Joe Zeff Design Reopens in Times Square

Joe Zeff Design Reopens in Times Square
After much anticipation, digital game changer and former SPD board member Joe Zeff has officially reopened his award-winning design studio at 1460 Broadway in the heart of Times Square.  Joe Zeff Design (JZD) first opened in 2000 and Joe became a go-to applications guru for the industry launching Fast Company for iPad and National Geographic for iPhone to name a few.  He closed JZD in 2014 to work at Scrollmotion and returns back to his design studio after leaving his position there as President and Chief Creative Officer.

SPD spoke with Joe about the new JZD, today's publishing landscape, and what we can expect from his next bobblehead. Read on for Joe's answers about reopening JZD!

First things first, tell us why you reopened Joe Zeff Design.

Working for Scrollmotion put me inside some of the largest companies in the world. Many struggle with content, unable to tell stories well, making it hard to onboard employees, engage customers and deliver presentations. Too often their messaging gets lost inside overstuffed PowerPoint decks, or scattered across multiple documents. Unable to communicate effectively, their business objectives go unmet. 

Platforms like ours stir opportunities for companies to rethink the way they sell, train and present. But software only goes so far. It's a tool, like a paintbrush. The paintbrush itself doesn't make a great painting. It takes an experienced artist and a worthwhile subject, or  an instructor who can teach someone to paint. I find myself less excited about software than what you can do with software. For me, the storytelling is what's fun.

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You'll still be working closely with Scrollmotion. What will that relationship look like?

We'll partner where mutually beneficial -- JZD clients who need a storytelling platform, Scrollmotion customers who want help producing content. Already we're working together on apps for America's largest bank, and we intend to collaborate on workshops built around Ingage, a new app we developed with help from Apple. My studio will be in the same building as Scrollmotion so that we can continue to work closely together.

I've enjoyed working with WPP as part of its investment in Scrollmotion last year, and I would hope to continue those relationships through JZD. I'll be partnering with others as well: hardware and software companies, front-end developers, illustrators and animators-- whatever solutions best suit each client's needs. This time around I'm thinking beyond iPad apps, excited about the virality of the web, the ubiquity of mobile phones, and the irresistibility of wall-sized touchscreens. 

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What do you think has changed the most in the publishing landscape since you closed JZD in 2014?

The publishing industry has lost its mojo. The largest publishers are fighting to survive, not through innovation but consolidation and compromise. So many stars have fled, taking with them the spontaneity that set apart one publication from another. New players are calling the shots -- Facebook, Google, Apple News, able to command huge audiences that excite advertisers. But their formats lack individuality, reducing content to a rigid set of templates. 

There is unprecedented collaboration between publishers and advertisers -- agencies like T Brand Studio and Time Inc.'s The Foundry. I'm hopeful that partnerships like these can help drive new storytelling formats. Virtual reality and other technology can make content more experiential. And there's something to be said for print -- so tactile, so visual and so disconnected. Opportunities abound for publishers to reinvent; professional organizations like SPD can, too.

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What upcoming exciting projects for JZD can you share with us?

I'm fascinated by the potential of integrated storytelling, stories that blend words, pictures, video, sounds and data into experiences. These experiences invite the audience to participate. Stories you can touch. Stories you can change. As technology evolves, stories needn't end. They simply begin.

I see dots that ought to be connected. Brands need help telling stories. Publishers need a way to make money. Talented art directors can't find jobs. Writers, photographers, documentarians, musicians, statisticians, too.
 
Hmmmm. 2017 will be exciting indeed!

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What's the next bobblehead going to look like?  Where can we get one?

A Times Square studio calls for a special Joe Zeff bobblehead, with taxicabs, skyscrapers and Elmos. Follow along at www.joezeffdesign.com/bobbleheads as the fourth generation takes shape, and reach out to studio@joezeffdesign.com with suggestions and requests.

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  • Susan Mango Curtis

    Good to hear Joe is back doing what he loves and we love seeing his work.

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