I spent more than ten years at Cartoon Network designing and directing for a collection of some of the coolest brands around. I led teams of talented and passionate designers, writers, illustrators, and animators.
Cartoon has a full-service internal creative agency. Most of my time was spent on show launches, seasonal promotions, and digital content.
CartoonNetwork.com has millions of users around the world visiting the site every week. They come—and more importantly, keep coming back—because of the hundreds of games and videos. The size of the audience and the amount of content are a couple things that were fairly consistent throughout my time there. Technology, users, business models, shows, advertisers, design trends—all of these things changed almost every year.
We work closely with show teams to create relevant content and promotions. Our sites, games, and other interactive pieces are companion pieces to the on-air television experience. Sites have to be quickly and easily updated to stay topical, with new content for each new episode. Games and promotions have to be true to the spirit of the shows, and the way we use the characters needs to feel true as well. This means that, yes often I got paid to watch cartoons.
The network’s core demographic is kids aged six to eleven, with older kids (nine to fourteen) and younger kids (two to five) a secondary focus. This means that in my time at Cartoon, a six year old at the bottom end of our demo aged out of the primary focus, and the six year old who replaced him was close to aging out as well. Our audience creates content and usability challenges—a six year old is a completely different person than an eleven year old. This is coupled with the additional challenge of designing interfaces or branding that feels young—aimed at a seven or eight year old—that are dismissed by them as being "for babies."
Needless to say, the site is constantly changing. We rebuilt the site from top to bottom—completely changing the architecture inside and out—at least five times in the ten years I worked there.
Well, what was it like?
Cartoons are fun! Cartoon Network is hip—as popular with people in their twenties as it is with kids. I worked with creative people who are really passionate about what they do.
Working for a trendy entertainment brand with a ton of great content means that you end up designing some fun stuff, but these are still complex creative and strategic challenges with multiple business goals and even more stakeholders.