FITC Toronto 2013 - Exclusive Speaker Profile Interview with Riccardo Giraldi of B-Reel Products.
Riccardo Giraldi is Creative Director at B-Reel Products in New York. Riccardo started his career by playing with Lego and is really not sure as to how he ended up working in the digital industry. Over the years, Riccardo developed a strong geek accent and found satisfaction in seeing his ideas come to life (with help from computers and the internet, of course). He gets satisfaction from understanding how things work, programming, interaction design and now finds himself experimenting with new, innovative ways to offer more tangible, digital experiences.
Riccardo loves getting his left and right brain hemispheres to work together. He worked in Florence, Stockholm, London and New York with companies like Unit9, Helpful Strangers, Specialmoves and finally, B-Reel. He dabbled in several different roles over the years in his attempt to learn as much as possible concerning what he loves. Unfortunately, he often finds himself falling in love with new disciplines and asks himself if this will ever come to an end.
We are pleased that Riccardo took the time out of his hectic schedule to discuss his experience in the industry, recent projects he has completed, as well as some of the things that we can expect to see in the future!
1) First and foremost, Riccardo, can you tell us a bit more about yourself and your background in the industry? You said you always played with LEGO and don’t know how you ended up getting into digital – any theories on how you ended up where you are today?
I was born in a small, quiet city in Tuscany near Florence called Pistoia - not much happens there compared to cities like New York, but the quality of life is very high. I’m part of that lucky generation that grew up playing with the LEGOs that came in boxes full of bricks without any particular set of instruction you were meant to follow or any predefined shape you were supposed to build. You were free - alone with your ideas. You had to use your own imagination to make nice things happen. New LEGO sets remind me of IKEA furniture that you have to assemble. You are meant to follow the instructions. Not fun.
Sometimes we underestimate how important it is not to offer the solution straight away to a problem - especially to kids. The solution can become a limitation, a missed opportunity to instead think about the problem and develop important skills.
Think of how much imagination was required back then when you were playing a videogame and all you had on screen were a few pixels pretending to represent an Italian plumber fighting monsters to save a princess.
Anyhow, back to the LEGOs. Like most kids, I’ve always loved coming up with new games, objects, and stories. And also challenge why everyday objects are now the way the are. I surely was a very annoying kid asking lots of random questions to my parents about obvious things. But that’s the beauty of kids, they have fresh eyes, they can challenge things that we as grown ups take for granted, and for a reason or another, we stop thinking about.
So why from LEGOs to digital? Long story short - it’s great when you can see your ideas coming to life. And with computers you can do that. Learning how to program is a great way to have a quick turnaround between ideation and creation. That’s why (I think) I became so passionate about it as a teenager. It’s easy, cheap, no materials needed, just a computer and your brain. Also, I am currently making more money working with digital stuff than with LEGO. But you never know.
2) Looking back on your past (and maybe even your childhood), did you always find yourself falling in love with all kinds of different jobs? Do you think you as a young child would be happy with the career path you have chosen to stick with?
Not sure. I find what I do extremely interesting but I live in a bubble surrounded by people that share a similar passion. From the eyes of a kid, what I do can look extremely boring. What I do during my working day is sit in front of a screen, talk a bit, and mainly press buttons.
As a kid, I don’t think I would have loved this prospective. I wanted to be Superman.
Or, well, I was pretty sure I had superpowers. Then, at a certain point, I wanted to be the one that drives the garbage truck...
3) As one of our featured speakers at FITC’s largest, 3-day conference in Toronto, what would you say you are most excited about?
Meeting the other speakers, catching up with some good friends, seeing some very promising presentations, and meeting new people. This is only my second time in Toronto, so I’m looking forward to discovering more about the city. I’ll get a car to drive around and meet an awesome client in Detroit. It’s going to be good!
4) Would you be able to give our attendees a little peek at what they can come to expect from your presentation, ‘Experimenting at the Edge of Digital: Robots, Technology and Natural Interactions’ at FITC Toronto 2013?
I’ll introduce B-Reel, share a few thoughts about the future of interactions, and show some new projects I’ve worked on at B-Reel in the past year - such as Chrome Web Lab and Escape Flight. But also talk about what we do at B-Reel Products, the new department focused on interaction design and innovation that I’m running in NY with my colleague Clemens Brandt.
5) To extend a bit on the last question, could you tell us a bit more about the meaning of ‘Experimenting at the Edge of Digital’? In your mind, why is it so important for people to take this into consideration in an industry that thrives on constant and continuous innovation?
In the last 10 years we lived a digital revolution - now we all have the opportunity to explore new grounds and design completely new experiences and products. It’s our time to design and shape the future. But with so many opportunities, it’s hard to stay focused and it’s hard to stay relevant. You can easily get excited by a new piece of technology and lose focus of what really matters in the long run.
Experimenting at the Edge of Digital - meaning creating experiments and prototypes to prove your concepts - is a massive opportunity to generate innovation. But it’s also a challenge to get this process right over and over. At B-Reel Products we are trying to design a process to increase the probability of success of our experiments.
6) One last question for you – could you tell us a bit about some upcoming projects that you’re working on? We are really eager to hear about what you’ve been up to these days!
We are planning the next steps of our latest product, Escape Flight. The final goal is to take over the world of course. We are also working on the next version of LiveShop, another product we made. It’s an innovative interactive online sales solution.
We are also exploring many ideas for our next experiment - some extremely exciting - and planning to launch a kickstarter campaign for our next product: an application specifically designed to make designers’ lives easier - but I can’t tell you more at this time!
Well – that’s a wrap for our featured interview today! Thank you so much for your time, Riccardo!