Emotional Software, Knitting-Machines and Drawing Things: Creative Process #3

Creative Process #3

Maja Lorkowska joins a bunch of expert graphic and web designers, developers and illustrators for a look into the creative process…

Leaf’s hip re-branded Water Street venue, Oh Me Oh My, was a suitably relaxed setting for this year’s informal design conference, Creative Process #3, and we were excited to get in there. Established by local graphic designer Gregg Foreman, this annual symposium and get-together is aimed quite specifically at graphic and web designers, developers and illustrators, combining a friendly range of advice, experiences and insight from speakers who are all extremely passionate about what they do and happy to share their own creative processes. Here are some highlights.

The modestly delivered presentation by BERG studio’s Denise Wilton (we also saw BERG’s CEO talk at Designival a few weeks ago) was overflowing with fascinating insights into the future of technology and connected devices. Having previously worked at Moo.com, a luxury online print company, she described the importance of developing a successful interface and how much it impacts on the relationship with the customer.

Wilton recalled a software problem, previously encountered by the company, for which the software itself had to apologise: “I might only be a piece of software but I’m embarrassed and I do feel like a bit of an idiot.” The company received some surprising customer responses wishing that they’d all received this message from “cute Little Moo”.

“It’s amazing what tiny clues we need to make up opinions about software, things that have no emotion; people start being more tolerant and forgiving of it just because it has a human voice”

“It’s amazing what tiny clues we need to make up opinions about software, things that have no emotion; people start being more tolerant and forgiving of it just because it has a human voice.”

Looking at the future of connectivity, the aim of companies like Berg is precisely to predict and work with devices which will sit comfortably in our everyday life while taking them to the next level. Suggesting that despite the always-developing world of technology, we are still hanging onto references from the past.

Wilton remembers: “I grew up with transistor radios, how long are we going to hold on to these things for? Children today didn’t grow up with this, they don’t know what that is. We need to work on our design metaphors.” Posing fascinating questions about the future of digital design, and the ways in which we can drive our ideas forward without going too far, Wilton is a forward-looking and rational expert in her field. We feel a bit happier that the future developments of technology are in hands like hers.

The next speaker was Edinburgh-based illustrator The Boy Fitz Hammond, aka Dave. Skype-bound, the wintry weather stopping him from arriving in Liverpool on time, he took the idea of his own creative process as the basis of the talk, talking the audience through his daily routine of “sitting in a room and drawing things”; from illustrations of office workers with three fingers and a thumb, to writing one line poems about famous TV personalities.

Having assured the audience to “feel free to end this Skype call any time because he rambles too much”, he went on to describe the illustrator’s job, his preference for switching between projects, keeping things fresh and interesting, and working with many clients at the same time. Somehow he still manages to fit in a personal fun project every now and then.

“I was finishing off the Alan Titchmarsh drawing and at this point my wife knocks on the door, asking if I want a cup of tea, and she’s like ‘What are you doing? You’re not getting paid for this, are you? Get back to your work.’ So, this is another moment of being a little boy in my room, just drawing pictures.” The importance of maintaining a childlike naivety seemed to be a running theme of the talks, encouraging all those creatively-inclined to keep their eyes and minds open at all times.

Sam Meech, a self-proclaimed ‘videosmith’, is possibly the closest thing to a performance artist in the world of design. Working with knitting machines (they are a lot quicker than hand-knitting, apparently) and punch cards for upcoming FACT exhibition Time and Motion, he discovered that it is possible to make a pattern using the cards, punching them one below the other. He then programmed the knitting machine using the card, recreating the design, making a knitted version of a film strip.

“This becomes a kind of strange digital/analogue medium for the moving image. I thought maybe this is the mechanism that can drive cinema forward! It’s the next big thing, we’ve got 3D now, what’s after that? I think it’s going to be low-res knitted cinema!” Weird and absolutely wonderful.

“We are designers, so we see the world for its beauty, but not everyone is as blessed to have that viewpoint. Life’s too short to not take advantage of that opportunity to just go and make stuff.””

Last on stage, and close to exploding with excitement at every word, Gavin Strange, aka JamFactory, undeniably provided a dose of encouragement big enough to last both the audience and fellow speakers until next year’s Creative Process #4. Starting simply with, “I’m not gonna teach you anything at all, but I do know that some stuff I say may resonate and make you want to create”, he talked about his personal and professional projects, glowing with a kind of childlike enthusiasm.

Working as a senior designer at Aardman, the animation company behind Wallace and Gromit, Strange’s motto in life seems to be: say yes. “We’re in this incredibly fortunate world, all we do is we make stuff, and that’s so beautiful! We are designers, so we see the world for its beauty, but not everyone is as blessed to have that viewpoint. Life’s too short to not take advantage of that opportunity to just go and make stuff.” As rare as this positivity may be, his genuine enthusiasm is incredibly contagious. “I do that all day long, and I love it, and it’s rad.”

Having tried his hand at animation, design, photography, filmmaking and even toy design, Strange is a jack-of-all-trades, modestly stating that he “does a bit of everything unwell”. The last part being, of course doubtful, considering the amount of projects he’s been involved in. One of these, BÖIKZMÖIND, is his 30-minute documentary film about riding fixed-gear bikes, the title, despite its exotic sound, is a spin on the Bristol pronunciation of ‘bikes, mind’. “I thought that’s a cool title, so when you put in a ‘z’ and ‘ö’s, everyone will think it’s like avant-garde cinema.” Premiered on Bristol’s central display screen, 300 people attended the first showing, to the creator’s surprise: “It’s 299 more people than I know!”

With 15 years of experience, he’s exactly in the right position to give advice. Lovingly idealistic, Strange makes everything sound easy and encouragingly attainable. “You can’t make fun unless you’re having fun. And never ever do anything just for money. If you do something for the love of it, then not only do you get money, but also satisfaction, pride, ownership and freedom. So why would you not want five things instead of one?”

In a warm atmosphere, surrounded by like-minded people, it seems that even terrible weather couldn’t ruin Creative Liverpool’s evening.  The technology-focused conference, fittingly saved by Skype, was informal and enjoyable, filled with fascinating insights into the world of professional design, quirky ideas and the contagious energy of all speakers. What a wonderful opportunity to listen, learn and laugh.

Maja Lorkowska

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Time & Motion: Redefining Working Life opens at FACT Thursday 12 December 2013 – 9 March 2014

Posted on 11/12/2013 by thedoublenegative