Thoughts On Interactive Design in 2012
Before I start, it’s probably fair to set the proper context. I’m professionally not focused on design, nor do I have any professional recognitions that would qualify me. This is based on my history working in creative environments, following closely the industry, and… well.. being inspired by an agency blog post I read last night.
Igor Clark, Creative Technical Director at Wieden+Kennedy, made an interesting statement explaining why they are not hiring Creative Technologists anymore.
I’ve pretty much had it with the term “Creative Technology”. I’m a “Creative Technology Director” myself, and even I’m over it: already it seems clichéd at best, and at worst, bordering on the meaningless.
In case you are not familiar with the term Creative Technologists, he explains the origin.
At the same time, people across agencies were recognizing that their existing creative model just wasn’t working out for “interactive”. Crews outside the fortress walls were doing innovative and engaging work, not only through using new and different technologies to do it (openFrameworks, Processing, robots and Arduino, computer vision & Kinect, projection mapping, the list goes on), but also by trying out different approaches and processes. Namely: the technology was the creative.
In this way, “creative technology” was born: partly to assuage the accumulating angst of downtrodden developers; partly to enable those developers willing to step up to the creative plate also to step outside the conventional development toolkit; and partly – perhaps most importantly – to spread awareness across the board that where interactive work is concerned, creating involves making; making interactive stuff involves technology; and people can be creative in a range of disciplines, not only blue-sky ideation.
But there is clear criticism, mainly the quality of the code creative developers deliver.
Don’t fall for the illusion that a candidate is creatively strong enough to compensate for the weak code [...] just don’t hire “creative technologists” who aren’t strong coders.
With a clear proposition to lead with designers who understand code.
Instead, hire the right people in the right places, and make the changes necessary to let them do what they do. Creative people who can code up a storm, and, critically, experienced people who can properly assess the code they’re shown. These are the people who will help us flourish – if we can help them to do the same.
What sounds like a long statement with over 2000 words to hire some new talents (there is call out to apply for a job at the end), seems to be also the realization that technology itself is not driving innovation, but more than ever the experience and content.
With an agency background myself, I’ve seen the early years of interactive Flash design, with an emerging community of almost unlimited creative potential and interest (and the natural criticism), and raise of digital agencies, with groundbreaking digital experiences combining the unleashed creative potential with revolutionary ideas.
The evolution during the last decade was clear though – while initially immersive visual experiences almost rendered content irrelevant, the tides shifted to more functional, content oriented design, with social integration and functionality as the driver for innovation (often comparable to modern architectural design).
And finally, it changed again with the breakthrough of powerful tablets, smartphones, devices, and eventually in 2012 powerful and intelligent voice controlled televisions.
What are my hopes for interactive design in 2012? Focus on the experience, not on the technology itself, and lead with ideas that inspire and engage. Technologies will evolve, but content and unique ideas will stay, and eventually make history.
Or to quote a famous digital artist I had the chance to recently talk to: Don’t show me what I did in 2001 today in another technology or on another platform just because you can do it, but show me something new.
In this sense – keep innovating experiences.
P.S.: What are your thoughts on the evolution of digital experiences in 2012?