New Media agency DS.Emotion rode the wave of the dotcom boom and landed on its feet. Online gaming, entertainment and design for kids is its thing.

We strongly believe the fact that we don’t talk bollocks. We don’t try and confuse clients with our fantastically-greater-than-their knowledge of all things digital. We’re great people to work with, very friendly, easy to understand and will bend over backwards for clients. And we produce great work that meets and exceeds the brief.” So says Chris Hassell, new media director at design company DS.Emotion, when asked what makes his company unique.

Set up in Leeds by two brothers, Jay and Angus Armitage, as a traditional marketing agency in 1991, DS.Advertising Design originally specialised in property branding and marketing before catching the dotcom wave and morphing into a new media company.

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The property side of things still exists (and does very well) but it’s the new media side of things that has really taken off. Hassell joined in August 1998 as a founding member of the new-media team, and by May 1999 the team was a fully-fledged new-media agency. This agency was christened Emotion Inc and rode high on the dot-com boom for a couple of years. 
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It developed BT Cellnet’s first experimental ecommerce site www.phonefactory.com, creating the brand, stationery, advertising, and the site itself, which was integrated into BT Cellnet in 2001.
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In 2000 the two companies, DS Advertising Design and Emotion Inc, were merged to create DS.Emotion. Although they had considered moving Emotion Inc to London around the same time, they decided to stay in Leeds. It proved a good decision, because the next minute the dotcom boom turned bust and the company avoided the high-rents-no-work cycle that a move to London would have involved.
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However, in August 2002 Hassell did move to London, to investigate expanding. The company was in a position to do this because they’d picked up significant projects from the likes of SkyBet, Franz Ferdinand, Carnaby Street and Fox’s Biscuits. 
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Now, DS.Emotion’s new media team has two offices – Leeds and in uber-hip Clerkenwell, London. “The new office allows us to actively go for new business in London,” says Hassell, “as well as providing the physical space to set up DS.Games – focusing solely on creating online games.” 
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The team now has 11 new-media members, and Scammell expects this to grow in 2005. It’s a good time for DS.Emotion, and a good time to be in new media. But, says Hassell: “There still seems to be a lot of shit agencies playing around with digital work, but still not fully understanding it.”
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He argues, “Lots of people have caught onto the fact that ‘branded entertainment’ is the thing at the moment and that there are brands out there that are in fantastic positions to create great digital content, but there are those that are desperately striving to create entertainment out of their brand, and they really can’t deliver.”
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Hassell agrees though that the standard is getting better, and the competition tougher. “A few years ago there were only a handful of companies that stood out – Deepend for example – but now there are a few to choose from.”
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So what sort of people work at DS.Emotion? “Everyone who works for us is expected to have a decent amount of brain matter between their ears, and they have to fit in personality-wise with the rest of the team,” says Hassell. 
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“We don’t employ jack-of-all-trades, and it frustrates me when people claim to be so. Our team contains specialists, each sitting at key points along the spectrum from pure designer to full-on programmer.” That means dedicated new-media designers, audiovisual guys, Flash developers and database designers.
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However, that doesn’t mean it’s a sausage factory, says Hassell. “Everyone in the team is involved in each project as much as possible from the outset … For example, everyone is involved in brainstorming a game for Nickelodeon; a prototype is developed alongside the graphics, with the Flash developer distributing new versions to the team for play-testing as they are available. The designer will then work on elements of the animation very closely with the developer, integrating them as they are produced. Everybody has a decent amount of knowledge about what everyone else in the team does, so everyone is sympathetic to the requirements of their colleagues.”
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