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Wil Arndt

As Creative Director of OpenRoad, Wil is responsible for ensuring that projects meet the highest standards of design and communication excellence. He works closely with clients to articulate a vision for great design and digital brand integration, while seeking to delight the user and exceed the project’s communication objectives.

With over 20 years of design experience, Wil’s work has been honoured with some 150 industry and design awards and numerous accolades in the media. As principal of leading Vancouver digital agency Mod7 (before being acquired by OpenRoad in 2013), Wil helped to push the boundaries of digital storytelling, mobile development, and interactive design.

In addition to 4 years of architecture school training, Wil completed his degree in Communication Design at the Emily Carr University in Vancouver, where he later taught motion graphics and interactive design in the mid-00’s. Though his schedule doesn’t allow room for teaching these days, Wil still likes to mentor students at the Vancouver Film School.

When not spending time with his wife and two children or challenging his team to create great design at OpenRoad, Wil dabbles in amateur astronomy photography and loves pounding the drums. He has recently discovered a soft spot for whisky and puppies.

Wil Arndt's Full Profile

National Film Board

Empowering the human story with design & technology.

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​The Goggles are award-winning storytellers and creators working across a variety of media—print, film, online. The National Film Board (NFB) produces and distributes films and media which “reflect Canada to Canadians and the rest of the world”. Working with The Googles and NFB, we helped translate the story of Pine Point into a highly interactive digital experience.

The Problem

The NFB was producing a story by The Goggles about a town that no longer existed. Content acquisition was nearly complete, the art direction was coming together, now they needed someone to make their vision real and to guide their narrative process through the possibilities afforded by the online medium.

How could the technology be pushed to create narrative innovation while still maintaining the vision of the authors? What new storytelling possibilities did the digital space open up for this particular story? What were the technological limitations and how could they be overcome? And how do you make sure that, in the end, the technology melts away, allowing the human element to shine through in a clear and honest way?

The Process

Working with the original storyboards and assets created by The Goggles, we used an agile development process to explore the unknowns and drive creative innovation around the technology and story possibilities. We initially focused on small sprints of rapid prototyping to quickly test ideas, throwing away what didn’t work and further evolving what did. Together with NFB and The Goggles, we worked together under a common vision. After a few weeks of this iterative back-and-forth, the team evaluated numerous prototypes and we were ready to move into production.

The project utilized a massive amount of content—music, sound, text, and video—that needed to be optimized and integrated, even as The Goggles were continually refining the vision. Things changed almost daily. It was a traditional programmer’s nightmare, but we are anything but traditional. We believe that the human interaction comes first. We worked closely with the creators—really close, they literally sat behind us sometimes, breathing over our shoulders—to craft the best experience possible with the most flexible production process possible. The process itself turned out to be quite a wonderful experience in the end.

The Result

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Sometimes, as you work on a project, you don’t fully appreciate how special it might be. Such was the case with Pine Point. When we started, we knew it had the potential to be something great, but at the end we shipped it and moved on to the next great project.

And then the critical acclaim and kudos started rolling in. Pine Point went on to win some of the highest honours in our industry, including two Webbys, over a dozen international awards, numerous news articles, and features in many film festivals.

Looking closer, what really strikes us about this project is not the fancy technology, the hip music, or the great writing. What makes Pine Point so special is the insight into human nature, the characters, the questions about the meaning of community. Experiencing it again with fresh eyes and ears helped us affirm that, ultimately, great stories are really just about ourselves. And that’s what makes great stories like Pine Point so universal. Sure, the technology helps, but technology is really at its best when it just gets out of the way.

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Top 3 Interaction Design Trends We Loved in 2013

In 2013, the web got flatter, simpler, and more mobile-ier. Here’s our round-up of three things that really had us singing happy songs as interaction designers this year:

Responsive Web Design entered the public consciousness

Responsive Design

Responsive Design was something that had us excited for some time now, both in terms of what it could do for the user experience and for our clients’ bottom-lines. But it took a bit of time for the concept to gain traction, mainly because it’s a bit of a difficult concept to grasp. So when an entire TV commercial is tooled up to show off Sportsnet’s responsive website, you know RWD has become more than an obscure philosophical approach debated within the web design community. In fact, by some estimates, roughly 1 in 8 websites are now responsive. And we couldn’t be more thrilled. It means more and more sites are accessible to more and more people, devices, and contexts. That’s why we declare 2013 as “The Year Responsive Design Went Mainstream”.

Everything’s “flat” now

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In 2012, the Interwebs were abuzz with the idea of “flat design”—design that scorned unnecessary ornamentation and dubious visual metaphor. Suddenly everyone was an expert interface designer simply because they could use the word “skeuomorphism” in intelligent debate. Fast-forward to 2013, and Apple now led the charge with their much maligned/anticipated iOS 7 redesign. Gone are the gaudy leather trims and faux-distressed metal surfaces. And while we certainly think there’s always room for the affordances inherent in referencing physical objects in screen-based interactive design, we feel the dominant trend towards clean, open, and simple interfaces is generally a pretty good thing.

Hamburgers to go

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The surge of mobile introduced a new iconography into the broader interaction design lexicon, leading many sites to behave more like apps (especially when viewed on mobile devices). The most notable newcomer was the three-bar symbol affectionally referred to as “the hamburger menu icon”. In 2013, we saw many responsive sites adopt this shorthand to let users know that, hey! there’s a menu under there somewhere. And users responded with a unanimous “OK, I get it!” This allowed designers to hide the navigation until needed, clearing space on small screens for the important stuff, like actual content. Because no one wants to visit a site on their smartphone only to wade through screens of navigation options, right? We’ll take that hamburger to go, please.

The impact of mobile on interaction design was unmistakable this year, setting new standards and influencing users’ behaviour and experiences. Moving into 2014, we’re looking forward to seeing that line between “mobile” and “desktop” disappear altogether, giving rise to a “multi-screen” approach to design that lets users get the content they want—anytime, anywhere. Soon, they’ll be singing happy songs along with us, too.

OpenRoad Acquires Creative Agency Mod7

openroad+mod7Today is a big day for OpenRoad. I am excited to announce our acquisition of Mod7 Communications Inc. We’ve partnered with Mod7 on many projects over the years and now they’re part of the OpenRoad team. You could say that we’ve been dating for a long time, and now it’s time to get married.

Wil Arndt will be joining OpenRoad as our new Creative Director. I’ve known Wil for many years and have worked alongside him on projects for clients such as Pokémon, The World Bank, Electronic Arts, and TReO. There are very few people that bring together a great sense of design, the ability to articulate a creative vision, and empathy for the user like he can.

For OpenRoad, this means we now have a lot more creative brain power. We can now provide a complete end-to-end experience, covering all aspects of strategy, user experience, visual design, development, and ongoing continuous improvement under one roof. This means digital experiences that are well built, easy to use, and visually stunning. It also means we have more awards than we know what to do with (seriously – over 150! Where are we going to put them all?)

For ThoughtFarmer it means an increased focus on visual design for our clients. Beautiful intranets are just as important as compelling public websites and this will allow us to improve the product and continue to deliver stunning custom designs for our clients.

Please join me in welcoming our new Creative Director Wil Arndt, designer Daryl Claudio and developer Tyler Egeto. I have the utmost respect for the business and the team Wil has built, and I can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together. I’m looking forward to introducing you to Wil and his team and letting you see them in action on your next project.

Here’s to the future!

Darren Gibbons, President

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Trevor Allen

Trevor has eight years of experience designing useful, usable and innovative web-based software. As a User Experience Designer for ThoughtFarmer, Trevor is responsible for ensuring new features work in a way people expect while ensuring the overall experience of the product remains consistent, intuitive and, dare we say, fun to use.

After many years of Quality Assurance work, Trevor got his start in User Experience and Interaction Design at TELUS where he progressed to Senior Interaction Designer and then User Experience Strategist. He worked on all aspects of their customer web properties, ensuring people could complete their tasks quickly and easily.

His educational background is in Applied Psychology (Human Factors and Ergonomics tract) at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. When not working, he enjoys running, snowboarding, cooking and traveling with his family.

Trevor Allen's Full Profile

RANE DJ

It’s More than Music — Amplifying RANE Across the DJ Community.

RANE Corporation, one of the most well-known producers of DJ equipment, knows that DJ culture is about “More than Music”. They wanted a website that not only provided technical information about their equipment, but also allows DJs to connect with the brand, the lifestyle, upcoming events, and each other. In partnership with agency IF/THEN, OpenRoad brought their vision of a online DJ community to life.

Moving from Static HTML to a Content Management System (CMS)

The success of a website lies in what happens after launch. Providing an ongoing stream of fresh and relevant content requires among other things an easy-to-use CMS. OpenRoad was brought on to help transform the previous site from static HTML into a robust and responsive platform built in a PHP-based low cost CMS called Expression Engine. By introducing an easy to use CMS, multiple content editors are able to manage the site content with ease.

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Before After

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Celebrating 40 years with SFU’s School of Communication

cmns_40_poster It’s hard to believe it was 20 years ago that I nervously attended my first university lecture at Simon Fraser University – a life changing moment to be sure. My alma mater just turned 40 this fall – SFU’s School of Communication, now part of the Faculty of Communication, Art, and Technology – and they celebrated in style last night at the elegant downtown Segal Graduate School of Business.

I was asked to speak and share my thoughts on their theme of Staying Relevant, something that not only plagues middle-aged graduates, but post-secondary institutions themselves in challenging economic times.

I joined other alum Aaron Cruikshank who runs the Hive co-working space just up the block from us here and Shannon Ward of Babyproofing Your Business fame. It was great to catch up with some familiar (if not slightly older looking) faces and meet some new ones as well.

Thanks again to all of the outstanding alumni who attended last night, Dean of FCAT Cheryl Geisler, Director Alison Beale, event organizer Ovey Yeung, and to the professors who left an indelible mark on an impressionable mind. (more…)

Mobile Website Design: 3 Anti-Patterns to Avoid

While it’s good to know what the mobile website design best practices are, it’s just as important to be able to identify bad patterns when you see them.

More than ever before, we’re accessing the web from a variety of mobile devices and it’s not just when we’re on the go anymore. We’re starting to use it when there are computers readily available to us because it’s more convenient.

It’s been great to see how much the mobile web has been growing over the last couple of years. However, we’re finding the user experience of a good portion of these sites isn’t optimized for mobile users. Websites have been being built for a long time now, where as the mobile web is still relatively new.

So let’s consider a few mobile web anti-patterns.

#1 Not Having a Mobile Site

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Making Mod7.com

This post originally appeared on Mod7.com. Mod7 is now a part of OpenRoad Communications. Please see the official press release for more information about the acquisition.

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Creativity, and a lot of duct tape​

So this year we finally decided to make a “real” website for ourselves. You know, one that wasn’t thrown together in 2 days. And we’re pretty happy with how it came out. Like everything online, it’s still a work-in-progress, but it’s nice to finally be able to point to our web address and say, “check out our site” and not preface that with a bunch of lame excuses. Here’s some behind-the-scenes documentation of the process and technology used. (more…)

Introducing the Better Together Website Reboot

This post originally appeared on Mod7.com. Mod7 is now a part of OpenRoad Communications. Please see the official press release for more information about the acquisition.

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Ready to experience the joys of cooking and eating together?

We are pleased to introduce a fresh reboot for the Better Together website! We’ve been involved in the Better Together project since 2009, so we’re really excited about the new features this latest update brings to the Better Together audience:

  • It’s “responsive”. View Better Together content on any device—your PC, smartphone, or tablet—and it’ll look great!
  • Create, save, and print your own personalized cookbooks!
  • A new interface for browsing and saving kid-friendly recipes.
  • A comprehensive and easy-to-browse learning section.
  • Explore and share site content on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.
  • Create a personalized Better Together account so you can save recipes, create cookbooks, and even manage your entries for the ever-popular annual video contest.
  • Save paper by using the new and nifty “kitchen-friendly mode” for recipes. Read and follow the recipe on your tablet as you cook. (Here’s a sample).
  • And, as always, browse the all the great tips, inspiration, and stories on the Better Together blog.

Check it out today: www.bettertogetherbc.ca