DINO Week 39 – What the heck is DINO doing?

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Originally Posted on DINO Studio’s Blog

The last weeknotes post was 38 weeks ago. Writing weeknotes, obviously, is one of those things that is very difficult to maintain as a habit, but it feels like one of those things that is really important, as well.

Before I left for a badly needed holiday last week, Aaron and I sat for coffee to have one of our quasi-regular “what the heck are we doing, here?” sessions. Half business and half therapy, it’s a conversation we have with each other on a micro/tactical and also a global/strategic level. It is a good chance for us to put the sales and production pipelines on hold and take stock of our direction.

We’ve started to narrow the definition for our external projects. We’ve been fortunate to have a lot of really good projects and clients this year, but we simply don’t have the resources to do all the great projects that come up. I’m proud to say that the “we have to take everything on or else we’ll starve” days may be behind us.

The absolutely most nerve-wracking thing for me is to turn down projects that don’t exactly “fit” with our current direction. I get very nervous if we don’t have a healthy pipeline. We’ve turned down high-budget projects in the past couple months which would have covered our studio overhead for a LONG while. We did not pursue a potentially studio/life-changing opportunity with a friend of mine who is working on a massive, highly-visible project with plenty of technical and creative challenges… it just wasn’t right for us.

It takes guts to say “no” to opportunities when the people are great, the projects are interesting, and the money is right. Saying “no” is basically forcing you to put-up or shut-up, to have confidence in what you are doing, and adds responsibility for driving the direction of your work rather than reacting to whatever might come up.

So what DO we do? We are a small studio feeding ourselves on client projects while rapidly building up some important assets for some products we expect to be launching next year.

First, we have 3 main creative book projects in production, 1 of which is internal. (We’ve averaged 7-8 open projects for most of the year, so this pace feels downright luxurious).

These projects have allowed us to spend engineering time in building a “framework” for this general concept we, somewhat tounge-in-cheek, call “Book 3.0”

Storytelling is going to dramatically define the services DINO will provide to clients ongoing. We think ebooks are part of this, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

While “Storytelling Technology” as a thing we do is a very hard idea to sell, establishing our studio as forward thinkers on generating narrative and emotional experiences through technology is becoming easier as we start chalking up successful, real-world projects.

We’ve been conducting a variety of internal experiments and are revving up a strategy that focuses on our becoming VERY vocal in this space. We’re going to be everywhere all of a sudden. Should be fun.

Second, we’ll continue to do more kids’ or narrative games for clients or ourselves for the foreseeable future- we have a nice track record there and, let’s face it, kids’ properties do dovetail nicely into Book 3.0 ideas. We’re good at this and it’s fun work and budgets are realistic.

Finally, we are starting to work on a project that scratches a vicious itch we feel on every single project we work on for clients. Stunningly, we can’t find an appropriate, joyfully designed solution out there for what must be a really common problem. As entrepreneurs, we immediately think, “Oh. This is an opportunity which has a good shot!” This venture, which we’re calling AMP, is a long-jump strategy for DINO. We’re aiming for a minimally viable product for alpha testing by January and a launch soon after.

Specific Work

Aaron has been working overtime to help improve our communication and PM practices with clients. Thank goodness for his patience and temperament – he’s likely saved the studio on multiple occasions in the last few weeks, alone, much less since day 1.

He’s also finishing up work for a game we’re building for toddlers that will allow them to sculpt on the screen — should be wrapping in the next week or so.

I’m doing some cleanup work for an internal sales storytelling app for a snowboard company and finishing off a deck-of-cards coaching app for a client.

We’ve been contracted to work on a diybio project to create an engaging iPad experience for a DIY microscope which we need to push forward next week.

Finally, we’re building out the framework on which we’ll be hanging the first pages of our client’s stories. These are absolutely GORGEOUS pieces. The artwork is really incredible and they will be tons of fun to engage with.

Network

This weekend, we’re attending the 2010 IBM Place Summit put on by our friend Andrew Sempere. Somebody posted a “mobile device storytelling” topic. Looking forward to it.