Craig Elimeliah has seen the evolution of the Internet and has recognized its potential since the very beginning. Starting out as a designer in New York City, he paved a path for himself in the digital space by applying his entrepreneurial and digital know-how with some of the biggest brands in the world. Craig’s long career has led him to become the Chief Experience Design Officer at VMLY&R, and a Webby judge as a member of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences (IADAS). We spoke with him recently to delve into his expertise, the creative work that keeps him inspired, and his take on the future of the internet. He even gave us an exclusive on his expectations for the work entered into the 27th Annual Webby Awards.
For those who don’t know, tell us a little about your background.
I started my career as a very ambitious and eager designer in NYC who saw the internet as the future of all things. I was at the right place at the right time and seemed to be attuned to the right channels. I was equal parts entrepreneur and equal parts designer and equal parts hacker. There were really no rules, and I was heavily invested in experimenting with the future of design, commerce, animation, video, and experiences that would push the internet forward. From there I was fortunate to have landed at some amazing agencies and have worked with some of the biggest brands in the world to make a name for myself as a leader in the space. I chose to stay within the advertising world because it really gave me an opportunity to flex lots of muscles by working on a wide range of unique challenges for brands. I got a new brief every week and was able to unleash my curiosity and passion towards my desire to help brands connect their experiences with their promises.
What particular expertise are you bringing to the Academy?
Having been through the beginning of this journey we are all on called the internet I feel like I have a unique vision for where it is going. While I believe the Metaverse is just a marketing term for the next phase of the internet, we are on the precipice of something exciting. The convergence of the digital world with our own beyond screens, the spectrum of identity in a consumer led world, interoperable brands allowing consumers to engage as partners in experiences, next level personalization and experiences that are fueled by data not extracting data, creative intelligence helping to push our ideas further than we ever imagined. I can go on and on… it is an exciting time for all of us in the industry and I am grateful to be playing a small role in it all. I want to share all of that with the next generation of visionaries who will help to shape that new world.
What are you most looking forward to about reviewing this year’s Webby Awards entries?
I am really looking forward to seeing ideas that are pushing the boundaries of what we perceive to be the norm. Design has become so dynamic and fluid, technologies like generative AI and diffusion engines have started to take hold on the creative community and I am really hoping that I start to see the birth pangs of what a creative renaissance in the digital and physical realms will be. I want to see ideas coupled with technology that feel native to one another not forced for the sake of cultural box checking. I want my mind to be blown.
What creative work on the Internet has recently inspired you, and why? (It can be a campaign, experience, film, social series, etc.)
The internet is a tricky term, but I get what you mean… I will start high up. OpenAI has completely won me over with the tools they are building, ChatGPT and DALL·E are completely changing the game and represent for me what is to come and has inspired me tremendously. As far as an ad campaign I really liked what Unit9 did with McEnroe vs. McEnroe where they combined artificial intelligence and machine learning with five virtual avatars of John McEnroe from different points of his career. I was jealous of that one. I really liked Tinder’s Swipe Night as an experience built around a feature, swiping. It was a beautifully executed interactive adventure that offered users a whole new way to match.
What emerging technology or trend do you think will have the greatest impact on the creative industry?
A few years ago, I wrote an article about AI and the need to change its name from Artificial Intelligence to Augmented Intelligence. Us creatives are a very insecure and protective community and I think it is important that new tools being released are seen as ways to enhance our work and not replace us. AI is already having a profound effect on everything we do, and the creative process is no different. Generative AI is going to completely change the game. It will make us more efficient and raise the bar higher than it has ever been. We will be able to articulate ideas faster and in more detail. I think generative AI will have the biggest impact on the creative industry, and I want to focus in on the word INDUSTRY, our clients rely on us to create at the speed of culture and to do that we need to supercharge our processes to keep up. Creative Intelligence will help us to do that. (Yes I am rebranding AI to CI)