Media Creative" Magazine
2001 - Independence Section
by Neil Gillepsie, Photography Jan
deadlines, on budget and smart designs
are something Web design agency
and self-financed record label JohnJohn
is more than familiar with. Make
way for the little guy.
from a flat in Whitechapel , East
London, JohJohn is a two persons
team creating quality online content.
At a time when big agencies are
feeling the strain of large overheads,
and are passing these costs on to
clients, it's refreshing to know
that small companies are delivering
inspired design online, on budget
and on time.
consists of Benoit Viellefon, founder,
and Christine Boulanger, Creative
Director. The French couple came
to England after meeting in Paris,
working for the design agency Art
Presse. "We were pissed off
with the state of the Internet in
France in 1998, although it's really
taken off over there since there"
moved to England to take on freelance
work and formed a company in March
2000. They decided the name of the
company had to be something typically
English, because Viellefon felt
a French name would lead to confusion.
"I'd missed a lot of emails
because no one in England could
spell my name" laughs Viellefon.
"We wanted something that was
easy for English people to pronounce
and spell. First we came up with
things like John Smith, but this
became JohnJohn" explains Viellefon.
This had led the company 's web
site being explored twice by the
FBI, since JohnJohn was a nickname
for John F. Kennedy.
In the last
year, JohnJohn has done a variety
of design work, mainly for continental
clients and outsourced work from
big UK design companies. "It's
been difficult over the first year
because we don't have the connections
in the UK" says Viellefon.
A lot of people in the UK know each
other from university and we don't
have these connections".
is starting to get known for its
work though. The company has designed
a lot of products for Wanadoo, France
Telecom's ISP. The first was a CD-ROM
called Net Express which was sent
free to wanadoo subscribers. NetExpress
is a beginner's guide to using the
Internet and how to design basic
Web sites. The guide was built in
Flash and is a serie of 30 different
animations, taking users through
the Internet step-by-steps.
had cold feet with the Internet,
there was a low take up", says
Viellefon. "France already
had the Minitel information system
and didn't see any need for the
Internet. Net Express was designed
to show people how the Internet
was different and what they could
do with it."
Express was a large production,
Viellefon managed a production team
of his freelance contact in France.
"Although JohnJohn is only
really Christine and myself, we
have a team of seven people in France
who we call on when we have a big
project." Viellefon says.
April last year, JohnJohn created
two games for the new Ribena Web
site. The work was outsourced
from Netsite Pro which was building
the site. "Netsite Pro had
taken on the contract, but they
couldn't fulfill it all themselves.
They came to us needing four games
and we were the only people prepares
to deliver it within the budget
and the deadline." says Viellefon.
result was a group of games based
on classic computer gameplays,
reworked to feature the Ribena-berry
characters. The graphics are quite
simple due to the file size constraints,
and the games are simple and intuitive
to play; by way of example, there's
a multi-players racing/athletic-type
game and a Ribena version of the
classic Breakout-style bat and
engine of these games have proved
useful again in September last
year when Dresdner Bank of Germany
contacted JohnJohn for a job.
"They wanted us to create
a one minute movie, a CD-ROM,
and a game. They gave us the brief
on Friday and wanted the products
by Monday 9am."
managed to complete the work by
finding a range of images to use
for the movies on the Internet,
and by reusing bits of coding
from the breakout-style game created
for Ribena. "People often
came to us with tights deadlines,
to get them out of trouble."
says Viellefon. "Since the
new media industry has suffered
its slump, things are actually
better for us. People don't want
the expense of a big agency and
we're able to do the jobs quickly,
cheaply and deliver quality results."
Arts (EA), the computer games
company, is another of JohnJohn's
clients. EA has localized Web
sites for its products in several
regions, which require translation
and updating. JohnJohn had the
task of working on EA's Fifa 2000
Web site and the other EA Sports
site in Europe. "On top of
designing pages, we had to do
a lot of updating, most of the
time without any style guide or
he says "This means you have
to work out what fonts are being
used and follow someone else's
by the restrictions of this commercial
work, Viellefon and Boulanger
set up JohnJohn Records in November
last year. This is a record company
centred around an online showcase,
which also provides promotion
, management, marketing and music
production. This allows Viellefon
to be more creative with the Web
design and focus on his other
passion, music, since he's a trained
are 10 bands signed to JohnJohn
Records, including the established
saxophonist Ted Milton from the
group Blurt. Johnjohn Records
receives artists portfolios, CDs,
albums and demos from Europe and
the US but it is very selective
about the bands signed. The label
has links with music producer
Peter Dry, who has produced albums
for several of JohnJohn's bands.
Web site for JohnJohn Records
is rolled with the site for the
design agency. Delivered in cartoony
Flash Animations the home page
features a high street, with each
shop representing a different
aspect of JohnJohn. There is a
design shop, a press area, stores
for JohnJohn Records, the recording
company and indie music. There
are also shops for games and an
art gallery, since JohnJohn also
showcase artists and illustrators.
lot of graphics on JohnJohn's
site were drawn by Boulanger,
who used to work as an illustrator.
"We wanted to use a comic
strip style because it's a universal
language. Not so much in the UK,
but in most of Europe and in the
US, people grow up with comic
books and there's a strong tradition"
Incorporating a design agency,
a records label, and an online
art gallery, JohnJohn achieves
a lot for a two-person operation.
In these hard times for the new
media industry, it's refreshing
to know that there's even more
room for the little guy.