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JESS3 and visual storytelling: a love story

Visual contents are becoming increasingly important in human interactions.
Pinterest and Instagram proof that, as does the increasing tendency to create and share all sorts of infographics. Many simply pair a few numbers with a couple of images to create their own infographics. JESS3, a creative agency specialized in data visualization, has become a worldwide reference point for infographics, animatiion, UI/UX and much more. 

Jesse Thomas & Leslie Bradshow - JESS3

The style and approach that CEO and founder Jesse Thomas and President and COO Leslie Bradshaw passed to the JESS3 team struck me from the very first moment. Both of them also proved incredibly nice people. Hence, I regard the following interview a true honour.

The simple fact that Google, Facebook, Foursquare, Nike, Samsung, Forbes, The Economist and dozens of other top brands have turned to them says enough.

If you wish to learn more about JESS3, I suggest that you take a look at their website.

The interview is actually quite long, hence I divided it in two parts:

#1 JESS3 and visual storytelling: a love story

#2 How infographics visualize your brand: interview with JESS3

Here is part I, in which Jesse Thomas recounts what JESS3 is and he explains his approach.

Jesse Thomas - JESS3

First of all, maybe the hardest question to answer: how is JESS3 born?

I have always loved advertising, and the culture of making it. As Silicon Valley emerged I was fascinated by that, too. I had worked for large agencies like Ogilvy, and spent time working at AOL before branching out to do my own thing. I fell in love with cutting edge technology.

At the time, when I started JESS3, I was thinking about the intersection of art and technology. I wanted to be the kind of ad agency that also did music videos and comic books. I wanted to hire other young people, and bet it all on the new class of kids that were just like me. I realized that the technology revolution happening in Silicon Valley is something like a gold rush. My plan was to take advantage of this new opportunity and build an empire around that bet. One other key thing that really pushed me to create an agency was my love for finding and recruiting talent. I have always loved looking at design portfolios and generally interacting with talented craftsmen and craftswomen! I do a ton of research and look at all the design blogs I can find, and reach out to the people that come across my radar that I’m feeling good about.

I wanted to create an agency that freelancers would want to work for.

JESS3 Lego

You’re – at least in Italy – really well known as infographic ninja, but you’re offering a lot of further services: what is your core activity? And – most important – what are clients asking you more frequently?

Thanks Luca! Yes, we love information design in all of its forms. Our speciality has always been wireframes and conceptual design mockups.

I started hiring people that did icons – beautiful icons!, and illustrators and motion and print people, and before you knew it, I had a full traditional creative agency. Then my partner, Leslie, who has a background like me in PR and marketing strategy, built out our strategy and PR teams. Now we are doing PR and strategy for Google, Intel and Nike. We have come a long way from just doing websites.

Infographics, and data visualization, have always been something we enjoyed doing, and it’s been great to be thought of for that work. As we started to get more infographic work, we really utilized our strategy and PR teams to create and promote each project. We have done videos with live action, animations in varying styles, websites with social features of all kinds, as well as huge interactive kiosks and installations.

We are always chasing the next exciting project, and often times that requires us to work with some kind of expert and do something we have never done before.

Rewind and go back with me to data visualization. How much the quality of data visualization is getting up to the quality of data itself for brands and institutions according to your experience?

I think throughout the history of the world, we have expressed ourselves visually. And every so often the stories we tell are about numbers and data. Yes, these days data does seem to be in vogue. Part of that is the abundant source of data. We like to think that the work we are doing is more like visual storytelling than data visualization. Lots of great educational materials utilize data visualization and visual storytelling. I’ve always been fascinated with non-fiction. News groups are inspirational for data visualization, as they do it every day with shrinking budgets. Good magazine is great, New York magazine is great, NYTimes is great, to only name a few.

Do you think that data visualization could make people more informed about specific topics compared to some years ago, when numbers were just… numbers? Or maybe people will be informed about more topics, but less deeply?

Absolutely!I think one of the many great things that the internet has provided is a cheap, free way to research. Infographics act as a seed for an inquisitive person to dive into a topic or issue. We do work for all the major search brands: Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, Salesforce, etc. and everyone wants to utilize graphics to magnetize traffic to a certain issue. A great example of visual storytelling is Google’s Doodles. I love how each Doodle image links to a top search result.

I think Twitter’s trending topics and Digg’s various incarnations are great examples of how simple use of data visualization can drive information sharing.


Here was the first part of the interview with Jesse and Leslie. For sure here there are a lot of inspiring lessons to be learnt; lessons by people who daily help the largest world brands reach people through a visual approach, an approach affordable to everyone, but which few have truly understood.

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I contenuti visuali sono sempre più importanti nelle interazioni tra le persone. Pinterest e Instagram ne sono la prova, così ...