Defining DPDK can be difficult, as the agency offers a diverse range of skills to its clients. Whether they need a production company, design boutique, game studio or technology services, DPDK brings fresh and dynamic solutions to every account. Few agencies have the breadth of skills that DPDK possesses, placing it at the forefront of the digital design that shapes our world.
“We are an agency that often pitches for challenging projects.”
Pim van Helten, CEO at DPDK, explains how the agency came into being:
“Officially, the agency started in 2001 with Rolf Vreijdenberger and myself, but it took shape when I joined the agency after graduating in 2004.
We offered technical production at leading advertising agencies. Back then we mainly developed with Flash and PHP, which was often the basis for innovative projects of the (old) web. I functioned mainly as a producer, while Rolf functioned as the creative developer. Between 2004 and 2010 we grew the agency fast, mainly because we then focused on adopting creative developers. Because we worked for many different agencies we were able to build up an outstanding portfolio, which encompassed a number of skills that were in demand.”
As a calling card, an agency’s website is often the first point of contact with a new client. Michael Vromans, Creative Director, outlines the approach that DPDK took with its design, “Our website should convey what we stand for and who [we] are going to cooperate with. It is therefore extremely important for us that we present ourselves clearly through our website.”
Van Helten continues, “In addition, our website is a platform to show how proud we are of our work. Often our projects are complex and developed by a large team. We, therefore, like to highlight how we came to our final product. Through a case study on our website, we outline the background story. That takes a relatively long time to design, but we like it simply because we love our jobs.”
How agencies actually earn their work can be manifold. As one of the longest established businesses in the digital space, DPDK has been able to work with some of the world’s best-known brands. “We are an agency that often pitches for challenging projects,” Vromans tells us, “Fortunately, we have a broad customer base and do not have to pitch [by] default as many customers know exactly what they can expect from us. But pitching keeps the agency sharp and brings new insights and ideas to the team. It is also great to outperform the competition!”
With a world-class reputation that proceeds it, how does DPDK choose which clients to work with? Are there any business criteria that a new client must meet for them to be suitable for DPDK? Vromans continues, “We do not service a limited domain when it comes to the markets our customers do business in.
“We do, however, have a strong preference for a client who understands the ‘what’ of technology. Understanding the ‘what’ of technology means that you put customer experience at the heart of your transformation – from [the] outside in. They keep on innovating – it’s never over. Every improvement [to] the digital customer experience will open up new possibilities to improve the way they do business. Clients who understand the ‘what’ of technology often have a digital culture with a strong overarching digital vision.
“Our service is very dependent on cooperation, so we prefer clients who bring out the best in us. We have learned that digital projects can lead to internal process changes for our clients. We assess whether or not our future clients can manage this change prior to a project.
“In addition, over the years we have made our trade-offs within the industry. For example, we do not develop comprehensive e-commerce systems. Today there are specific systems, but in the past we have learned that this expertise does not fit with our core competences. We also do not offer outplacement of our team members. We like to work closely together with our clients, but do so from our own organization.”
Many agencies gain a reputation within a specific sector, or their work has a clear thread running through it that marks it out as their work. Does DPDK have any work that defines it? Van Helten explains, “Translating offline to online user experience is one of our specialties. The ‘Catch The Dragon’ campaign we created for Peugeot, for instance, is an interactive prolongation of a television commercial. For the film, we combined Peugeot’s existing commercial with a 360º virtual reality test drive we had already filmed in the sunny French mountains.
"Peugeot’s TV commercial was filmed in Los Angeles by night and features a dragon tattoo coming alive, flying out of the new 208. It was quite a challenge to combine these completely different worlds. We blended the virtual test drive and the commercial into an interactive virtual reality film, in which you’ve set out to catch the dragon by moving your smartphone around. The site works flawlessly on mobile devices, which is a unique feature for such a complex product."
Your signature is personal and unique. And that’s what car brand DS is all about: expressing yourself. To celebrate their partnership with the Dutch Filmfestival, we turn your signature into a piece of art. Just like in Hollywood, the festival boasts a boulevard of fame with autographs and hand imprints of prize-winning actors and actresses. Inspired by these signatures, we developed the idea of leaving your own signature in the avant garde style of DS.
The intro is a seamless mix of code, design and video all melted together. Because of this state of the art approach, the intro even plays on mobile devices. Writing your signature works best on mobile. Just draw with your finger and voila: there it is. Visiting on desktop? No problem. Just connect with your smartphone and draw on there. Your signature will appear on your desktop screen like magic.To create the right look in 3D signature and statue, we started out with 3D experiments where shapes were simple. In a line of prototypes, we added detail, texture and lighting to end up with an atmosphere that fits the avant garde spirit of DS.
DS signature art is all about you and your personal expression, and as such the interface has been kept to a minimum but always in line with DS style. A soundtrack that really complemented the innovative nature of the project and the brand was designed. It’s progressive, modern and a tad experimental.
Signature Art is also available as an installation at the Filmfestival. We built a motion sensor controlled version of the website where visitors can write their signature by writing in thin air.
Some of the projects that DPDK has completed are large and complex, so how does DPDK approach each and every project that comes through their doors? Van Helten explains the approach, “Large-scale projects often have a timeline of six to 12 months. Half of our projects we produce within six months. The core of a team consists of two backend developers, two frontend developers, an art director and a producer. Often, a strategist and the creative director also join the team, depending the nature of the project. Larger projects at DPDK usually have the focal point towards technical development, because backend integrations with systems used by our clients are time consuming to develop.”
The toolset that is now available to digital developers is massive and continually evolving, with some agencies even developing their own frameworks to be used their projects. So how does DPDK approach using its toolset? Van Helten outlines its current practices, “Whenever we develop a backend, we work with Drupal. It’s the most flexible and reliable Open Source system available and has a large support community.
“For design and frontend there are the usual suspect such as Photoshop, but all in all we do not cling to a certain package simply because it worked last time. When you’re focusing on creating cutting edge, you have to be willing to try new methods every single time in order to become cutting edge. The one tool where both the whole team and the client connect is the project management tools, Basecamp for project/ team communication; Jira for bug tracking; Github for software repositories and Google Apps for sharing documents and presentations.
“We are very excited about how WebGL is influencing the Web. Since WebGL is embraced widely by the mobile industry, we see that this technique is maturing very fast indeed. With this technique it’s possible to create rich experiences for advertising campaigns and interactive websites. Also this year we have already experimented with WebGL and WebVR within a number of our productions. It is fantastic to see what’s possible and how the Web develops through these tools. We are very excited about the future!”
"Across all of our websites we work with responsive designs from a mobile-first approach. We believe that if you have the perfect mobile layout, you can translate the design easily to a much better design for desktop and tablet."
The vast proportion of prospective clients will often have a very clear idea of how they would like their campaigns to reach their customers. Mobile devices are now at the centre of these relationships, which often influences how agencies like DPDK will approach a piece of work. Vromans explains that, “Across all of our websites we work with responsive designs from a mobile-first approach. We’ve been seeing mobile traffic grow for years now. Therefore, all products that we develop need that mobile-first approach. We believe that if you have the perfect mobile layout, you can translate the design easily to a much better design for desktop and tablet.
“We also develop many native apps. If you want to use specific features of the mobile phone such as fingerprint, camera, or the NFC-chip then you have to develop native. At the moment, for this type of project, there are no alternatives for developing native, but it could be that in the future fewer and fewer native apps will be developed.
“The ways in which film productions are evolving are fascinating. There doesn’t seem to be a week in which there is not a really great idea on Kickstarter that will make shooting killer shots at low cost possible. Think of a drone that automatically follows a dynamic object or an add-on for your camera that records all your movement in order to completely eliminate those movements afterwards, giving you an always stable shot.”
At its core, a creative agency is effectively only as good as the people it employs. But what are the kinds of qualities that DPDK will look for in a prospective employee and what advice would the team give to anyone looking to take a step into the industry and furthering their career?
“In our profession, everyone is now a digital native, so make sure you excel at something,” says van Helten.
“At DPDK we hire for passion, not for experience. We always look for the team player that is broadly oriented within the industry and wants to be the best in [their] field. For us as an agency, it is important that you connect to the core competences of the agency; management of change, conceptual thinking, team collaboration and production management.”
As an agency in constant demand, what does the future hold for DPDK?
“We expect to both expand and diversify. The digital revolution has only just begun and we believe that our best days are yet to come!”
It is difficult to define an agency like DPDK, as it strives to be different with its approach to each brief, but also how the philosophy within the company has developed. Just as the digital space is rapidly evolving, so DPDK remains on the bleeding edge of design.