Bob Calvano (@BobCalvano) runs the digital media & design studio for A+E Networks, and oversees the development of mobile apps, websites, interfaces, and a variety of other design elements for A+E’s brands.

This conversation discusses his origins in digital and traditional design work, how he manages a diverse team of designers and programmers, and the challenges of working in the always-changing business of television and entertainment.

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Show Notes & Links

  • TV is the first screen; computers are the second screen; mobile is the third screen
  • Bob describes himself thoroughly as a husband, father, son, brother, drummer, speaker, friend, designer … at different times
  • “Proudly hyphenated”
  • A+E, Lifetime, History, FYI — television networks under the A+E umbrella
  • Basement storage racks
  • Bob started as a fine artist & illustrator, later worked as an in-house designer for Panasonic
  • An early business found Bob and his partner painting & airbrushing motorcycles, boats, etc.
  • Oxygen Network
  • R/GA, digital agency
  • To move from creative agencies like media to less-creative agencies like pharma, banking, etc.
  • The Narcissism of Minor Differences
  • Bob’s team focuses on “digital execution” of many different projects
  • “mobile-first” mentality for the websites
  • “watch” apps for Android and iOS (for watching, not timepieces)
  • XBOX 360
  • Roku
  • AppleTV
  • Amazon Fire TV
  • “media agnostic” — problem-solving is more important than a particular execution
  • “integrated branding” or “360 campaigns”, putting all the pieces together
  • Erica Heinz, previous guest on The Busy Creator Podcast (episode 10)
  • A+E’s studio is packed with “Product Designers”

“It's a designer-slash-developer world.”

—Bob Calvano

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  • Waterfall method, sort of outdated but still in use in many agencies/teams

“A show idea could come from anywhere.”

—Bob Calvano

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“The Static Photoshop Comp is slowly becoming extinct.”

—Bob Calvano

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“Photoshop is a ‘mullet-shaped’ tool; 90% of the users only use 10% of the features.”

—Prescott Perez-Fox

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Tools

Techniques

  • Use Agile framework for your design+development projects
  • Use Scrum framework to keep teams together
  • Kanban board to manage project stages
  • Mine your own data
  • Set up “teams of three”, where Art Directors work closely with a UX/UI designer and a developer
  • Turn your Project Managers into Scrum Masters on a Product Team (same thing but on a different model)
  • Use an all-digital workflow
  • Hire T-Shaped People and encourage them to grow
  • Present clickable prototypes rather than flat comps — it yields better results, even if it takes slightly longer
  • Use transit time to prepare for, and recover from, the working day. Meditate or at least mentally plan.

Habits

  • Sketch during conversations; think out loud
  • Capture and measure all possible statistics; use data & metrics to inform decisions
  • Don’t base everything off data & metrics; trust your gut as designers
  • Keep your finger on the pulse of design & digital media by going to conferences, taking classes, subscribing to magazines, take field trips
  • Wake up at 5:45
  • Eliminate Gluten & Dairy
  • Take the stairs! If you’re a commuter, they’re always right there.
  • On weekends, sleep as late as kids & dogs will allow

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About the author: Prescott Perez-Fox

Prescott Perez-Fox is a New York-based graphic designer and brand developer with 17+ years experience in branding, packaging, graphic design, and web design. He runs The Busy Creator.

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