This is an Urbanscale Weeknote titled “Week 45: Operations in the shadow of Arnall,” written by Adam Greenfield in New York on the 11th of November 2011.

Week 45: Operations in the shadow of Arnall

Adam Greenfield on 11 November 2011

We’ve just completed principal photography on the video we’re making to showcase our Farevalue cards, the project formerly known as PERRY.

It’s a funny position for us to be in. Making such videos is more or less de rigeur in interaction-design circles at the moment — due largely, I’d wager, to the influence of our friends at BERG and their not-so-secret weapon, Timo Arnall — and we don’t like to do anything just because it’s what’s expected of “firms like ours.”

Timo’s films, both the ones he makes for BERG and those he produces in support of his own Oslo-based projects, are dreamy little gems of artifice, so captivating that you can walk into a café just about anywhere in the week after one is released and stand a decent chance of hearing a random civilian discussing his work animatedly and enthusiastically. So it’s easy enough to understand why manufacturers of personal electronics, interaction-design agencies and those in related domains of practice might want to do something similar with and for their own work. Who doesn’t crave that kind of notice?

But the current vogue for concept videos significantly underestimates both the difficulty involved in making them well and the magnitude of Timo’s gifts. There’s a whole lot of people out there — some of them almost inconceivably better-resourced and -funded — who have neither the taste nor the talent to pull off what he does, consistently and routinely, and yet feel the need to clutter the world with their unfortunate imaginaries. Not everyone can be Timo Arnall, or should aspire to be.

For our own part, we’re not even going to try. Just as Farevalue itself is more pragmatic and even proletarian than it is visionary, the video we’re making will confine itself to a pretty forthright presentation of the product’s benefits. It’s a short infomercial, that’s all. When it’s all wrapped up and in the can and posted on Vimeo, we’ll be able to say a little more about the hows and whys of making it. For now, we’re looking at the hard work of laying in a soundtrack, compositing in After Effects, and editing the result into a document that tells the story we want the way we want it to.

- I wanted to dedicate some space in this week’s note to an expression of gratitude for Alexandra Deschamps-Sonsino, formerly of Tinker London and now a partner in RIG.

It was Alex who sat me down, sometime toward the end of my time at Nokia, and convinced me that I needn’t settle for any of the unpleasant choices the moment seemed to be offering me — that some kind of independent practice was not merely doable, but sustainable. It occurred to me recently that I’ve never thanked her adequately for that conversation, to which I literally owe everything that’s come since.

Mike Migurski once pointed me at a definition of “privilege“ that characterized it as a circumstance in which your social networks facilitate your growth, rather than blocking it. It’s a perspective that’s resonated with me ever since, and I think of it every time that conversation with Alex comes to mind. I’m acutely aware how privileged I am, in both senses of the word, to have friends like her. So thanks for everything, Alex. There’s a little bit of you in everything we do.

- Logistics: Jeff and I are in Chicago next Wednesday, just for the day, while Mayo, Leah and J.D. hold down the fort on Centre Street.

Oh, and: if you happen to be in NYC next Tuesday the 15th, I’ll be giving a free public talk at the New School at 6:30pm (25 E 13th St, room 206). It would be wonderful to see you there. Endmark