Growing Up With Our Customers, Part Two with Thomas Kragelund and Tejs Rasmussen - Bonus
In this bonus episode, we have part two of Daniel's conversation with Thomas Kragelund and Tejs Rasmussen. In part two we get deeper into Creative Force, and what Thomas and Tejs are most excited about for the future of the company.
- In order to tackle simplifying the complexity of creative production, you have to root cause many of the problems. It's no use to build a better spreadsheet, if it isn't solving the problem deeper below.
- Building Creative Force, started with capture. You have to have images. You can deduct a lot of things from that step. You can work in both directions.
- Some of the biggest issues that created problems in creative production stem from the capture step. Misnamed images, mishandled files, status updates, all occur at the capture step.
- Removing the possibilities of mistakes, while giving room for flexibility, became the core mission of Creative Force.
- Thomas is most looking forward to solving more and more of our customers' problems in creative production.
- Tejs is most looking forward to supporting video, copywriting, and editorial (coming later this year!)
Links & Resources
- Thomas Kragelund on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/thomas-kragelund/
- Tejs Rasmussen on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tejsrasmussen/
- Creative Force on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/creativeforce/
- Creative Force website: https://www.creativeforce.io/
- Pixelz on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/pixelz_inc/
- Pixelz website: https://www.pixelz.com/
- Flow Production - Flow production is also known as continuous production. It is defined by the continuous movement of items through the production process. Large numbers of the same goods are produced continuously in this production process. There is often an opportunity for a high level of automation on a flow production assembly line.
Full episode transcript
Daniel Jester (40:24):
So how did it start? How did you start speccing it out?
Thomas Kragelund (40:30):
That's the tough part. So you actually don't know what you want to build because you have to figure out how does it actually work in the studio because it doesn't work to just solve these immediate issues. Our spreadsheet is too slow, issues like that. It wouldn't work to just make another spreadsheet that's faster. That's not a solution. You need to figure out what is the need? Why do they actually need a spreadsheet?
Thomas Kragelund (40:59):
Well, that's because they need control. That's because they need to have insights and know where everything is. "Okay. Let's make sure you know where everything is from." That's the root cause. So we're always looking for root causes. And once you have these points, it's like these old drawings from when you were a kid, where you had these dots on a piece of paper. You couldn't see what it was and then you could connect them and then suddenly you have some kind of animal or something like that. That's what you're out looking for, figuring out these root fundamental things that are just super important for the process, that you need to have.
Daniel Jester (41:37):
No longer addressing the symptoms of the problem, but trying to unravel it into getting to the why, the root cause analysis. Asking yourself enough questions to figure out what's the true problem. I'm trying to solve this problem this ... I'm not going to call it a problem. I'm trying to solve this issue that's immediately in front of me, but that issue is, the root of that is much farther back. This is probably a good segue to shift a little bit more over to Tejs to say this is instrumental in your design process. When you're thinking about a problem, or you're thinking about something that you're hearing from people that is an issue or a pain point for them, you spend a lot of time dissecting that and trying to work back and seeing if you can rebuild something better.
Tejs Rasmussen (42:28):
Yeah. So I'm a big Sherlock Holmes fan, and if you can deduct ... You get a lot of information if you can deduct the root cause of what actually happened. Why it's like what you're experiencing in this video, what you're seeing. There is a root cause for all of that. If you can find that, that is going to give you the information you need to build a new system from the ground up, completely forget everything. And that's an advantage for me, because I haven't worked in a studio. I didn't have any, "We were always doing it like this. We need to do this."
Tejs Rasmussen (43:02):
What is actually important? Let's get down to that and then build it up from there. And then look at it. Is this the right way to do it? Are they doing it the right way? Or some of it is obviously right. You take that and ditch the rest. That's very much the way, but it's important to understand the fundamental mechanics behind the work, and that's a detective work. It's not about ... As a designer, design is about making things look pretty or fit into whatever is expected functionally and so on. But the UI, for me, is just a secondary thing. It's about understanding the foundational mechanics of the task, the problem. Getting images done in the right way, and that's the only thing that matters.
Daniel Jester (43:53):
But that's not to say UI is secondary. But that's not to say that, in your opinion, I won't speak for you, I'll let you to answer to this, but the UI is still a part of it, especially when you're dealing with creatives, right?
Tejs Rasmussen (44:06):
Very much, yeah. So it's not secondary in that sense but because people are very sensitive, me as well. I didn't like using the Mail app, for example, on my Mac until they removed that ugly stamp icon with the eagle. I hated that.
Daniel Jester (44:21):
It was terrible.
Tejs Rasmussen (44:22):
That's why I couldn't use it. It was so ugly, and then they shifted over to the envelope icon. And then I was like, "Maybe I'm going to use that." So I think a lot of people have it like that, especially the creatives. They feel like you put an ugly UI in front of them and they're not going to work as well as they could. Their productivity goes down and they don't feel well in a system like that. It sounds a little bit crazy, but I think that's the truth.
Daniel Jester (44:51):
It doesn't sound crazy to me. I've shared with both of you before that going into, when I was first introduced to Creative Force was at the IEM conference in Los Angeles in summer of 2019. I knew who was going to be there and I knew that there was going to be Creative Force competitors there. I wanted to talk to Creative Force because it looked amazing. I don't mean it looked amazing in the sense of what it does. It visually looked great.
Tejs Rasmussen (45:21):
Daniel Jester (45:22):
And fuck, I had a question and I lost it. Okay. So let's shift ... I got it now. What was the starting point for building Creative Force? What function in the platform was the first thing that you tackled?
Thomas Kragelund (45:43):
Tejs Rasmussen (45:45):
Daniel Jester (45:46):
So what was important to you for capture? Walk me through. You understood how people were doing it, or did you need to learn more about that? And then what did you find?
Tejs Rasmussen (45:54):
That was the first dot on the paper. You need to do capture. There was absolutely no doubt. That's pretty obvious. You need to get some images.
Daniel Jester (46:03):
You have to have a picture.
Tejs Rasmussen (46:04):
Exactly. So it's a good starting point, because you can deduct a lot of stuff from that. So if you have to do capture, they need to know what to capture. You need to have technical ways of transferring and so on. And there's a lot of mistakes around capture that we saw happening around file names, and so on, that had to be done on set, like making the right file names, coloring them sometimes, putting them in folders on shared drives, and so on. So a lot of-
Daniel Jester (46:31):
Going to another system to tell that system that you shot that thing.
Tejs Rasmussen (46:34):
For example, you would then go into a spreadsheet and update that. So immediately, having a record that this has now been shot. That's also obvious that that would be pretty cool to have, but you need to understand what you need to deliver. So from the capture, we actually we had this style guide concept from early on, a visual identification of what shots do you actually need, not just a naming convention and so on our list, actually a visual confirmation because we wanted to remove the mistakes. There's a lot of mistakes that can happen at this point in time and it's so expensive. If you mess that up, it's [crosstalk 00:47:14]-
Daniel Jester (47:13):
Miss an image.
Tejs Rasmussen (47:14):
Miss an image.
Daniel Jester (47:15):
Misname an image.
Tejs Rasmussen (47:16):
Just doing it in a wrong way, but it's not following the standard or the direction and so on, it's just going to cost so much to redo it. So visually identifying what you need to deliver, having a very easy way to do it, where you were not going to make a mistake, countermeasures on making sure that you cannot upload without the full suite, giving room for flexibility, and so on. That just came out of that one point of capture. So from that, you could work your way backwards and say, "Well, how do we know what we need to deliver?" Well, then we analyzed as [inaudible 00:47:53]. We said," That must be coming from the category." We need to at least get the category of the product so we know is it a shoe, is it a bag and so on, because there's different requirements on that.
Tejs Rasmussen (48:04):
Then we came up with we need a data import. So you can tell the system these are the requests that we have. And from there, we had an idea of what the capture should look like. That's the first points in that drawing.
Daniel Jester (48:21):
Once you had something, what came next? Did you have a come to market plan in mind or a client that was interested in what you were doing? Or what?
Thomas Kragelund (48:32):
Yeah. We actually decided to sign up some clients before we started coding. So we went out and talked to some potential clients and asked them if we're going to develop a system like this and this, what is it going to do for you? Would you actually be willing to sign a contract before we're doing any coding? Just because the pain would be that big. And we actually found a customer, one of the biggest retailers in Germany, I think only second to Amazon in Germany. And they decided to go into the development process with us knowing that if we could solve this problem, that would be worth the risk of going into that process. And for us, it was also a huge market validation because we knew if we were going to do this, we will allocate significant development resources on it. So we set aside a team of 15, maybe 20 developers in the very beginning to get the first product out to do that test. So it was a big commitment for us but it was also a big commitment from the market.
Daniel Jester (49:49):
Amazing. Let's flash forward and not even flash forward, let's turn around and maybe take a moment to look at the future. There's been a lot of functionality that's been added since capture itself. I've been really vocal that one of my favorite parts is post production is a huge barrier in a lot of studios, and I've talked a lot about it. We don't need to go too deep in that, but as we continue to work with customers, we're learning more and more. We're uncovering more and more pain points. What are you both excited about working towards the future to continue to solve these pain points? What are you most excited about?
Thomas Kragelund (50:35):
I think Tejs can probably speak on the product side. I think that I'm most excited about the problem that we're solving, or the problems that we're solving from the business perspective. So if you look at eCommerce today, you need to produce content for many different channels. You need to produce more content for your own eCommerce PDP site, like PDP content. You need more images, more videos, more text, more everything because eCommerce is becoming the primary sales channels of a lot of products. And I think that that excites me because the pains are just going to be bigger going from here to the next stage. We're going to see content explosion, and we're not just talking the photo studio blowing up that [inaudible 00:51:46]. We actually need to find solution for that. So we need to produce more content with the same people, or we need to scale the content production in a way where you can actually add people and have them productive within a very short period of time.
Daniel Jester (52:06):
Thomas Kragelund (52:06):
That is the business side of it. I think when we come to the product side, I think Tejs is better at speaking at the roadmap functionality [crosstalk 00:52:14].
Tejs Rasmussen (52:14):
Yeah. I visualize it like some islands that we need to capture. We need to cover some more ground. We are only focused on images today. Video is going to be huge. The bandwidth and so on is no longer an issue. It's just about getting it produced now. So the problem is actually a production problem rather than an infrastructure problem, and I think we need to meet that demand and that's going to come soon. That is the next big thing. And there's going to be others like that. We obviously also want to help out on other areas.
Tejs Rasmussen (52:53):
Copywriting is also a very interesting area because that's being done in the studio. So we want to support that, especially because we can actually leverage all of the data that ... We have the images ready immediately. You could see them while you're writing your text, and so on. We have a lot of product data that can help that process out. And having everything in one system just makes it easier. Yeah. So that's huge, but we were very eComm focused. That has been the outset, and eComm is very strict and very pre-defined, and so on, not very flexible. So having a more flexible side of our system is the project we're working on right now. The editorial projects, as we call them, where we will give ... It's going to be for the marketing driven work.
Daniel Jester (53:49):
Tejs Rasmussen (53:49):
Daniel Jester (53:50):
What historically has been siloed, the assets that are created to sell the product, and then the assets that are created to bring that product to market have been pretty separate. And you learned a lot on the eComm side, and to be able to support that in the same system is really one of the next big challenges that I think the studios are looking for is because they're like, "Okay. These problems are solved. Here's this other side of our business that is an absolute bear to deal with every time we deal with it. And it's rife with problems." All the same problems that were on the eComm side; missing images, sample problems, resource problems, all of those things.
Thomas Kragelund (54:27):
Tejs Rasmussen (54:28):
Thomas Kragelund (54:29):
I think we're going to see a push from pretty much the C level of organization that's saying, "Hey, what are the constraints or the bottlenecks that we have in our organization to really execute on a good eCommerce strategy and be like a leader or at least just not falling behind on retail when it comes to online retail?" I think that that's going to drive a lot of change in the photo studios because you're going to be forced to take other decisions. So you're going to be forced to scale your team or scale content production and so on. I think that that's what I see as the big thing. This is strategically important for a lot of companies to nail this. It's not any more just something that you need to get on par. It's actually something you need to excel in.
Daniel Jester (55:33):
A great way to put it. It was once thought of as a task that needed to be done like any other task in your business. It actually is now strategically important for you to succeed with your customer.
Thomas Kragelund (55:45):
We're hearing that. It's on board meetings. What is standing between us and succeeding is this new let's call it a sales channel. And COVID has probably turbocharged this development by five years.
Daniel Jester (56:07):
Thomas Kragelund (56:08):
And I think that we're going to see significant powers that are going to force change in studios or in content production or in eCommerce execution operations and so on. We're going to see that. No doubt about that.
Daniel Jester (56:30):
Thomas and Tejs, thank you for sitting with me and having this conversation. It was insightful and wonderful, and I appreciate your time. Is there anything else that you want to say about Creative Force, the past or the future, or where we are right this very moment, sitting on this terrace?
Thomas Kragelund (56:49):
We can't say no to that, but I have no idea. No.
Tejs Rasmussen (56:55):
We need to [crosstalk 00:56:56].
Thomas Kragelund (56:56):
I think you need to add another ending on that one.
Daniel Jester (56:57):
Yeah. [crosstalk 00:56:58]. That I can do. Thank you guys.
About the host
Daniel Jester is an experienced creative production professional who has managed production teams, built and launched new studios, and produced large-scale projects. He's currently the Chief Evangelist at Creative Force but has a breadth of experience in a variety of studio environments - working in-house at brands like Amazon, Nordstrom, and Farfetch as well as commercial studios like CONVYR. Creative-minded, while able to effectively plan for and manage a complex project, he bridges the gap between spreadsheets and creative talent.