Until recently, programmers were the unsung heroes behind the technical wizardry gracing anything with a screen. Now, however, we know better: It’s a geek world and we just live in it. As R/GA’s John Mayo-Smith says, “Programmers are the new copywriters and art directors of the digital age.” Here, we highlight an array of talent working in digital agencies and traditional shops, as well as the outlier freelancer. Welcome to your leaders.
Joshua Hirsch, minister of technology
Big Spaceship, New York
“Here, everyone is creative, including the programmers,” says Hirsch, who joined Big Spaceship in 2002 as the sole coder. His work includes Skittles’ “Experience the Rainbow,” which, driven by an infinite stream of content, defined the brand across the digital landscape and injected it with personality.
Other clients include: Coca-Cola, GE, Microsoft, HBO, Target, Adobe, Victoria’s Secret.
Marc Jensen, president, director of technology
With over 15 years of experience in gaming, 3-D animation, and interactive work, Jensen has helped Space150 become dominant in AWS cloud-computing, CMS, and commerce. For Forever 21, he developed a Times Square billboard with models interacting with passersby.
Other clients include: Target, Best Buy, Discovery, NBA, Dairy Queen, 3M, American Eagle.
Mr. doob (a.k.a. Ricardo Cabello)
Born in Barcelona, Spain, Mr. doob created the programming for the interactive video for Milk/Koblin’s “Wilderness Downtown” for Arcade Fire. Previously a senior designer for Spring Digital, he was also technical director on Milk/Koblin’s “3 Dreams of Black” by Rome and the WebGL music video.
Other clients include: Ball Pool, Harmony; often gets commissioned by Google.
Aaron McGuire, director of technology and innovation
Evolution Bureau, San Francisco
“I’m excited about Internet and app-laden televisions,” says McGuire. Under his watch, EB has won numerous awards for the likes of Juicy Fruit, with “Juicy Fruit Sweet Talk,” a low-production, lip-synching video that went viral and included social media and user-generated video.
Other clients include: Burger King, VW.com, Old Navy, Altoids, GE, Nike, Golf Channel.
Markus Persson, founder, video-game programmer
Mojang AB, Stockholm, Sweden
Better known in the gaming world as “Notch,” Persson, who started programming at age 7, single-handedly created Minecraft, the PC game that became a cult phenomenon and sold more than 3 million copies. A pocket edition for cell phones and an Xbox 360 edition are in development.
Other games include: Funny Farm, Luxor, Carnival Shootout (for other developers).
Evan Stark, technology director
Domani Studios, Brooklyn, N.Y.
For the past 12 years, Stark has been developing technical solutions for clients in entertainment, apparel, software, and healthcare. He was previously senior technologist at frog design and technology director at BET. “Domani’s been doing work across multiple screens,” he says. “Clients are taking mobile more seriously, looking beyond the app.”
Clients include: Viacom, MTV, BET, Coach, Pfizer.
Scott Prindle, executive creative technology director
Crispin Porter + Bogusky, Boulder, Colo.
Prindle, formerly a tech director at R/GA Interactive overseeing architecture and development for Nike, joined Crispin in 2006 to focus on emerging technologies. Since arriving, Crispin has been named Interactive Agency of the Year three times at Cannes.
Clients include: Burger King, Domino’s, Best Buy, Coke Zero, Microsoft, Old Navy, American Express.
John Mayo-Smith, evp, chief technology officer
R/GA, New York
Mayo-Smith, who heads up R/GA’s technology department and oversees brand platform innovation, has co-created more than 40 award-winning software programs. His work includes an API created in collaboration with TS2, the Thomson-Reuters/Nasdaq alliance that enables apps to push text and images to skyscraper-size displays.
Other clients include: Intel, Simon & Schuster, Microsoft, Nike, Pepsi.
Dave Riegler, senior Flash developer
TBWA\Chiat\Day\, Los Angeles
Previously at Schematic, TBWA\Tequila, and Ignited Minds, among others, the tinkerer and prototyper has spent the past 15 years creating experiences for big brands. For Nissan’s Myversaroadtrip.com, he did a deep dive into the Google Maps API by creating individual user experiences for one of the most common services on the Web.
Other clients include: Grammys, Bloomberg, ESPN, Samsung, Esquire.
Keith Butters, co-founder, chief experience officer
The Barbarian Group, New York
Butters has been the lead architect of almost every Barbarian front-end Flash design project. (Perhaps you’ve heard about his “Subservient Chicken” for Burger King?) He has headed up much of the company’s software development, and, despite also being CXO, he still manages to invent stuff.
Other clients include: Pepcid, Cinder (a source library for creative coding).
Faces: Ricardo Santos