The First Base Without a Base
Base's brand new studio has no front door or buzzer. The reason? It's an intercontinental team of tech experts based… everywhere. Operating under the name BaseDigital, they will plug into our four local offices to bring Base clients the latest in web, AI, and tech production R&D. We asked its leaders, Mirek, Thomas, and Andrey, to tell us more.
What exactly is BaseDigital?
Mirek Nisembaum: First and foremost, this is an evolution. Base has been in the digital space for over six years, and the main idea is to strengthen our offering to become more relevant. Right now, our value proposition towards our clients and our work is that we can imagine and execute. We’re great at imagining, but we needed to strengthen our execution, and blend the two together better.
It felt like the only way to do that was with a dedicated team of talent and engineers, who would be part of the wider Base team. Since we are an international company with four studios, it was very challenging for us to have that focus in any given location. So when an opportunity arose to have a distributed team that would work with all of the Base studios, it felt like a natural evolution.
Thomas Byttebier: The team that’s now being set up to support the four studios was also put in place to help us to share expertise. We were doing certain things in Brussels that we would spend a lot of time researching and investigating. But sometimes those learnings weren’t necessarily accessible to or used by the other studios. So now we hope that our technological research and technological know-how will now be shared much more across our studios, and passed on to our audiences, which makes a lot of sense for a Base as a group.
MN: One of Base’s strongest selling points is that we don't specialize in a particular sector. One project in fashion can influence a project in banking, then a project in banking influences a project in the tech startup world, all through the knowledge we accumulate. We are kind of novices everywhere, and we use that naivete to our benefit by applying the learnings from the things that don't necessarily focus on a particular problem. And that leads us to surprising and interesting solutions.
Now, because Digital is a distributed team, it's allowing us to share the technology on a solution and ideas level. So we become a broader team, with Andrey leading as Partner and CTO. We now finally know what's going on with the projects and the challenges between each studio. I’ll let Andrey, who is leading the Digital team, introduce himself and explain more.
“Our technological know-how will now be shared much more across our studios”
Andrey Starkov: Myself and my team have more than 10 years of experience working with web projects of varying complexity, including leading media, international cultural and commercial organizations, educational projects, and non-profit foundations.
In each project, we use the most relevant technologies and solutions, trying not to follow development trends, but to shape them. During this time, we’ve gained unique experience and a portfolio of technologies that can be applied to projects of various sizes, custom and ready-made solutions.
At Base, we are also trying to improve the process of how we usually work with clients. It typically starts with strategy and then goes to branding, then design, and then development. Now we are trying to integrate the Digital team earlier into the process, so we’re not only the executor of design ideas, but also the engine and initiator of some ideas too.
What expertise does this new team bring to Base?
AS: Our team comprises developers of various specializations: web interfaces and 3D, server programming and system integrations, AR and artificial intelligence, who all know the technology very well from experience with large-scale, difficult and complex projects.
They also always take initiative, and usually propose solutions that perhaps weren’t expected or asked for, but end up being the best option. They are not only working on things they're familiar with, but they are constantly exploring new territories. And acting as initiators of our processes comes very naturally to the team, because they're always trying to introduce new technologies.
For some projects, it’s best to play it safe. But for others, it's very important to have a new point of view, and a new vision on how the new tech can be implemented. Our team also includes project managers who have worked on cultural projects, and are familiar with the internal workings of museums and cultural institutions. That's also very important because we can look at each project not only from an execution perspective, but also from a client perspective.
MN: Andrey has the ability to look beyond the obvious solutions. He's a builder, but also a thinker that comes from the education from the way he's been practicing. And that fits very well into the Base model. Because it is not just about optimizing the process and making the margins. Andrey’s thinking is informed by the capabilities, the frameworks, and the understanding of how things are built. We've been missing that overall interface. Andrey brings that incredible value, plus a team of experts in their fields that allow us to just on the more technical level, and broadens our skill set.
He also understands the technology landscape, and to feel on a gut level where things could go and what should be researched. And then practically, what should be improved, what should be left untouched, etc. Technology often becomes a guardrail, so if you don't have those guardrails, you can dig quite a deep hole. On the other hand, technology can be an inspiration. Where we as designers may not know that something is out there or if there are better ways to execute an idea, Andrey and his team would already know.
There are many examples, such as when the team decided to build their own artificial intelligence search engine for a project, and when they employed a live 3D rendering on a website.
TB: Digital means many things to many people, and as an industry it has grown and developed so much over the past decades. The great thing that Andrey and his team are bringing to Base is the extended expertise that we didn't have in the individual studios. We had good front-end developers, we had good back-end developers, but we were a pretty small team. Now we can really specialize and focus, and see what is best for a client and put in that technology and that knowledge. We can also use different ideas and solutions for different clients, so really customizing everything, which is what you have to do if you want to stay relevant today.
“We're trying not to follow development trends, but to shape them.”
MN: To summarize: the team is now diverse, which is what we've been missing, because we couldn't build it internally. And that's why we created a new studio.
But there's also gender diversity – the team is actually half men, half women, which in engineering is quite rare. It's also diverse in terms of skills. Some team members are more creative developers, while others are more production/execution developers who we rely on to kind get stuff done.
What’s important is that everyone is passionate about what they're doing. This is not a team that just turns the tickets in and out. They challenge us, they bring their own ideas, they improve things where they see opportunities. They’re hungry for new and interesting work.
Is this the first Base without a base?
AS: Like the web itself, we are not tied to a place, we can search and find the best specialists in various fields around the world. The digital community is global, and therefore this approach to the formation of a distributed team fully reflects the spirit of what we are working on. It helps us to be more nimble and fits Base’s global nature of multiple local studios well.
Which upcoming projects are challenging the way Base creates contemporary branding?
TB: We're working for a very big fashion brand based in Paris, which is about to open a gallery and museum next month. They came to us with a special request, to show the history of the brand and to tell its story in an unconventional way. We ultimately came up with a nice solution, which is like a 3D model that you can interact with online. This is exciting because for us, it's a totally new technology, it's a new way of showing things in a very interactive way. And it's also something that we could never have done without Andrey and the Digital team, because we didn't have the expertise in-house. We’ve opened up our capabilities.
Another great project that we could never have done in-house was the work we did for Mudam, which was very exciting. It really balanced on the edge of what you can do online. I remember having discussions with Mirek and Andrey, explaining the idea, and they told us it was impossible. So we started looking around, and ultimately these guys were able to build it. I know the client was very happy and all of us were very excited.
This is an example of us creating an experience that is totally in line with what the brand stands for, while using new technology and exciting ways opening up the spectrum to create something memorable. This is the kind of stuff we are aiming to do more—challenging existing mediums and finding new ones to allow us to create fresh expressions and experiences.
“BaseDigital aims to set the bar high and stay ahead of trends.”
MN: We're also super proud of our Prince experiences, and the client is so happy that they have engaged us to redesign the Prince.com site that we launched two years ago. We're creating a new version with a new set of goals and opportunities. Since we’re remaking our own work, we have challenged our own thinking, and it's going to be nothing like what we did before.
We also have an interesting project coming up for a very interesting contemporary art museum here in New York, which will be a really serious challenge. They have ambitions to lead the industry overall—not just presenting a collection online, but bringing the entire museum experience online in a way that will still sell the tickets and memberships, but also change a visitor’s perception. It’s an opportunity for a museum to truly punch above its weight and become a global institution out of a small physical space in New York.
Can you summarize the goals of BaseDigital?
MN: Brands are increasingly immersed in the digital sphere. BaseDigital aims to set the bar high, and stay ahead of trends to give clients the tools they need to exist and thrive in this world. As I mentioned earlier, Base’s unique viewpoint is to be able to imagine and execute, and BaseDigital is a crucial part of this equation.
We are looking to be a leader in this space, and this is work in progress. Any project where we can truly make a difference for the client is a dream project.
Next week, in part two of this interview, Andrey, Thomas, and Mirek will discuss what they see for the future of digital in the branding world. Stay tuned.