Corey Szopinski is an interactive concepting specialist, frontend and backend developer. Now he works as Creative Technical Director at Crispin Porter + Bogusky, leading teams through creative concepting, mobile app development, large scale systems architecture, social media, physical computing and rapid prototyping. He has been designing and developing interactive projects for more than 15 years. He combines a traditional graphic design background with computer science to create digital experiences.
In 2002, he joined up with two other interactive designers to build Domani Studios, a Brooklyn-based interactive shop. In March of 2007, Corey founded a new kind of digital agency, called Core Industries, out of a desire to bring high-end interactive strategy and design to organizations with sustainability standards. While Core Industries was a huge success, in November 2010, Corey took a position at CP+ B Group, to increase the reach of sustainable marketing within this Interactive Agency of the Decade.
We asked Corey to join the Awwwards jury this year and he gladly agreed. Here we introduce you to him with this short interview he agreed to do for us.
Awwwards Team: What’s your average working day like?
I just bought a house in Los Angeles after 9 years in NYC. I'm still adjusting to the slow driving commute to work. But I have several podcasts that make it valuable. I start my day with TED Talks, This Week in Startups, the Accidental Creative and several others. This frames up each day in the optimism of what other leaders in our industry are doing.
Once I'm at the office, my day starts with several "stand-ups", where the team takes turns answering "what are you working on today”, “what did you do yesterday”, and “what are you blocked on". This works great for developers, and I encourage our UX and design folks to do it as well. This gives a great sense of unity across the whole team, and builds empathy for each other's daily challenges, and the rigorous thought they apply to their disciplines.
Much of my day is spent meeting with internal creative teams, developers and outside vendors. Many of our projects are cross-disciplinary with components that need to integrate into one message, so I herd a lot of cats.
In between meetings, I'm diving deep on research… anything from voice recognition, to server hardening, the nuances of Pinterest, finding great web typography examples, node.js, talking to Facebook, etc. As a Creative Technical Director, my job spans across several areas of expertise including digital strategy, UX, design, and development.
How do you see the web in 10 years?
The concept of the "web" will disappear in the next couple of years and almost no one will mention it at all, almost like no one talks about broadcast TV or radio. We're already in the age of the internet of things, but the future isn't evenly distributed.
I look at devices like Google Glass, the Nest thermostat, and the Nike Fuel band as examples of smart devices that have some of the intelligence of the web, but aren't limited to computer or mobile-based interfaces. They are a new breed of connected devices that are more focused and human in the way they solve a problem. This trend will continue until everything in your life is addressable on the internet and has some level of intelligence to it.
Are you learning any new technologies, techniques, software or programming languages right now? What are you planning to learn in the coming months?
Our other major tech initiative is automated deployments onto elastic servers. We're now rolling out a Jenkins-based continuous integration system connected to GIT. When a developer pushes to the stage branch, it kicks off automated unit testing, compiling (concatenating, minifying, compressing images, etc) and deploys onto the stage server. This automation gives us repeatable, testable deploys that we can do as often as necessary.
This same system can deploy to a number of production cloud servers as needed. As one server bogs down, we spin up a new one, configure it, load the production branch, and add it to the load balancer. All automatically. This is a very cost effective way to handle wide fluctuations in server load, which our advertising campaigns tend to drive.
What influences have shaped your style?
I started my career as a print designer working primarily with letterpress, and have a deep respect for typography and simplicity. Around my house I have many screen printed posters from the Hatch show and Aesthetic Apparatus. While my day-to-day work is heavily interactive, I love the bold, simple colors of these screen printed works.
Apple's design aesthetic has been an influence too. The challenge of distilling something down to its essential form is a philosophy that we try to bring to our work. We always ask: What's the simplest way we can make this work?
What qualities should a web designer have? Do you think it’s more limited by technical requirements than other disciplines?
When I interview candidates, the single biggest factor is their passion. To me, when a person is passionate, it can compensate for missing technical skills. Plus, our industry is built on constantly evolving tech. If a person is motivated, they tear into the challenge of learning new technologies. We really value the folks that are constantly exposing us to new techniques and ways of thinking.
Which frameworks do you use?
We've standardized on jQuery and backbone for our front-end work. And we're focused on Geddy for node.js MVC with Swig as our templating system.
What technologies will be used for mobile app development?
I'm a fan of hybrid native + HTML/CSS/JS apps. Our philosophy is always to make the experience for the end user as fast and effortless as possible. Our research shows a large percentage of our user base doesn't update their apps when we release new versions to the iTunes or Google Play stores. Therefore, we like to have our apps auto-update themselves.
The way this works is pretty simple. The structure of the app is native: the navigation, the core UI, the settings, etc. But individual components of each page may be rendered in HTML. We pre-bundle this HTML with the native app download so the first time a person uses the app (even offline) the content is available. If they are connected to the internet, we download updates in the background, refresh the page and store updated CSS/JS or images on the phone.
We think this approach is the best compromise of flexibility and performance.
What effect will global warming have on our industry?
The effects of climate change are forcing us to confront a range of social and economic realities. Within these challenges are awesome opportunities for our industry.
First, the data centers that host our work use 1-2% of the world's electricity. We are actively looking for ways to turn off (or at least turn down) servers that aren't needed. Amazon, Rackspace and several other cloud providers allows for machines to scale up or down based on triggers. So we can use less energy and save our client's money at the same time.
But I'm also excited about how increasingly portable our computing has become. Because battery life is such a focus, electrical engineers are really driving efficiency by eliminating excess materials, excess heat, excess noise and excess power. This waste is bad for the environment and bad for the bottom line. This new emphasis of reduction works it's way into all the consumer products we buy.
Our culture is at an important transition. Today, we can purchase pretty much anything we want, from anywhere, and get it delivered to our doorstep. That's a amazing, but in this time of plenty, it's important to take a step back and consider what is really valuable to us. We have the opportunity to use less by using it smarter. Our industry a driving force in this regard because we are the designers, the producers and the makers that bridge technology to the rest of society.