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Introducing the Base Digital Lab

Person on the left, body position discovered by AI, matching drawings on the right

Everything is digital. It is ingrained in our society, central to the way we operate as humans.

New technologies are emerging faster than ever. Digital payment apps are replacing cash. Facial recognition is used to open hotel doors and drones are already making e-commerce deliveries in rural China. AI is composing emotional music. In the US, 44% of users claim they use voice technology in some form daily.

All that new tech creates potential new touchpoints for brands, shaping experiences for customers. As branding experts we have to adapt our ways to remain relevant. If we don't today, we're out tomorrow.

When TV first came out and became a new advertising medium, agencies started setting up dedicated TV departments, separated from creative departments. There was this belief among the creatives in these agencies that TV was a dumping ground for garbage. However, the agencies that thrived were the ones that explored TV within their creative departments. It's them that slowly started to understand the medium and little by little made the new format part of their creative DNA.

If there is a lesson in this, it's that as a creative agency we cannot assess new technologies from the sideline. In order to understand what works and what doesn't—what is relevant for our clients and what isn't—we have to get our hands dirty and dig in. We have to code it, try it, fail, push it. Then bring those experiences back into the core of the creative team. Because if our attitude is to outsource everything, we risk alienating ourselves from new media.

However, unknown or brand new technologies are not easy to bring into a team's process on a client's deadline and budget.

Introducing the Base Digital Lab

That is exactly why we created this structural playground at Base called the Digital Lab. The format is simple: once a month, one developer and one designer gather in a room for two consecutive days. The goal is to dig into a new web technology and investigate what it could mean for brands today, or how it could nurture our internal branding process.

During the Digital Lab, the team has to constantly document their journey. And when the lab is over, they have to report back their research, the results and all they learned to the full studio.

Of course we realize that this format won't magically make us masters in emerging tech. That's not the point. But still it's a first step in better understanding. It puts new technologies more prominently on our radar. And when relevant, we assume that the step to inclusion in a client project becomes smaller.

On an important side note: one rule of our Digital Lab is that failure is fine. It's mandatory if we want participants to feel enough freedom to explore. If nothing seemingly interesting comes out of a lab, we trust that the technology the team opted for was still worth exploring. And as long as their lesson gets shared with the full team, this has value. In the end, failure is a necessary consequence of doing new things.

Over the course of the following months we will share with you what comes out of each Base Digital Lab. (Actually, as we speak the first lab happened already. You can read all about it in this post.)