Mick Ebeling, founder and CEO of The Ebeling Group and Not Impossible Labs, has always used new technology in innovative ways. In 1995, he started motion design studio FUEL and was an early adopter of Adobe After Effects. He later launched his production studio The Ebeling Group and created title sequences for films including "Kite Runner" and "Quantum of Solace." But he continued to tinker and hack technology on the side, and in 2009, he helped build the EyeWriter, a device that enabled people who were paralyzed to create art using eye-tracking technology.
In 2013, Ebeling started a program called "Project Daniel" where he brought 3D printing technology to war-torn Sudan and helped victims of bombings print low-cost prosthetic limbs. The idea won him worldwide praise, including Best of Design honors at this year's One Show. We spoke with Ebeling after his presentation during Creative Week with Intel and Venables Bell & Partners about doing good.
What can the advertising industry learn from Project Daniel?
Doing good is good branding and good business. It's proven time and time again. Consumers are ridiculously savvy. Try and sell them something and they will hear you coming a mile away. Create something meaningful that aligns with your core messaging and brand values, and you create fansnot just customers.
Have you always gravitated towards Creativity for the Greater Good?
I have. I think it's mostly because I like to share things that I find fascinating. I remember the first few months of being in the business back in the '90s, I learned about the various jobs that people had on the production/animation side. I had to share it so three months later I started a charity called Digital Groove that taught the digital creative process and skills to at-risk youth in Los Angeles. It was amazing to see these kids be exposed to something they never knew existed, and watch them flourish within the different skill sets they were being taught.
What do you think of the proliferation of cause-based work in advertising and design this year?
I love it. It is so much easier for large corporations/brands to create global change than it is for non-profits. Brands are really seeing the quantifiable results around campaigns that are legitimately trying to do good. The wonderful thing is that a not-so successful cause-based campaign still does some good in the world. A not-so successful branding campaign has no residual value.
Will you be expanding Project Daniel to other areas outside of Africa?
This summer, Project Daniel 2.0 will be going to Vietnam, Sierra Leone and Colombia. Our goal in this next phase is to set up Not Impossible Labs all around the world that do a multitude of functional making/hacking. So we will definitely be doing prosthetics, but we will also be introducing other core solutions to fundamental needs within the specific regions. We are beyond excited that Project Daniel will be going global as it serves as a case study for brands about the power of doing good and powerful storytelling.
What's your next project?
We are working on a multitude of projects right now. We will be launching the next iteration of the EyeWriter this July at the Barbican Museum. It's an eye-controlled tool (like the EyeWriter) but instead of blinking to engage and disengage the mouse, you just think. It measures and registers the EEG waves your brain gives off. The device is called the BrainWriter. We also just established a partnership with Say Media and Group M and relaunched our website. The new URL is NotImpossibleNow.com and we will be featuring 100 stories a monthcentered around people from every corner of the globe who are making things Not Impossible. We are incredibly excited to continue to promote the concept of Not Impossible on a much larger scale.