My second week in Asia was packed with visits in Seoul Korea and Tokyo Japan. It was my first time in Korea, which was just awesome to finally see in person–amazing food, sights, sounds, friendly people, and an incredible talent pool of great designers. Beau Ambur, CEO of San Francisco design agency Metaliq, was with us on our visits to these countries which was a lot of fun for all of us–it was great having a US designer with us with practical experience in WPF and Expression tools, and it was also fun to see him (as a Flash god) interacting with the local designers and making the cross-continent connection. Metaliq did a contract project for us for a Burton Snowboards demo we had shown at some events in the US, and when I had told Beau over a beer one day that we were going to Asia, he expressed interest in joining as he had never been to the region and had always wanted to–next thing we knew we were there, a little bit of a "wow, this actually happened" moment for both of us. Beau was a real trooper, as we had absolutely packed days with customers and press–i hope we made it up to him with the fun meals. Here he shows his sportsmanlike approach to the food, tasting the raw meat marinated in chilies and papaya–something that other members of our troupe couldn’t handle so well.
We visited some very cool agencies to check out the interactive design work being done for web and mobile phones in Korea, such as D’strict (awesome visuals and use of interactive video and virtual 3d environments–their website is killer and award winning as well) and Kobalt60 (more application/RIA type apps). Here’s a photo at the Kobalt60 office, Beau on the right taking in the cool apps. Day one in Seoul was *really* long, with meeting after meeting jammed in–however the evening was capped off with a gathering of about 120 designers at the msft office where we went through our presentations to an enthusiastic and engaged audience. Designers here, like other places i’ve presented, are always a little skeptical at first when they hear about msft’s story re: design technology, but once we have a chance to talk about our vision, our platforms, and our tools strategy, the general feeling is always one of general curiosity and desire to learn more. In the crowd here we had UX leaders from top agencies, as well as many folks form mobile phone design teams at LG, Samsung, and Motorola–it was fun to talk to them in side discussions that evening and the next day about the mobile phone space, and the requirements they have for building better experiences on next generation devices.
Everyone talks about how much better the mobile phones are in Korea than in the US.. but it isn’t hyperbole. Most of the phones here are receiving television broadcasts, have kick-ass broadband capabilities, and consumer usage patterns that go well beyond how US users would even dream.
In Japan we did some group presentations to our many partners already using WPF–Japan has created some of the most interesting early samples of what can be done with our new platform. One of the most unexpected examples is the 3D animated concept piece called Dominoken, created by agency Bascule. Our partners had lots of questions about WPFE, and feedback for us on WPF and Expression Blend. A highlight for us was visiting one of the partners,2nd Factoryy, which has dedicated team of developer and designers working on several WPF apps. The team had a voracious interest in more training materials, samples, and connection to community as they are already pushing the limits of what we have provided to date–a great lesson for us to take back the office (you can never provide enough samples for a new technology!)
Oh, and what visit to Tokyo would be complete for fans of Sophia Coppola’s Lost in Translation without a visit to the Park Hyatt; using some very long shutter speeds, and numerous takes, we were able to get Beau recreating Bill Murray’s Santory Whisky pose from the film.