As our last Clicktrip of the year, we traveled across the island of Manhattan to CNN’s Headquarters in Hudson Yards.
Here, we finally got to see our studios up close and personal!
At Hudson Yards, we designed four studios used for seven shows that are currently airing on CNN. These studios took around a year and a half from start to finish.
We toured each studio to see how changing graphics, reorienting desks, and resetting lights can be modified to fit each specific show.
We also had some time to goof around on set.
We tried our chops as very serious journalists (while appreciating the impeccably designed lighting and sets, of course).
We found the best camera angles… Watch out Anderson Cooper!
These CNN projects are very close to our hearts because every single person on the Clickspring team had a hand in the process.
Thanks to CNN for letting us explore our creations in real life!
“On Air” is an internally produced series of staff interviews that showcase the talent and personalities of the people who keep Clickspring ticking. Our fourth installment features two conversations with our summer 2019 interns: Gabby Li in the New York office, as well as Anna Henry and Jacob T. Middleton in the Austin office. Check out our conversations about their studies, interests, and extremely relevant theoretical exercises involving ducks.
First up we have a conversation with Gabby Li in the New York office, who studies Environmental & Interior Design student at Syracuse University:
CSD: Okay, so let’s jump in! You have a unique background! What made you think about Clickspring?
GL: I was attracted to CSD’s unique assembly of talented people; I love the idea of people from different backgrounds contributing to a project together and learning from each other. I am also very interested in finding out how my skill set may contribute to broadcast set design, as it is something completely different from what I have been introduced to.
CSD: And you just studied abroad in London and you’re from Beijing. We’re very glad you get our love for collaboration. Now onto the important stuff. Would you rather fight one horse sized duck or a hundred duck sized horses?
GL: Horse-sized duck. The smaller horses will be too cute to fight. The giant duck will just be like an ostrich, and I’ve always wanted to conquer one, it will make a cool ride if I succeed in taming it.
CSD: Can you elaborate on this?
GL: Because it can run pretty fast, it can keep me warm and comfortable, it can live off of veggies, it can scare off predators with an impressive wing span, and most importantly, it will be my non-rubber duck floaty, and take me off a deserted island when I’d like to leave.
CSD: Touché. What were you most excited about when you started your internship?
GL: I was really excited to learn Cinema 4D and Clickspring’s approach for set design including consideration for cameras, lighting, and functionality.
CSD: Light, Cameras, Functionality! I think we may have just found our new tag line.
Next, we have a chat in our Austin office with Jacob T. Middleton and Anna Henry, who are in the undergraduate architecture and interior design programs at The University of Texas at Austin.
CSD: Longhorns, assemble!
AH + JM: … hi.
CSD: So. Let’s get the flattery out of the way…why an interest in Clickspring?
AH: I was attracted to the unique scope and range of people and projects that make up Clickspring, and I have always been attracted the idea of creating an experience for people. The use of technology and lighting in Clickspring’s projects also really caught my eye.
JM: I have a background in theatrical design that led me to architecture, and Clickspring seemed like a place where I could combine these two passions.
CSD: Do you have any favorite architects?
AH: I am very interested in Petra Blaisse. She has been able to intersect fashion, art, interior design/architecture, and landscape design, connecting the outside an inside and exploring textiles, light, and finishes. These are all things that I take interest in and I would love to be able to mix my passions with my career.
JM: John Hejduk. His architecture transformed recognizable and mundane geometries into forms that were alien and avant-garde. His portfolio of work looks like a postmodern hellscape and that’s kind of iconic. Also, he was a Texas Ranger, which is badass.
CSD: Badass, indeed. Who’s your favorite fictional character?
AH: Ariel from the little mermaid, because she’s a mermaid, and mermaids are cool.
JM: Lightning McQueen from the movie Cars because he knows how to drive.
CSD: You don’t know how to drive?
JM: No, I ride the bus to work for fun.
CSD: Okay! Last question! What did you enjoy learning about most during your summer here?
JM: I loved learning how an architectural skill set can be utilized to perform tasks outside of traditional “architecture.”
AH: I’m glad I improved my drafting skills and how adesign is assembled and comes to life through that process. I’ve also enjoyed learning how Clickspring approaches design challenges that come with broadcast design in general.
“On Air” is an internally produced series of staff interviews that showcase the talent and personalities of the people who keep Clickspring ticking. Our third installment features a conversation between design director Christine de Witte and senior design director Curtis Schmitt.
The following banter took place via chat log within our New York office.
Curtis Schmitt: We recently discovered we have some things in common.
Christine de Witte: That’s true: love of (1) cats, (2) bikes, (3) rectilinear geometry, (4) organization; and (5) lack of a middle name.
CS: That about sums it up. Was it common where you were born for babies to not be given middle names?
CdW: Yeah, I think in the Netherlands, or anywhere in Europe, in the 1980s it was much more common not to be given a middle name than it would’ve been in the States, for example.
CS: What do you do for government and web forms that request a middle name or initial?
CdW: I just leave it blank. But a friend in college made up a middle name for me. I think it was Gertrude or something hilarious like that. What do you do with middle initial boxes?
CS: My situation is a little more complicated because I have two first names joined by a hyphen: Curtis-Ray. I generally try to get away with “Curtis R” but the last time I was at the DMV a very sassy woman wrote out my first name as “CURTISRAY” and then assigned me the middle initial “N”.
CdW: Those DMV employees just make up rules. You don’t need an “N”! My license (luckily) doesn’t have one.
CS: Yeah, she told me if I didn’t like it I’d have to legally change my name to remove the hyphen. But if I’m going to the trouble of legally changing my name, I’m doing a whole lot more than just removing a hyphen. So, bikes: how did you get into doing longer rides and eventually into racing?
CdW: I think being Dutch necessitates that you ride a bicycle, so beyond learning the basic skillset at a young age, I was inspired by my parents’ stories of completing the Fietselfstedentocht: a 230-km ride through the eleven original cities of our home province of Friesland. (I was finally able to cross it off the list last year.) But the interest in longer rides built after grad school; the month before I moved to NYC, my best friend and I road-tripped from Austin to Marfa, TX, for the inaugural “Marfa 100” (km).
It took me a bit to understand the possibilities of cycling in NYC, but I found a group of friends and started riding a few centuries or gran fondos per year, and eventually wanted a taste of racing. Once I jumped in, the community of fast and fun people had me instantly hooked! My year-end stats rounded out to 6,200+ miles in 2018.
CS: That works out to 17+ miles per day — that is very impressive!
CdW: Thanks! It’s double what I was doing before racing, but I also know people who hit twice that number. So what’s your current bike count? And plans for the inevitable n+1?
CS: I have three custom bikes, all made here in the U.S., plus the folding bike (not made in the U.S.) you’ve seen me commute in on. Plus one motorcycle. I think my next bicycle could have an electric motor in it.
CdW: So winter’s here and it’s dark at 4pm now. What’s your approach to staying sane until April?
CS: I’m usually pretty depressed by March, honestly, and fantasizing about moving to someplace much warmer. We might adopt a greyhound next month, so that would keep us pretty distracted from the misery of the winter.
CdW: I know you guys have cats… do you test to see if the potential hound will get along with them?
CS: Yeah, so the adoption agencies will cat-test each dog. Precautions must be followed regardless of how cat-compatible the dog is. I want a really sinister looking Nine Inch Nails-style metal muzzle for the dog so that when I’m walking him people will feel intimidated (in reality they’re the farthest thing from a guard dog).
CdW: Haha, and since they’re so thin, you’ll have to get a matching sweater and boots, too.
CS: My wife is very excited about making all sorts of custom clothing and booties for the greyhound.
CdW: She can expand her shoe line!
CS: She would love that. Alright, we’ve covered most of the things we have in common that we love. One we haven’t yet is: rectilinear geometry. Christine, why do you hate curves so much?
CdW: Haha, well… that’s a difficult one to pin down. I really enjoy working within systems with well-defined rules or parameters, which rectilinear geometries just readily fall into. Many curved forms are mathematically defined as well, so my argument doesn’t necessarily exclude them. But with things like b-splines and, shall we say, “organic” forms I feel like there’s such a propensity to draw whatever you want… there’s no system guiding your decisions.
CS: Right. There’s no rigorous logic in the “free” forms. So would it be fair to say that Frank Gehry is not your favorite architect?
CdW: So fair. And it’s well-known that I’m no fan of Zaha, either.
CS: Who is your favorite architect?
CdW: I have to say that with the variety architecture blogs providing glimpses of inspirational work by architects or small firms I’m not necessarily even aware of, I don’t think I can pinpoint a real “favorite” … but I do consistently love the thoughtful nature of Tod Williams Billie Tsien projects.
CS: Not seeing any curves in their portfolio.
CdW: There might be a few, but yes, very restricted. How about you?
CS: Peter Zumthor.
CdW: Have you visited any Zumthor works in person?
CS: Yes, this past summer, Becca and I visited Kunsthaus Bergenz. It was easily one of the best moments of my life. The guy designed it in the 80s, it’s just mind-boggling. I came across photos and drawings of this building in 2003 in school when my mentor suggested I look him up. So I’d built it up over the last fifteen years in my mind as this perfect specimen of architecture that nothing else measures up to, and it still exceeded my expectations.
CdW: Wow, that’s really saying a lot.
CS: I didn’t want to leave, Becca had to drag me out of there. Bregenz is also a sweet little city too, in what is one of my favorite countries. I’d move there tomorrow. I don’t feel that way about many places.
CdW: You’d leave NYC?!
CS: I would! Are there any places you’d leave NYC for?
CdW: Well, I just reached my 8-yr NYC-versary and am not leaving anytime soon, but yeah, I’d consider it at some point. Haven’t found the spot yet, though. I really loved the beauty of northern CA when I visited, and Seattle as well, but the west coast isn’t pulling me in a more permanent way just yet.
CS: How did you find your way to Clickspring Design?
CdW: I graduated at the end of 2008, when architecture jobs were pretty hard to find, so I went home to work for my dad while continuing the search. I had stayed in contact with a professor who is friends with Steve Dvorak and heard he might be looking for some drafting help. Steve’s phone call literally came while I was driving a tractor, loading round bales onto a trailer. I drove back to Austin that weekend and have been kept busy ever since!
CS: That’s amazing!
CdW: Your story isn’t quite the traditional route, either, right? How did you end up in this line of work?
CS: It’s not, and it’s too long for this format. For anyone truly interested, I refer them to my bio. OK, if you weren’t doing this, what do you think you’d be doing for a living?
CdW: Probably running a waffle shop with my youngest sister. It’s that thing we bring up when we’re exhausted for one reason or another and say “let’s quit our jobs and open a waffle shop.”
CS: I love waffles.
CdW: Yes, waffles are so delicious and versatile. We’d have a pretty varied offering and business would surely boom.
CS: I want waffles now. OK, this Saturday I am having waffles. If you want waffles in NYC, where do you go?
CdW: Veselka makes a good waffle! And I’m not just saying that because I race for them. OK, but srsly now it’s 3pm and I forgot to get lunch. Gotta step out.
With help from the team at Clickspring Design, 733 Collective was able to expand its community reach and create a one-of-a-kind immersive event for Halloween.
Dubbed the “Twisted Toy Factory,” the event raised $5,000 for City Harvest, a charity which provides food for those in need in the community through food recycling while providing a unique place for kids and adults experience Halloween in a new way.
“New York City has always provided for 733 Collective. Not only is it our home, but for all our events we scour the city in search of discarded, forgotten, or otherwise unwanted artifacts. This search for, and repurpose of, perfectly sound discarded items has inspired us to team up with this year’s charity partner,” said Kendra James of 733 Collective and Clickspring Design. “As we travel the city in search of discarded material for our art, City Harvest travels the city with a higher purpose to help feed 1.2 million struggling New Yorkers.”
This expanded purpose would not have been possible without the help of Clickspring Design, which provided not only financial assistance but also volunteered to help bring the event together.
“As native New Yorkers, we see the struggle of those in need around us. We were honored to help sponsor an event that not only supported them but also tied into our core experience in entertainment and events,” said Erik Ulfers, Founder and President of Clickspring Design.
Focused on all things Halloween, the 733 Collective emerged from a series of ‘underground’ Halloween parties that grew more spectacular and surreal with the passing of each year. With members involved in the design and entertainment community, the Collective knew Clickspring Design would be a great fit to create the biggest event yet.
“Each year we talk about how we would love to share our Halloween spirit with a larger community, especially the kids. Through Clickspring we were empowered to expand our reach this year,” said James.
“Not only did the event bring local families together, but it also presented an opportunity to bring the Clickspring family together,” added James. “The Collective was thrilled when the Clickspring staff volunteered their time and energy gathering items for the raffle, reaching out for recyclable toys, working the concession stand and running the games for the kids… all in costume, too!”
The donation to City Harvest (made possible by Clickspring’s sponsorship and ticket sales) will feed 350 New York families for a month.
“On Air” is an internally produced series of staff interviews that showcase the talent and personalities of the people who keep Clickspring ticking. Our second installment features a conversation between designer Chris Ferguson and intern John Tolander. Chris joined Clickspring in 2014, is a licensed architect in the State of Texas, and a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin School of Architecture. John is currently enrolled in the School of Architecture at The University of Texas at Austin and will graduate with his Bachelor of Architecture in 2020.
The following banter took place outside our office in Austin near a cliche Airstream food truck selling $12 tacos.
Chris Ferguson: (pressing record) Okay, so John, now that you’ve embarrassed me by helping me find the voice memo app on my own phone, I feel like I can now rely on you for all my tech advice. And as someone who used to be the millennial in the office occupying that coveted iPhone tech support role, I have to ask: do I make you feel young?
John Tolander: Do you make me feel young?
CF: Do I make you feel young.
JT: Nah, Chris, you don’t make me feel young. You actually make me feel kind of old. I look at you and think, wow, it’s only a few years until I’m doing what you’re doing, getting licensed and all that.
CF: I like that answer. I’m normal and you’re just aging up to my level.
JT: Yeah, I’m going with that.
CF: Great. So let’s talk about something more fun than our own mortality. You’re about to spend a semester in Europe on the same study abroad program I did back in 2011. On a scale of 1-10, how stoked are you? And is there anything in particular you’re super excited to see?
JT: On a scale of 1-10 I’m definitely an 11.
JT: And I’m really excited to see the Alhambra in Spain. I hope when we’re there it’s still early enough in the semester that it’s hot and you can really feel the benefit of those micro-climates that the building creates so we get to really experience it how it was supposed to be experienced.
CF: I also want to ask you about Clickspring, since we’re both being paid to talk to each other for this blog. In all seriousness, we’re a different kind of company than a typical architecture firm, but you seemed interested in the work we do right out of the gate. Why’s that?
JT: You guys did stand out to me. Something I find fascinating is the integration of technology within projects, and also the design process in general. That’s something I consider to be very important to the profession as we move into the future, and not just in broadcast environments where technology is super prevalent right now, but also in thinking about applications in the home, in restaurants, and in retail. Starting my professional experience at a place that’s an industry leader in that kind of integration just seemed like a great opportunity.
CF: Yeah, and I doubt any of your peers will come back from this summer with an ESPN project in their portfolio, so that’s pretty cool, yeah?
JT: That’s true.
[at this point in the interview John and Chris observe an adorable dog for several minutes and attempt a few humorous tangents, none of which were particularly funny or informative]
CF: So last question, and I think this is how we should end every interview in this series. You’re familiar with “Clickspring Orange” right?
JT: (rattling off the RGB color values) 255, 100, 5.
CF: Damn! I’m deeply impressed. It’s been years and Steve still doesn’t have it memorized. You’ve already got it down.
JT: I am gifted.
CF: So what does that particular shade of orange mean to you? And try to flatter the company as much as you can with your answer.
JT: (after a thoughtful pause) So imagine stepping outside into the Texas heat and feeling the warm glow of the sunlight on your face. For the first five seconds, that’s “Clickspring Orange”. But then also combine that feeling with the taste of licking a Creamsicle off your hand as it melts. It’s this sticky, sweet feeling of summer energy.
CF: Wow. That was…a lot. I thought you were going to mention Donald Trump.
JT: Oh, no, he’s more of a 275, 103, 7 kind of orange.
CF: (laughing) That’s really fair.
JT: So I have a question for you.
JT: Shouldn’t we be working?
CF: Yeah, we really should be working.
It’s no longer enough for an organization to simply have a well-crafted interior.
Today’s spaces for consumers and corporations transcend traditional interior design by strengthening the role of storytelling within a branded environment. To accomplish this, brands increasingly rely on the integration of cutting-edge technology, allowing stakeholders to engage their surroundings on multiple levels and crafting interactions that lend a heightened sense of meaning and purpose.
Branded environments combine careful messaging and architectural vocabulary to reinforce and elevate a brand’s position in their experiential design.
So, what makes branded environments unique? How can a company benefit from this form of interior design? Here are some of the most common questions we encounter.
Q: Within the realm of the built environment, what is the unique qualifier of a “branded” environment?
A: Branded environments are like any designed environment in that they focus on formal and material design development. But they are also distinguished by participatory, content-rich programs that relevantly communicate one-to-one with target audiences.
It’s a “form follows content” paradigm, reliant upon robust content development, market benchmarking, behavioral and anthropological studies, lifestyle trending, narrative theory, and learning modalities, as well as business best practices.
The actual design of products, services, events, and environments is inextricably linked to the ability to interpret content and to extend abstract ideas and elements into physical form.
Q: Why have branded environments become an important marketing extension for so many consumer-facing companies?
A: The fractionalization of the consumer audience and their demand for personalization has created a profound and well-documented shift. Brands and marketers want and need new ways to engage their audiences.
Effective experiential design recognizes consumer demand for personalization, relevancy, and life-style recognition. Foremost, it promotes sustained and extended live audience exchange.
Q: What is the value proposition for the client?
A: Effective experiential design programs exponentially extend the consumer audience engagement time when compared with traditional advertising. Experiential programs and environments create a powerful opportunity for brands to immerse, interact with, and affect the behaviors of their audience. When audience engagement time is extended, the potential for both emotional connection and brand loyalty increases. This factor of time correlates directly with an increase in sales of products and services.
To put it simply: a thoughtful branded environment maximizes the time your audience spends with your brand. That investment of attention yields new loyalty, which in turn drives sales.
In today’s competitive, media-saturated world it’s especially true that time (attention) is money.
Q: What types of techniques are employed to create branded environments over traditional interior design?
A: Along with extensive research to help hone and interpret an organization’s story, branded environments often employ deeper integration of technology, environmental graphics, and way-finding design.
Through these techniques, branded environments can help connect a brand with its purpose and culture by creating a tangible expression in a built environment.
“On Air” is an internally produced series of staff interviews that showcase the talent and personalities of the people who keep Clickspring ticking. Our debut installment features a conversation between Design Director Kendra James and Designer Donna Lee. Kendra joined Clickspring in 2012 and holds a Bachelor of Science in Architecture from the University of Texas at Arlington and a Master of Architecture from Pratt Institute, while Donna hails from Devonport, New Zealand, holds both a Bachelor of Architectural Studies and a Master of Architecture from The University of Auckland, and is the newest designer to join the Clickspring ranks.
We join our heroes on a warm June day at Clickspring HQ in Manhattan, where they sit adjacent to one another.
Kendra James: Okay, let’s go.
Donna Lee: (in Kiwi accent) Mate, ready.
KJ: So, Donna, what was the last thing you watched on TV and why did you watch it?
DL: Okay, hold on. I’m just getting a little stage fright right now…wait don’t write that. (laughs) Ever since I arrived in New York about eight months ago people have been telling me to watch Broad City. I just wanted to try it out and ended up watching three episodes. So good.
KJ: I love that show! Wow, so you’ve been in the city for eight months now! Awe, you’re still so fresh. What has been your biggest NYC challenge since moving from New Zealand?
DL: (sighs) There have been a few. Two things that pop into my head right now… One, people don’t understand me through my accent. I’m trying to sound more American but I still have to repeat myself a lot. Second thing, the product packaging here! Why do you have to package every little item up? And I don’t understand double bagging. It shocked me that the cashier was shocked when I asked for a single bag.
KJ: (chortles) Right… when you attempt to use your American accent on me I get even more confused but I think your American accent is way better than my Kiwi accent.
DL: (laughs) You sound like… I don’t even know where, what, how, why. You just merge and Australian and British accent and it sounds bonkers. But girl, I love you anyway.
KJ: Okay, now you ask me a question.
DL: So, you’re a creative person. How do you get unstuck creatively?
KJ: I shake it off, literally.
DL: Yeah, I know. Like when you do your spontaneous one minute dance parties…by yourself.
KJ: (laughs) Exactly…I feel like you already knew the answer to that question. But yeah, I have to move both physically and mentally. Sometimes I can focus too hard which can be detrimental to my design process. Think about the Powers of Ten by Ray and Charles Eames meets a gyroscope.
DL: Oh, we’re getting serious now. What does that mean?
KJ: Scale and perspective. It’s important for me to look at things from all the POVs I can imagine. I attempt to apply that to my design process, as well as my life in general.
DL: What do you think about on your commute?
KJ: My favorite part of what we do here at Clickspring and design in general is the storytelling. So during my commute I like to put in my headphones and zone out while listening to podcasts. I have about ten shows on my regular rotation.
DL: What kind of things do you listen to? Give me your favorites.
DL: Okay, your turn.
KJ: Alright, I’ve been saving this one. This is more of a challenge than a question. I know how you like to be challenged. (Clears throat dramatically) Donna, please explain “Clickspring Orange” to a blind person.
DL: (covers eyes with hands) It’s warm…super bright… It’s a happy color… It tastes like orange. Okay, same question to you.
KJ: (laughs) Fair. I’ll expand on what you said. This particular orange is like…pointing your face directly at the sun at high noon on a summer’s day while peeling an actual orange as you sprawl out in the grass at a park while a breeze rustles the leaves in the distance: warm, invigorating, and refreshing.
DL: Oh my…
KJ: Right? It’s like that.
Historically the discipline of broadcast design has been relegated to a more subjective mode of fashion, where personal preference and intuitive solutions have been predominant — a dysfunctional attitude and approach, supported by vast amounts of design work. But like the marketing world, there are new realities for the broadcast world. Proliferation within the competitive marketplace has significantly changed the environment. Both local and national broadcasters must contend with a thoroughly internationalized consumer who self-navigates to get the information they want, when they want it, on multiple distribution formats (mobile, streaming, etc) — all over the world.
We have entered a post-television era where once-autonomous disciplines of communication are converging and augmenting each other to satisfy a more individualized audience appetite. The consumer audience has long since taken control: empowered through technology, the audience is increasingly defining their preferences — redefining the channels and outlets from which they draw their news and information. They are deciding how, when, and where they will interact with your brand, and for how long. Most importantly, they are deciding who they will engage with in an internationalized marketplace.
The audience demands:
This is the emerging landscape of the broadcast industry — pointing not to the development of “Broadcast Channels” but more to the evolution of “Media Brands.” To answer the call for creating an audience-relevant “Media Brand,” organizations must understand the intended role of design as one of strategic partnership — not one of creative fancy, hubris, or even intuition.
In turn, it is now incumbent upon designers to implement creative practices that extend far beyond defining the aesthetics of look and feel. Form follows content — demanding that design solutions present more than just appearance. Here, please remember the distinction between giving form and assembling a collection of forms into a more profound meaning — the unique attributes of each brand, in each geography, must be extended in an architectural vocabulary that is both instantly recognizable as the brand’s own and relevant to the audience. The solution needs to support and reinforce on-air content delivery — on all consumer devices.
Therefore, the same strategies typically more recognized in a marketing context apply for effective differentiation within the marketplace. A successful “Media Brand” must now also seek to strategically assemble individual points of audience interest and interaction into a media offering that provides more touch‐points, deeper meaning, and relevance, all of which will yield an enhanced consumer experience.