Rob Le Quesne discusses Digital Asset Management
Here are the questions asked:
- How are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
- Can you tell us about the Seamless End-to-End Experience you designed using Digital Asset Management (DAM) and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to connect the physical and digital world together?
- What advice would you like to share with DAM Professionals and people aspiring to become DAM Professionals?
Henrik de Gyor: This is Another DAM Podcast about Digital Asset
Management. I’m Henrik de Gyor. Today I’m speaking with Rob Le Quesne. Rob,
how are you involved with Digital Asset Management?
Rob Le Quesne: [0:10] I have been working in digital media over the last 15
years. From 2000 to 2010, I had my own company in Milan, Italy called The Big
Space with my business partner, Dick Lockhart. We specialized in designing digital
installations and smart fixtures for predominately retail clients. That involved
working with Levi Strauss in Mexico City, Polo Ralph Lauren in New York, and a
number of other key European fashion retail brands. [0:47] That happened, I’d
say, quite organically. We didn’t have a plan to really be focusing on this area
when we started the company, but we ended up gravitating more and more
toward solutions that involved the use of radio frequency identification, RFID
[1:05] One of the key projects that we produced was for Polo Ralph Lauren in
Manhattan, New York. This was thanks to an introduction that we had to InfoSys,
the IT and consulting firm based out of India, who we met at the National Retail
Fair in New York in January 2007.
[1:31] They already had a working relationship with Polo Ralph Lauren, providing
them with a lot of their backend logistics. They were in initial conversations with
Polo Ralph Lauren to create a new digital archive system, in order to provide
Polo’s internal designers with a means of accessing the whole back catalogue of
Polo Ralph Lauren fashion designs to use as inspiration when designing a new
Henrik: [2:02] Can you tell us about the seamless end-to-end experience you
designed using Digital Asset Management, or DAM, and Radio Frequency
Identification, or RFID, to connect the physical and digital world together?
Rob: [2:14] We were brought in to design the user experience for this new
digital archive. I guess from our point of view, the particularly interesting opportunity
we had with this project was to not only consider the user experience
that Polo’s designers would be having on a screen to access this digital archive
system, but they were also interested in creating a corresponding physical
archive of all their back catalogue of products that could then link to the digital
archive. [2:53] In other words, designers at Polo Ralph Lauren, the idea was that
they would be able to view the whole digital archive from their computer at their
desk, and then book products that they could then walk over to the other side
of the world in Manhattan and actually pick up the product they’ve seen on their
screen, and check it out from the physical archive space at Polo.
[3:17] It was a really great example of the online experience and the offline, the
physical experience, coming together. Thanks to the radio frequency identification
technology that we were going to be using to physically tag their whole
back catalogue of products. Then connect that tagging system into the virtual,
the Digital Asset Management System that the designers would be accessing
from their desks.
Rob: [3:44] How were we going to do this? There were some key players involved.
There was The Big Space, which was my company, that was really responsible
for the user experience, the front end design. Both of the Digital
Asset Management system, but also designing the physical experience of how
designers, once they were in the physical archive space, how they would then
actually check out a physical product, and check it in. Just like at a library, when
you check out a book, and then return it.
[4:19] We also came up with some other ideas of how they could best utilize
this RFID technology in the physical archive space to find out more information
about each product in the archive space. We came up with a smart surface
and a smart hanger, so you could just hang up a product in the space.
Then on a plasma screen you would access information from the Digital Asset
Management System based on that particular product.
[4:49] Coming up with these seamless experiences to marry all the metadata that
had been tagged to every product, and being able to access all that data when
you actually had the physical product in your hands, that was what it was about.
That was what The Big Space, my company, was responsible for.
[5:09] Alongside us we had Infosys, the IT consulting company, who were responsible
for delivering the whole backend, the database system that the
front end would be connecting to. They had picked a particular Digital Asset
Management software called Artesia, that they were using as the UI for holding
all the content that was being accessed from the backend system. There was
a lot of conversation whether we would build the front end user experience in
either AJAX, in dynamic HTML, or in a Flex based environment.
[5:58] In the end, we opted for Flex. We felt it would give us more freedom in
creating a more dynamic user experience. Being able to play more with faster
transitions and a richer user experience. We decided, with InfoSys and Polo
Ralph Lauren, to design the front end experience in Flex that would then bolt
onto the Artesia Digital Asset Management software. The whole backend
system and the integration of our Flex based front end with Artesia was then
handled by InfoSys, offshore in India.
Rob: [6:40] In the meantime, in Manhattan, New York, we found local suppliers
to build the smart fixtures. What I mean by that are these custom pieces of furniture
that would house the RFID technology that was provided by a company
owned by Motorola, called Symbol Technologies. The smart fixtures housed,
essentially, RFID, Radio Frequency Identification, readers and antennas. Which
would then enable the people in the physical space to just lay down a piece of
clothing on a smart surface.
[7:24] Each piece of clothing had an RFID tag sewn into each product that enabled
the clothing to be washed, with no detrimental effect to the RFID tags.
These tags enable these products to just be thrown onto the smart surface.
Automatically, it’s read by the antenna that’s housed within the smart piece of
furniture. Obviously, massive benefits over the traditional bar code. Because no
longer are people actually having to line up the bar code with an optical scanner
[8:06] Instead, we’re using radio waves to communicate the unique product
number of each product to a database. Thanks to the antenna that’s housed
within the piece of MDF furniture. So you could then throw onto this surface 20
or more products, all in a heap, and they would all be individually read. Thanks
to the RFID tags sewn into each garment. At the beginning of this project, from
my point of view as a designer, the most important thing was to actually understand
how the design process at Polo Ralph Lauren currently worked. How a
Polo Ralph Lauren designer proceeded to work in the real world.
Rob: [8:57] How we could optimize and improve their experience through
technology and through this Digital Asset Management System. It was interesting
getting inside Polo and understanding the reality of the design process
there. Because they were relying on a very non-technological process at that
point. The design process they currently had was that they would initially look
for inspiration. How they would do that would be looking at their back catalog
of products, looking in magazines, going to old thrift stores, looking for vintage
[9:33] Initially, they would just be looking for a theme to tie their inspiration together.
Let’s say it was Wimbledon tennis in the 1930s. They would then create
a physical wall, a physical collage of inspiration imagery, involving old photos,
magazine articles, old garments. They’d create this physical wall of inspiration,
which would then be used to brief the product designers to go away and come
up with designs that reflected this particular inspirational theme. What we
wanted to do, using technology, was to replicate that physical wall of inspiration
and to help the designers in their quest for both inspiration, and being able to
look at the whole back catalog of products. To do that, we created a virtual wall
Rob: [10:36] Through the interface that we designed for the Artesia Digital
Asset Management System, we enabled designers to pick particular items that
interested them. They could do this through a number of entry points into
the database. One would be by categories. You had, for instance, a different
season, summer, winter or through male, female. But also through inspirational
themes. Then you could create your own virtual pin board, a cross between
a pin board and a mood board, of content you found in the Digital Asset
[11:23] Our idea was to play with the space and the spatial confines of the interface.
The idea was that, in the same way that previously they would have that
initial, key inspirational theme like Wimbledon in the 1930s. Our idea was that
you’d be able to have your key inspirational image in the center of the screen.
Then you could position your different images that you’d found in the database
around that central image.
[12:01] The further from the image you dragged the images, the smaller they’d
become. So the idea was to create this visual mood board on the screen that
you could then take with you to the physical space, and start finding the real
garments that corresponded to that mood board. That mood board really represented
your wish list of garments, which you can then book. You could send
a message to the archive manager in the physical archive, walk over the road to
the physical archive, and collect those garments.
[12:39] Check them out of the physical space. To do that, we created a check-in,
checkout table which, essentially, was a custom piece of furniture that housed
an RFID antenna and reader and screen, embedded within the surface of the
table. You would lay down on the table your pile of garments that you wanted
to check out. They would then automatically be displayed as a list view on
the table. Then you’d have your own ID card that you would swipe on the
side of the table, where there would be a reader for your ID card, identifying
who you are.
Rob: [13:26] Confirm that you want to check out those garments, and then off
you go. As I said before, there was an additional smart fixture in the physical
space that enabled you to just find out more, if you just browsed in the physical
space. Being able to put any garment on this smart hanger that had a plasma
screen next to it, to find out more about the details of that garment. When it
was designed. What the inspiration for that garment was and so on.
[13:54] That, in a nutshell, was the work that we did for Polo Ralph Lauren. Just
looking at it in hindsight, the key success factor for the project was having an
archive manager at Polo Ralph Lauren who really owned the project. It was her
baby. It was thanks to her that we managed to create that end-to-end solution.
It’s very interesting, RFID. It’s been around now for a fair amount of time.
People have been talking about it within the customer facing retail space for the
last 10 years.
[14:36] What we’re seeing now, obviously, is the telephone companies really
starting to embrace RFID as a means to communicate between your phone and
the real world. We’re seeing this a lot now, in terms of digital wallets, and the
ability to use your phone as a way to pay for stuff in shops, using NFC technology
in the phone. My personal interest now is just looking at ways of exploring
new solutions using NFC and RFID technology, for people within both retail
space and day-to-day lifestyle services.
Henrik: [15:22] That’s so fascinating. There will be a link to the article in the
podcast notes, on AnotherDAMpodcast.com. Lastly, what advice would you
like to share with DAM professionals and people aspiring to become DAM
Rob: [15:32] What it really taught me was the need to be able to always check
your solution, compared to people’s familiar working methods in the real
world. [15:44] Finding ways to always ensure that the solutions you’re providing,
through Digital Asset Management, is actually complementing and improving
the methods that people already are familiar with in the real world. To ensure
that they don’t only use it once, but continue using it, so it’s sticky.
[16:05] Instead of just, “Wow, that’s great.” But then they only use it once, and
don’t use it anymore. It’s about maintaining people’s loyalty to these services.
Henrik: [16:14] I couldn’t say that better if I tried. Thank you so much, Rob.
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