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SFi by JESS3

Vita *

Name: Jesse Thomas

Profession: Creative Director + Founder

Did you know?

My family is originally from New Zealand. My parents moved to the U.S. in the ‘70s, but after I was born in 1982, we moved back to New Zealand for five years. We then returned to Washington, DC, where my parents have since worked for the Embassy.

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Professionally, I have always been interested art -- collage art in particular. I used to covered my bedroom walls and various other things with collages. It’s funny, looking back, my ever-changing perspective on life is reflected through this art.

From a branding standpoint, JESS3 is a brand name I was using even when I had day jobs. Before that, I was "jessesaves."

Once I started expanding my interests and skill sets into web design, using Photoshop, I started making digital collages. I found it fascinating -- this idea that the workflow was the same: sourcing images, then cropping them, then composing, then editing -- it could be emulated and enhanced with all the amazing new digital tools and effects I had to work with. And in the end, that is what helped me be a better web designer, because I had already pushed the limits of Adobe with my art, and printing it, etc.

As I started to master this art, and started making more money, I quickly hired the best guys I knew to join my team, and the rest is history.

My life and company realigned in a more focused direction when I met Leslie Bradshaw, my partner and President & COO of JESS3. Leslie is my better half in the sense that she truly complements my skill sets -- she’s good at all the stuff I'm not, such as operational aspects of the business, strategy and PR.

When the Twitter and Facebook APIs were released, the company decided to take head-on the innovative projects that had never been done before.

Social media was our avenue to enter the world of Data Visualization.

What we brought to the table was the ability to work with the social media feeds directly, as well as understand the higher level marketing theory behind brands’ use of the platforms. We then went on to work for all the major social networks (Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc) and most of the smaller ones too, from web design to large-scale interactive installations using social media feeds and other content sources to display dynamic data visualizations.

Expansion is never ending -- we also got into another form of data visualization, specifically motion graphics and short data films. We work with a lot of world-class amazing illustrators and animators.

As for future goals, we’re looking at turning ourselves into a product company. Overall, we think of ourselves as more than an agency, but instead more broadly as visual storytellers.

10 Works / projects

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3 questions

Biggest hurdle overcomed?

I think the biggest hurdle is undeniably having no start-up money or loans to get the company off the ground. Growing without financial capital is very hard, but it teaches one amazing lessons of strength.

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Greatest moment?

We have been blessed to have the opportunity to work with Google's Gmail and Translate teams -- I am extremely proud of both. For Gmail, we produced a stop-motion commercial in papercraft form. For Translate, we created their "About" video, and also a series of videos about the things Google Translate can't translate.

Another "great moment" came just the other day when I received a call from one of our amazing NASA clients, astronaut Ron Garan. He was calling me from the International Space Station. It was a surreal moment -- so much flashed in front of my eyes as I realized where he was. While Google has been an amazing client accomplishment, getting a call from space was the greatest single moment of my career.

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What next?

JESS3 is going to shift from a service business to a product business. We will begin rolling out new products over the next year, and we couldn’t be more excited.

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