Lots of crew faces with 'YOU?' over their eyes

Co-create stories with us!

By | Design, Narrative, Research | No Comments

We want you to sign up for our co-creation workshops, so you can help us make dangerously fun stories you’ll love. We’re pioneering a new technique in making theatre, film and virtual reality. We call it audience-centred storytelling, and it’s all about getting our audience in before a word is written, and testing our ideas with you. Ultimately, we want to create stories you’ll love, and the easiest way to do it is to ask! http://eepurl.com/lF2O9

The usual way to make a piece of art is to have an idea, and then use a huge amount of physical and emotional effort to make it. Then, once it’s finished, hope the world wants to see it. Most of the time, sadly, the world is a cruel butthead and does not want to see it. So we took the big fat brains of smarter people in the worlds of human-centred design, lean, agile and design thinking, smooshed their techniques together and created audience-centred storytelling.

We have an idea, and we take it to a diverse group of people who will ultimately be our audience. We show you our idea in its embryonic form, and seek your feedback. At the same time we find out what you, our audience wants, likes, needs from entertainment. We use that feedback to reiterate or redraft our idea in its simplest form. Rinse and repeat until we’ve developed a concept we know you like and will watch. We continue to advance the concept stage by stage with our audience until it’s released.

Why go to the ridiculous amount of effort making movies, theatre and virtual reality unless we know you wanna see ’em? So, let’s find out what you think is dangerously fun. Sign up to our list: we only ever use it to offer opportunities to co-create with us.

If you have any questions, ask Simon J Green via simon@thexgene.com or Messenger (voice messages welcome!)


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I want to co-create:

image: a drawing. one man saying to another, "I couldn't choose between comic sans or papyrus, so I used both" The listener flinches.

Cheap, Boilerplate, DIY

By | Design, Marketing | No Comments

There are plenty of ways to get cheap, easy content, but when you actually want and need quality, maybe avoid the sausage factory.

I was sent a link to a site where animations are pre-built. The user can log in, click some buttons, and get an animation element for their videos. I was asked what I think.

The thing about these automated animation engines – which are prevalent now – is they really focus on sausage factory graphics. They are designed to allow someone rapidity over originality and unique brand voice. They also, to be frank, undervalue the efforts of creatives. Exhibit A from the site:

I laughed out loud when I read that, because $80 for an animation is an absolute steal, and if someone thinks that animator is making out like a bandit, then they are a cold, cruel capitalist indeed.

What these sorts of ventures, and sites like Freelancer and Fiverr do, is strengthen the need for production companies like The X Gene to differentiate themselves on quality. My team’s work is custom designed, built on the brand voice and audience needs of the client, ensuring the outputs they create with us perfectly match the rest of their comms. We also create stuff way more advanced than the cheap stuff – it’s almost impossible to get that level at those low price points, not to mention that our processes are smoother than the far more difficult processes and translations of quick and dirty operators.

Fact is, there’ll always be people who are happy with business cards in Microsoft Word and boilerplate animations for $80 – but those aren’t our client. Our client knows and needs the skill-set, tool-set a experience a professional brings, because their level of communication, marketing and voice is at that level, too.



Our Front Page Was Accidentally Sexist

By | Design, Purpose | No Comments

I changed our website front page because it was accidentally sexist. This is what it was:

IMAGE: Our old sexist frontpage, five men in a phlanx, no women.

Notice anything missing? Women. The first thing a visitor to The X Gene would see was a phalanx of dudes. I didn’t even realise I’d made this omission of gender for years. Way back when I arranged the shoot, we got costumes, props, and I asked the camera operators and editors, buddies that I’d been working with for ages to come in and be creative scientists with me. I was quietly proud we had a mix of skin colours. I didn’t mean to exclude women. In fact, I didn’t even think about it. I just got my friends in.

And that, my friends, was a lesson to me in how I imagine the majority of sexism or gender inequality takes place: the insidious nature of not thinking beyond the immediate. I daresay most inequality in our civilised nation – so respectful, so relatively progressive compared to, say, the Congo – isn’t bellowing fat men, their noses bulbous from consumption, barking sexist epithets through teeth clenched around a cigar while they pinch their secretary’s bum. (Though, I know that still happens. I won’t tell you story of the ad men in the pub who thought they were in Mad Men and copped a public serve from a woman who would have none of it.) I think most of the quashing of access for women comes from bone headed decisions like mine. Men who are lovely to their mums, sweet to their girlfriends, but simply don’t take a moment to think beyond their present surrounds.

I saw how easy it was to make the mistake that must happen a thousand times a year per skyscraper floor, each building on the other until the compounding effect is the glass ceiling. More vicious men than us built it, but the charming, inoffensive modern man still maintains its thickness.

This is the homepage now:

IMAGE: Our new less-sexist front page, a pug being tested like the mind reading in Ghostbusters

Still not a woman to be seen. In fact, it’s a dog. Sorry. I only have the photos we took, but at least now there isn’t a military formation of men shot at a slight low angle, accidentally turning away any woman who might think another boys club isn’t worth the time. Now, it’s that most gender neutral delight: an overweight staffy pug!

I changed our front page to better reflect my company’s values. We missed the mark originally, and I look forward to a future rebrand where I can balance the message. For now, enjoy the Ghostbusters homage with my dearly departed old dog, Chubbs, and use my dumb mistake to think a little further out of your immediate zone. Maybe we shouldn’t just go to our mates, and maybe if we do, our mates should be a little more equally distributed.

examples of geometric patterns and style

Trends in Design, and Why You Should Avoid Them

By | Design | 4 Comments

If you’ve ever worked with designers, you might notice that they love a little thing called trends. There’s nothing inherently evil about a trend. It seems like an element of design just simultaneously catches on, across a spectrum of projects. Following a trend in your branding can be useful: it grounds you in a certain time and place. Especially useful if the thing for which you’re designing is short-lived and now.

If you’re building a brand over a longer period of time, following a trend that lasts literally a year can leave you looking daggy or – for us, the greatest sin – unoriginal. The problem with just moving with trends is that you aren’t really doing what you’re supposed to be doing when branding. You should know what and who your brand is, and its design should match. This insulates you from trends, because as they come and go, people will still look at your brand’s design and say, “Yeah, that’s totally right!”

As such, we can’t help but notice trends in design. Last year it was Sketchblock font.

Right now, it’s geometric shapes with solid gradients. Here’s a handful. See how many you can spot in the wild, and why not post them in the Comments?

Melbourne City Council


Medicare Local




Awesome deer shaped powerlines

Power Lines Just Got Better

By | Design, Inspiration | No Comments

I bet you thought power lines were the best they could be. They get held up by big structures that look like lego technic, and they give us power to give us internet. Well, they just got EVEN BETTER. This is the sort of creativity and extravagant thinking we genetically engineer into our people at The X Gene. (Click the pics to see more)



Stag party.


Bonus: desktop power line wire holders.