Nowhere Famous’ dream publishing brief from Google

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Published:  October 2, 2014
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To coincide with the Google Big Tent conference held at the MCA in Sydney, Nowhere Famous were approached to produce a printed book that reflected the ideas being presented at the event. 

The book (and accompanying website) became a representation of how content is produced and consumed online.

 Each feature page has a corresponding web version, with all images, fonts and graphic elements being editable and available royalty-free. We spoke to creative director at Nowhere Famous, Nick Rudenno, about the production and reception of the dual publications:

How were you briefed on the project? What freedoms and restrictions were in place?

To be honest, it couldn’t have been a more open brief, which was both refreshing and incredibly daunting at the same time. Tom Uglow, the creative director at Google’s Creative Lab, sat us down amongst the astro turf, break-out rooms, and communal scooters at their Sydney office and outlined what they were after: a hand-out for attendees of the Sydney leg of Google’s Big Tent Conference. The main objective was for us to create an engaging and collectable printed piece that attendees would treasure, to later share with their work colleagues. In short, the more people in positions of influence that were exposed to the views of the conference and the book, the better.

Throughout the process we discovered that Google put real trust in the skills and experience of the creatives they engage, so we were given very few restrictions. They also didn’t see it as a branding exercise for them; after all, they aren’t exactly in need of brand exposure. Above all else they wanted the content to be king and, although they wanted the aesthetic to speak their brand language, there were no brand guidelines or mandatories for us to follow.

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What was the heart of your concept? 

From the start we wanted to make sure that the concept was driven by the book’s content. In the briefing we’d been given an overview of what kind of articles to expect but it wasn’t until we had a chance to sit with some of the finished pieces that the concept really started to reveal itself. The more we read, the more we realised that the idea needed to extend beyond the printed page and become a living example of how content could become democratised, communicated and distributed online in an accessible and fair way.

Although not in the original brief, we pitched the idea of an accompanying website. Remaining true to their word they really let us run with the idea and that formed the foundation of our concept. We wanted to make sure that every element we used, from the photography to the typeface, were made available online, for free and without restriction. It’s a truly open-source book. Anyone can go to www.creatingonline.com.au and download every resource we used to make it. This became a strange environment for us as designers, a typically reserved bunch, to give people that kind of access to our work. But that’s where the online environment might be heading in the future— a level playing field where content becomes democratised, put in the hands of anyone with the desire to remix and share it.

FolioShoot-145  What did you feel was most crucial to emphasise, in terms of content?

The articles themselves are quite varied in their content but they all led to the same conclusion; that we need to continue addressing how we deliver and create content online in a way that is fair for creators and audiences alike. We felt that the experience of reading the book and jumping on the website became the best way to express that.

And, in terms of aesthetic?

In terms of aesthetic we wanted to keep it quite simplistic to give the readers a sense of accessibility and ownership. The readers could either absorb the content or get their hands dirty and express their own vision for the book’s content. It was also important for us that the printed piece reflected its online execution and vice-versa, so simplicity was key.

Can you tell us about how your ideas were translated into digital, for the website?

We approached the print design with its online execution in mind, so the translation into digital was a really organic process. Again, we wanted to make sure that one was a good reflection of the other. So whether you picked up the printed piece, or viewed it on a screen, you would have the same experience. To push the online experience a bit further we enlisted Scott Lyttle from 2kwest.co to develop an interactive experience for users, allowing them to remix the website visuals and share them with friends.

FolioShoot-148 How was the book and website received at the event?

We couldn’t actually attend the conference, but from all reports the book was a real success. What we were able to see was the online traffic that the book generated, with a big peak in activity on the day of and a few weeks after the conference.

Do you think print media and online content will find a meeting point where both coexist, or can only one survive?

Our experience during this project is a really good example of this process in practice. It was really nice to see the gradual convergence of the printed and online piece. Although the content and experience is very similar, one supports the other. Without the experience of holding the printed piece we might not have seen as many people visit the website, and conversely we have had people asking us for a copy of the book after visiting the website. Whether the experience is the same for more commercial applications is hard to say, but we’d like to think that the often battered, bleeding and bruised body that is printed media still has plenty of fight left in it.

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What do you think about the freedoms of publishing online, and the new challenges of copyright? 

Ownership and copyright will no doubt remain a very scary grey area for big corporations and governments (until they figure out a way to better monetise that grey area that is). In terms of the freedoms that the internet has afforded us to publish and share online, there is a danger developing from an unwillingness to pay for content. This danger, which extends to the intellectual property rights of those in the design community, could (and probably will), result in a policed internet. But freedom be damned! Like our parents before us, and their disregard for the environment, lets run full pelt towards the future and download like there is no tomorrow. Because who wants to wait for Game of Thrones to be released on DVD?

FolioShoot-174 creatingonline_02How is Australia defined in the digital age? Do you think the web is already having an influence on our culture?

The web has no doubt had a massive influence on our culture and has helped in exposing the amazing creative and intellectual talent we have in this country, despite how physically remote we are. Like us, surely most people reading this would owe some part of their success to the web. How Australia is defined in the digital age however is yet to be determined. Without descending into political rhetoric, as this probably isn’t the place for it, Australia risks falling behind the pack, led by a few misguided policy decisions. Possible hurdles aside, Australia definitely has the talent and drive to be one of the leaders in the digital age.

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http://www.nowherefamous.com/

This project has been shortlisted in the 2014 Create Design Awards. See more of the shortlisted entries, or buy tickets to the gala here.

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