I have always had two major passions in my life from a very young age. The first being drawing and having a strong interest in creative arts, the second was my interest in technology. Both of these interests felt quite separate to me while I was growing up so I wanted to reflect on my experience and how my practice as a designer has evolved.
Starting from the beginning, my first memorable experience using creative software and finding an interest in technology was when I was around three years old using a family Windows 95 desktop PC which I was lucky enough to be able to use. I quickly got to grips with how the user interface worked and functioned so I started playing games from the era including the Tomb Raider series and Rayman to name a few. At the time I also discovered an app or "program" called MS Paint which allowed users to create their own digital artwork by using shapes, typography and mouse gestures. I was always drawing at that age using pen and paper and continued to do so mostly but I think this is where I started to think of creative ideas using technology, having limitless supply of colours and "paper" to use.
As I got older my knowledge and interest advanced in using software and creating visual ideas. I moved onto using MAC OSX 10.4 as my main system for a while and began to get well aquatinted with using the Adobe Creative Suite and learning to use photoshop to manipulate my drawings. As a pixel based software this felt like a natural transition from using paint on a Microsoft platform but with of course with much more possibilities. As the internet was evolving I found YouTube and Google to be my best source of information on learning how to do different things with the software including thresholds and image rasterisation for the basics of editing photos and drawings which I previously would not have found out without reading and searching for multiple books at a time.
In terms of narrative design I always found video games to be the strongest format to express artistic value because it allowed the player or user to directly choose the outcome of a situation. In the early 2000's online games started to become a mainstream entertainment platform and I found this personally fascinating because this technology has allowed people to create their own stories and share memories with people across the world at any time with an internet connection, it was like magic. I think the core point of this that I found so interesting really was the value this placed on creative design and going in new and unseen directions that positively enhanced narrative storytelling. There is no other form of artistic design that has this interactive relationship between the creator and the user. It's an open and collaborative experience that is inviting and most importantly asks it's users for feedback.
My illustration practice really started to develop quickly when I was at college in the first couple of years. I experimented with a lot of different styles and was supported by some really great teachers that got me thinking about different ways which I can show my visual language. This is where I mostly developed my Illustration identity with an interest based on contemporary online culture and the disconnects in reality between how people interact with technology. I may cover a larger part of this story in a future blog post covering my illustration practice however this is mainly to give context to my current story.
At this stage I was fairly well acquainted with using professional software and the process of creating digital images. I was in the middle of my educational career and was also starting to work on freelance projects.
While I was in my second year of University several years later my illustration practice was developing however I really wanted to try something new and branch out a bit more from what I was used to. I was writing at the time about the importance of video games in contemporary culture and how they are in my opinion highly undervalued in terms of the narrative experiences they can potentially provide.
I wanted to experiment more with using software specifically for games development to focus on creating narrative experiences. At the time I was working on a project based around recording local facts and portraying them in my own narrative scenario. This is where I became more aquatinted with using software like Unity and Maya for designing 3D interactive spaces. The goal was to think about how an image or video could evolve into something interactive and expressive in it's own format that the viewer could gain their own unique experience from. This specific study turned out to be Norwich 2.0 which you can find on my portfolio page. I think this project was very important for me though because it was starting to link both of my passions with technology and design together much more using an interactive output as the design outcome.
In 2015 VR was really something most people have never tried or experimented with and this is still somewhat the case today. Based on my previous learning experiences using technology and online information I started to create digital interactive outputs that could only be done in a virtual environment. Initially I was mainly working with the google cardboard devices and experimented with 360 degree imagery to create visualisations of locations and spaces. The difference with VR compared to something like 3D imagery that kept me engaged was the sense of being in a different perspective but retaining your personal thoughts and emotions while being in the experience. It's a highly collaborative experience to be working on game design elements and also engaging with your audience directly to receive feedback for new versions.
The core of what is keeping these experiences interesting and thoughtful I feel is the experimentation into the new and unknown. I've been fortunate enough to have been able to experiment and create outputs for VR and AR over the past few years and although the future is currently uncertain in terms of where VR will be specifically in terms of an industry standard it's definitely here to stay in one form or another.
In my experience working on interactive projects I've certainly felt like collaboration is really what is driving me to create these experiences. A lot of the time my ideas would be reshaped into something much better with the input of users and working in great team environments. I suppose it's not really about technology that's important during the process it's about the experience it provides the user overall.
So this is my short story of how I got into interactive design and creating user experiences. I've mainly tried to focus on the key parts in my development however if you would like to share yours or learn more please get in touch using the comments or send over an email, it would be great to have a chat!