We speak to Zaidoun Karadsheh and Tamer Qarrain, co-founders of Media Plus and Sketch In Motion, about the evolution of the interactive design field in the Middle East and how Media Plus works to deliver consistent, memorable user experiences across interactive multimedia, online and mobile applications, audio and visual productions, and animation.
Q. Kindly introduce yourselves and your company.
The dream started back in 2003 when both of us had a strong belief that the Internet space would be part of everyone’s life and will boom in the Arab region. Having a degree in Architecture, while my partner Tamer Qarrain had a degree in Computer Science, we decided to abandon the daily routine and start a digital and interactive media services company. With very limited investment, slowly but surely, we started the business. I used to design the user interface while my partner would develop the interactivity. Today after 8 years, we’ve managed to lead the local market with ‘Interminable Innovation’ products, user experience websites and top notch technology. Media Plus grew steadily from only two founders in 2003, to a team of 25 by 2011, having received over 85 awards in the Jordan Web Awards competitions and Web Company of the year for 2007 and 2009. Recently, we have expanded operations to the Gulf region, USA and Australia. In 2007, we established another company “Sketch in Motion”, which specializes in cartoon animation production, partnering with two creative animators who led and managed its operation! The collaboration between both companies has led to more advanced and visually impressive applications that were unrivaled by competitors. And as technology advances and the world leans more to mobiles, we are eager to jump into new un-tapped areas of user experiences interactivity.
Q. Media Plus started out as a web development company, but has evolved into a leading interactive design agency. Tell us about the services that regional clients and agencies are requesting and how the market has evolved.
Clients now have the awareness regarding the importance of building rich, interactive and bilingual websites. They also realize the value of database-drive, online multimedia productions which requires an increase in both time and budget committed to better serving customers.
Accordingly, we have seen significant growth in demand for services like interactive virtual tours, casual online games, Facebook applications,
Q. How important are interactive and engaging elements in the success of online campaigns, micro sites and so on. Give us some examples.
Giving the users the ability to interact allows for an immersive and unforgettable experience. The results and feedback from Arab users has shown that it’s very effective for regional brands.
For example, we worked with MBC Group on several interactive applications for various programs on different channels. A very good example is the wb-based application that was built for MBC Action, whereby users were able to interactively design an imaginary Silverado Car, with the ability to paint it, upload images on it, save completed work and also share with friends. The number of shared images was massive, with over 200,000 images created by users!
Q. Through your sister company, Sketch in Motion, you have integrated animation and cartoons into the interactive experiences you create. Which type of projects ‘in particular’ benefit from this kind of multimedia integration?
We are particularly proud of the Yahoo! Safety Oasis (Y!SO ) program we delivered to Yahoo! Maktoob, which was a Media Plus and Sketch-In-Motion project that put our services in the limelight. Featuring the characters Naya, Zain, Anbar and Hacker the Macker (Willy The Hacker), on a journey through Madinat Al Internet (Internet City). The aim was to engage families and educators to provide resources that educate, entertain and reward young children of ages between 6 and 12, regarding the potential of online learning, as well as the importance of safely surfing the net. We were proud to have been selected by Yahoo! Maktoob, and we delivered original story lines and characters that were born in Arabia, which have been well received; aided by the Arabic content creation expertise of our sister company, Skecth-In-Motion. We thank Yahoo! Maktoob for their commitment to Arabic content and their belief in regional talents for this project.
Q. Media Plus has entered the mobile applications field. Tell us more about that, and give us your views regarding the most popular platforms and the kind of feedback you are receiving.
We love producing content for kids, as we see great potential in this segment. We watched our own kids deal with tablet and touch-screen products and realized how easily the next generation can interact with these devices, specifically to play games.
That realization, coupled with the lack of Arabic content for kids, presents a huge opportunity so we decided to test our market and our capabilities by building two
We found that the downloads were minimal at the beginning, but we believe this type of apps is needed and with our focus on this field, and recent promotional efforts, the increasing needs are being met and we have seen much more traction as demand for Arabic e-learning increased, and the spread of devices owned by Arab parents increased. Apps by Media Plus can be found on the Apple and Android app stores, and there’s much more to come.
Q. You have served major clients and won awards and accolades. Tell us more about that, and how important it is for the Media Plus & Sketch in Motion teams.
Starting from Jordan in 2003, where web development was in its early stages, we believed that this would be an industry for the future. We understood that Jordan had limited resources, but we very passionate about what we were doing and aimed to provide our clients with out-of-the-box ideas. That’s what placed us quickly on the local then regional map, winning awards for several years locally and most recently 23 regional awards at the Pan Arab Web Awards last month in Beirut.
Our energetic team is always excited to build on and create new ideas; and are driven by this recognition. With the presence of our sister company Sketch In Motion, our web-based products offer a uniqueness and generate a special type of demand.
Q. What are your views regarding the status of the Arabic content creation industry in the region?
We see great potential in this emerging industry especially with the lack of quality Arabic content online. We strive to always pioneer this field with innovative and interactive ideas. We’re still taking baby-steps and we still have a lot to learn to be able to compete on the global level, but surely Arab content creators have the talent and determination to lead this industry, and we seek to be among the leaders regionally by continuously learning and applying new cutting-edge technologies, while keeping an eye on what others done so far.