Big Spaceship on Finding that Perfect Taco

Craving the carne? Looking for a place to share some soft tacos? You're not alone. Taco Finder, a new app created by the hungry minds at DUMBO's Big Spaceship, started out as an internal project but was such a hit that they decided to share it.

Big Spaceship has been a DUMBO digital agency since 2000, landing not only big accounts but also a coveted spot on AdAge's "Best Places to Work" for the past two years, thanks in part to it's open space model and extracurricular activities. We caught up with Senior Designer Valerie Gnaedig and Technology Director Jamie Kosoy to talk about the value of a project like this to rallying the employee base, the power of a taco-based app, and, of course, tacos.

What inspired Taco Finder?
Jamie: I think the answer here is pretty straightforward… who doesn't want a Taco Finder?

Valerie: Since tacos are so delicious, we wanted to be able to find tacos anywhere, anytime. But we wanted to create a serendipitous experience, rather than just another restaurant or food finder.

Jamie: And we thought other people would probably want that, too. I mean, we originally conceived of the Taco Finder as fun for ourselves. We have some pretty hilarious early prototypes. That the application actually wound up being a pretty great way to actually find tacos is a bonus.

We know Big Spaceship is a busy place, and while the stomach can be a big motivator, this takes it to another level. Why take the staff time and hours to indulge in a project like this? 
J: Projects like the Taco Finder are actually a really important part of our DNA here. We have a bunch of internal projects, some of which have already launched - The Most Awesomest Thing Ever and Pretty Loaded are two of many. It gives us a chance to be really creative for ourselves.

Can you give us a rundown of the features of the app?
J: Sure. You open it up and an extremely large wooden arrow flies onto the screen. It then points you in the general direction of the nearest delicious taco. It's not a GPS though - it's designed to feel like more of a taco divining rod. It's an adventure. I might know a taco place is a mile away and northeast of me, but who knows what obstacles I might bump into along the way? It's particularly fun from DUMBO since you'll get destinations across the river.

V: You can then follow that arrow to find your delicious taco, or you can choose from a list of several other nearby taco destinations.

J: If you're particularly confused there are also instructions on how to use the application, but we'd be concerned if anyone actually needed to use that guide.

What has the response been by people who get the app?
V: Overall we've gotten great responses. I mean, what's not to love about a taco adventure?

J: I know of at least one group that did a Taco adventure excursion lunch. They wound up having a pretty hilarious time getting lost on city blocks trying to find the place. They wound up finding a different taco place that wasn't listed on the app, but y'know… mission accomplished.

V: I was taking care of my 6 year old cousin over Christmas vacation, and after losing the battle of being entertaining without technology, I showed him the Taco Finder app and he was entertained for quite a while.

Do you guys eat more tacos because of it?
V: It would be hard for me to up my taco intake from what it was, but it has definitely helped me to find new and delicious places. I'm just waiting for summer so the arrow can consistently point me to the Calexico cart in Brooklyn Bridge Park.

J: No. I do not need any reason to eat more tacos.

V: Tacos are a standard caloric count at Big Spaceship.

J: Should we throw in a plug for Taco Thursdays at 7 Stars on Front Street?

V: I think you just did.

Have you done other kinds of apps that have been helpful in guiding users to useful destinations?
J: Actually, yes. We built an application for UrbanDaddy called The Next Move. It helped users decide what to do in the form of a story they filled out for themselves. "I'm in DUMBO at night and I'm looking to take my girlfriend out for dinner and money is no concern." And then it'd give you a list of nearby options. It's beautifully designed, too. The design is fully custom - it doesn't feel like any other app out there. And the recommendations they curate are really, really good.

Are there plans for a series of "____ finder apps?"
V: We are considering expanding on this idea to standard favorites. Burgers, milkshakes, dogs.

J: Liquor.

V: You wish.

Taco Finder can be found in the iTunes app store. Download it for free and look no further than your phone the next time you're craving a taco adventure.

Photo via Flickr.