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Design Reactor
Creators of Jet Li's Official Website
Taking Web Development to a Higher Art Form

     We were first introduced to the web team of Design Reactor when the Hollywood public relations people for Asia's martial arts film star, Jet Li spoke with us about his new official website. We took a look at www.Jet-Li.com. Then we said, "Wow!"
We immediately called Jet Li's people back with enthusiasm, "Who are these web people?" "It's pure poetry online!"

     A month later, we were walking in the door to meet the members of the web team who were working upstairs from an old landmark diner two blocks from UC Berkeley.

     We met Patrick Lee, the visionary, co-founder and CEO of Design Reactor, the company behind the making of Jet's website. We also met with Mark Moran, Design Reactor's in house producer of the Jet-Li.com site and six other talented members of the company.

     The faces were young, bright and focused on their computer screens. Asian martial arts movie star posters decorated the walls of this Berkeley office walk-up. Guy Kawasaki, Internet guru and author of the book, Rules for Revolutionaries would have approved of this un-designer d?or.

     Like most of his company's team, Patrick was a student at UC Berkeley. Patrick is no computer geek. If he is, at least he is a well-rounded one with a strong entrepreneurial spirit. He was studying Computer Science and switched his focus to earning a degree in Cognitive Science, how the brain works, the study of thinking. His degree is now pending since the high growth of his company has commanded his full attention. While Patrick handles business development, his co-founding partner Stephen Wang, a Computer Science graduate, manages the technical staff.

     We sat down in the studio while his web team was busy at their computer stations.

     Reflecting back on the two year old company, Mark said, "It wasn't always this way. When Design Reactor started it was decided that we would be our own boss and not work underneath anyone." "We did all kinds of web development work, you know, the $500 website jobs, and we didn't pay ourselves at first, but as our portfolio grew we started going out to industry conferences like Comdex and meeting future clients."

     After talking with Patrick and Mark, it became obvious why the site was so carefully and sensitively crafted. "We're almost all longtime Wushu students, the same martial arts practiced by Jet Li. We study as much as we can." In fact, Mark was leaving within days for a long anticipated summer trip to study at China's famous Wushu Academy.

     "Last year I went with my friend Raffi to Los Angeles to attend a comic book convention where Jet Li was signing autographs, and one thing led to another," said Patrick." Raffi introduced me to Debby Chen, of the National Wushu Training Center and she introduced us to Jet's publicist. I asked if Jet had his own website." The publicist said "No." So we eventually set up a meeting with his people. They came back to us and said, "Yes, let's see what we can do."

     "Jet wanted a big yin yang feel to represent the duality of his life," said producer Mark Moran. "We wanted to incorporate this, but also wanted to be careful not to trivialize this concept and to make it artistic. We kept throwing ideas around, and would sometimes just sit for hours discussing the feeling of what we wanted, the features, the look and ideas of the verbs, the key words, images and sound. Our friend John Cooper, of Planetz.com recorded chimes, flutes, woodwind, water and bird sounds from his recording studio in Berkeley. We picked instruments made of natural materials from the earth to create this artistic "organic" feeling."

     The extra care and sensitivity taken to develop the site also carried over to how it was introduced and launched onto the Internet.

     "It was very important to Jet that the fans who had created their own fan sites and have been very supportive of him over the years, not feel like he was trying to replace them," says publicist Sandy Rice, Vice President, Entertainment at Rogers & Cowan, who is delighted with the site.

     Sandy adds, "In fact, we contacted many Jet Li fan sites to let them know Jet appreciated their loyalty and was developing his site in cooperation with theirs. They had been extremely helpful in the past as we tried to correct erroneous or misleading reports that were posted online. The idea behind Jet's official website was to provide a place where everyone knows they can come for accurate information on his upcoming activities and provide Jet with an opportunity to communicate directly with his fans.

     The attention to detail and passion to do great work has garnered Design Reactor high marks in the entertainment industry. At Comdex, Patrick and his partner met executives of a major media group. He had researched everything about the group including the look and feel of its websites and online games.

     By Monday after that meeting, and by working through the Thanksgiving holiday, they were able to present the executives with a new spec subsite. This impressed the executives, especially that Patrick and his team had the passion, talent and enthusiasm to do this in only a 4-day turnaround time over a major holiday. Today, Design Reactor is the largest outside web developer for this entertainment company, which name must remain confidential.

     Design Reactor's primary focus is developing leading edge entertainment related websites. Clients include some of the top games and entertainment sites on the web including Gamers Extreme (Gamers.com), the multiplayer online games site founded by some of the world's best gamers including celebrity gamer Dennis "Thresh" Fong. The relationship with Patrick and Gamers.com is more than typical business client-friendly, as he is listed in the About GX section as a valued member, calling him a "No Doubt, Extreme Coder" in its whimsical, poking fun style.

     While entertainment oriented sites are the company's specialty, it has also created powerful branding solutions for clients such as publicly traded biopharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences, Deutsche Telecom, Europe's largest telecommunications company, and Tom's Hardware Guide, the hugely successful online resource on computer hardware.

     Design Reactor regularly develops in-house projects as part of its experimental program for future development. Its team members have also branched out on their own exciting projects. One of Design Reactor's Creative Directors, Senh Duong has developed RottenTomatoes.com which debuted last August, 1998 and has quickly rocketed to popularity on the Internet as a designation site for movie reviews.

     This young team celebrated its second anniversary this past May and has grown through an "evolutionary" process, hiring primarily from a network of friends and colleagues. As this profile is finished and goes online, Design Reactor has taken more quantum leaps forward in its business development, has a much larger staff and is now located in spacious waterfront quarters in nearby Emeryville.

     AsianConnections.com is pleased to showcase Design Reactor's work. In addition to Jet Li's Official site Jet-Li.com, check out the games called Udder Insanity and 3D Cycle Duel. We'll be following the bright careers of this creative web team as the Internet continues to change all of our lives into the next Millennium.                   - Suzanne Kai

 

 

 


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