the pupils arrived - all 53 of the year 10 media students taking part (yes 53 - fitting, no?).

First on the agenda was an introduction video by BIMA which showcased numerous UK digital agencies (including several from Manchester) and highlighted some of the amazing reasons to work at a digital agency. The video was great, really engaging both for us as industry professionals but also for the students - a good mix of informative content and humour.

20 minutes later and it was time to get stuck in and engage with the pupils. “So who knows what a digital agency is?”, I piped up as the students awoke from their teenage daze following the video’s conclusion. The resulting silence was clear, we had some work to do!

I fired up the Google Slides and started talking all things digital. Everything from ourselves as individuals and our backgrounds, through to digital projects both past and present. Highlights include:

  • The Team - Introduced several members of the D53 team and some of their more peculiar routes to digital. Who knew Lizzie studied Geology at Uni?!
  • Traits of Digital - Positive attitudes, creative thinking, embracing change and challenging the norm are all great attributes we share as a company
  • What do we do? - “Digital problem solvers” is how I described this. If it’s got a screen, we’ll design and develop a digital solution for it.
  • How do we do it? - Covering our methods from ideation through to delivery. I won’t cover it now - it’s all here under ‘How do we achieve it?’
  • Life in digital - It’s constantly facing changes and somebody is always innovating within the market, making it an exciting industry to work in. With that, there comes flexible working hours, casual dress codes, working (and playing) with cool gadgets and a truly collaborative culture. Not to mention pool tables and an always open bar!

Might make sense to you but for our audience, nothing gets the point across better than relevant examples. Uber, Kindle and (especially) Shazam are all awesome examples of creative digital products and services which our industry have brought to the masses.

Of course, we didn’t create these. But we had some fantastic examples of some great responsive websites, native and web applications we’ve delivered for our clients.

So what brought our presentation home? It had to be these pictures, both from St. Peter’s Square, taken during the new pope announcements in 2005 and 2013. Spot the difference? It really seemed to resound with this group of young creative minds.

Comparison of the new pope announcements in 2005 and 2013

After our presentation, we had an open Q&A session where some of the more...important (?) questions came out. “How much do you get paid?” was definitely the best one. And not unexpected either. With the bigging up of digital over, it was time for a break before we got involved with the BIMA challenges!

The BIMA challenge

With 20 minutes to grab a coffee, we took a closer look at the challenge briefs and what was involved. There were 3 challenges for the students to choose from:

  • Connected Devices - “What objects would you connect to the internet to make our lives easier or more fun? Link your smartphone to the idea for extra functionality and control.”
  • Social Media - “More than 500 million photos and videos are uploaded and shared on the internet everyday. How could you use some, or all, of these to make something brilliant and interesting?”
  • Mobile Apps - “We all carry a smart phone everywhere we go, and we keep them by our side day and night. How could you use these smart phones for social good within your local community or further afield?”

With the students grouped up into 5-6s, they took to the challenges and with our help, started coming up with ideas. We split the challenges up into 2 parts: ideation and definition.

At first, we wanted the pupils to come up with as many concepts as possible. Anything and everything. There are no bad ideas! Each aspect to their ideas was penned on a Post-It note and added to the mix. We ended up with quite a lot of thoughts.

Some of the ideas which the students put together on BIMA Digital Day 2014

It was tough and as lunchtime neared, concentration was beginning to wane. The students were doing fantastic and with loads of creative ideas in the pipeline, it was time for a much needed break. Not to mention foooood!

After munching our sandwiches, everyone came back together and it was on to the second part of the challenge: the teams chose their best ideas and short listed them ready to create their challenge designs.

Each of the challenges carried a slightly different format but all prompted thoughts around the:

  • core idea
  • target demographic(s)
  • unique features
  • branding/logo design and
  • app screen designs.

Each of the team members were encouraged to contribute in their own ways - some were creative and helped with the branding, others considered user experience and the flow of their apps and some were analytical, considering the pros/cons and value that their apps would bring to their users.

A collage of the challenge entries which Prestwich Arts College created on BIMA Digital Day 2014

As the day drew to a close, it was clear that everyone had really enjoyed the day. There were some truly creative and whacky ideas around the room - and that’s exactly what we’re after in the digital industry. Most importantly, there is definitely some fantastic emerging talent at Prestwich Arts College.

With a round of applause from the students, their appreciation was palpable, Richard and I relished the feeling of a truly rewarding experience. As the pupils were dismissed, we packed our stuff away and the challenges were collected ready to be submitted to BIMA. We’re quietly confident that some of the submissions have a great chance of winning a coveted BIMA award!

Good luck Prestwich Arts College and we wish you all best in your future endeavours

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