What inspires the great and the good in digital design? Look no further – we’ve asked five top practitioners to nominate their favourite creative artists in the field.
Tomas Roope Nominates Hans Bernhard
Hans Bernard, once of Etoy and now of Ubermorgan, has been a great inspiration to me because of the intelligence and courage of his work. I am always in awe of the macro nature of his ideas, and how they resonate with and exploit both historical and emerging media. It is in the negative space between these streams of communication that he playfully comments on politics, business and mass media by creating systems that users populate and propel.
Though most of his work dies once the illusion is revealed, the interventions create odd and fascinating artefacts such as reams of legal documentation from US lawyers, a CNN special which was an angry response to one of his Web projects.
Commercially, interaction has reached a level of maturity, but I still find that it is artists such as Bernard who are really exploring the exciting and dangerous territory of the future, as they are not encumbered by having to explain everything in terms of the past.
After graduating in film, video and photography in 1991, Tomas Roope began working in the multimedia industry. From freelance roles including technical and creative director, he moved on to Tomato, heading its first CD-Rom project. He was also involved with the arts collective Antirom, which published a CD-Rom with arts funding in 1995. Antirom developed into a commercial venture and continued until spring 1999, when Roope and two of his Antirom colleagues started Tomato Interactive. In 2007, he set up the Rumpus Room with New Zealand-based production company The Sweetshop. He has won several awards, including three D&AD Silvers, and presented many international conferences. He has also taught product design at the Royal College of Art and produced installations for international exhibitions.
Malcolm Garrett Nominates Cognitive Applications
Commissioned by the Design Museum in 1990 to produce the graphics for a show called Sport90, I was introduced to Ben Rubinstein, of Cognitive Applications, who had been responsible for developing its innovative on-screen guide, the Study Collection.
Although no stranger to using computers, this was my introduction to interactive media. Together Rubinstein and I created the interactive guide for Sport90. I was excited and inspired by his infectious enthusiasm, and became a willing convert to ‘the new media’.
Rubinstein was ever resourceful and inventive, with no technical challenge going unresolved. With his partner Alex Morrison they were true interactive pioneers and it is testament to their abilities that they are among the few surviving success stories from those early days. I admired the Cogapp approach, which was always driven by usefulness, practicality and technical sophistication. They produced groundbreaking work, such as the MicroGallery for the National Gallery, and they are now acknowledged world leaders in the museum and gallery field.
Recently I’ve worked with them again on the gallery guide for New York’s Museum of Modern Art. The result is a beautifully fluid piece of interactive design that brings the entire MoMA archive into the gallery for the first time.
Malcolm Garrett is creative director at Applied Information Group, which he joined in 2005. He is a communications designer with 30 years experience, including
more than 15 years in interactive media, and his work has had a seminal influence on graphic design in the UK. Garrett founded interactive communications company AMX in 1994. Prior to AMX, he founded and co-directed Assorted Images, designing for artists such as The Buzzcocks, Duran Duran and Simple Minds. He is a Royal Designer for Industry, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and a visiting professor at the University of the Arts London.
Gary Holt Nominates All Of Us
Digital design excellence? It can only be All of Us. Let me tell you their story…
Content is king, so the saying goes. Wrong. Bad content is bad content. What is king is sticky content. How many of us have read an unputdownable book, stayed glued to an unmissable film, become lost for hours in the world of a computer game. All different media, all the same feeling.
For too long this has not applied to digital design. For too long digital design has been about the download, the interface, the ‘cool’. For not too long it has been about the experience – getting lost in the digital world.
Enter stage right All of Us. They get ‘sticky content’. They get ‘lost-in-the-experience’. Don’t believe me, look at their creations. Look at the faces of the children in the Science Museum Energy Gallery, the sense of calm from the patients in Harefield Hospital, the easy fluid feeling one gets from experiencing Sky’s Anytime service. Lose yourself in a magical world of the interactive experience.
‘Digital design’ is too general a title. Even the word ‘sticky’ is now overused, becoming tired. What we are really talking about is the experience. The Velcro moment. Hooked on the content.
All of Us are not Web designers, exhibition consultants or interactive specialists. They are all of them. But, more importantly, they are ‘experience designers’.
Thanks for opening Pandora’s digital box for me, Sanky.
Gary Holt is best known for his screen branding work while at Lambie-Nairn, though he has recently set up on his own, founding full-service branding group Holt Branding in January 2006, and he is now seeking to broaden his offer. Clients include O2, Schroders, Reuters and Expedia. During his six-year stint as executive creative director at Lambie- Nairn he had responsibility for the group’s creative output across all disciplines, and worked with Aviva, BBC, Sainsbury’s, Sky, BT and
Lloyds TSB, among others. Before that he worked for Tutssels for five years, and he started his career – back in 1989 – as a junior designer and typographer at Carroll Dempsey & Thirkell. He has been awarded two D&AD Yellow Pencils and two Royal Television Society Golds for his work for the BBC, as well as a Marketing Week Gold for the O2 brand identity.
Daljit Singh Nominates Yugo Nakamura
Yugo Nakamura is a creative director, designer and developer exploring various forms of interactive systems in digital and networked environments.
He is a rare breed, one of those digital designers and developers who you truly want to kill because he is just so good at what he does. His work is a beautiful balance of the futuristic and human, and despite being occasionally confusing to the uninitiated, once you investigate and interact deeper you are always rewarded with something special. He uses graphic design, coding, animation and audio to great effect, creating engaging environments that can make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
Even his early work infected the minds of almost every Web designer in the world. Monocrafts captivated Nakamura’s peers with its beautiful scrolling movement on a simple black-and-white background. In Ecotonoha, an environmental project for NEC, users are invited to contribute to the site by adding words, pledges and comments that then grow and become leaves on virtual trees. This is a great example of how his designs combine innovative Flash coding with effortless typography, while still being highly accessible for users to contribute to.
His most recent project is for Japanese clothing brand Uniqlo. Called Uniqlock, it’s a slightly bonkers combination of music, dance and a clock. It’s all rather mystifying to start with, but its pace and craft are so engaging and different from anything else you’ll see on the Web right now that it doesn’t really matter. And herein lies Nakamura’s skill. He manages to continually produce cutting-edge interactive environments, which combine technology and design to effortlessly engage with their audience.
I hate him.
Daljit Singh is creative director and founding partner of Digit, part-owned by WPP and one of the longest-established digital groups. He has worked with leading brands Coca-Cola, Nokia, Motorola and Unilever. He previously worked at IBM, where he was head of multimedia – when it really was a new media. Singh ranked among the Financial Times’ Top 50 creative professionals for two years in a row. He is a member of the British Council Design Advisory Group and an advisor to the Design Council’s Industry Skills Development Plan.
Guy Moorhouse Also Nominates Yugo Nakamura
Contemporary digital design is awash with carbon-copy Web 2.0 sites, and while there is nothing wrong with solid, functional HTML, the average user would be forgiven for thinking this is all the on-line world is capable of. Because of this, I am drawn to the experiential, experimental Flash work of multimedia designer Yugo Nakamura.
Nakamura’s body of work on-line comprises a commercial portfolio, as well as a series of self-initiated Flash experiments, but whether commercial or otherwise, his work always pushes digital boundaries and creates an alternative approach to visual communication. He is also extremely attentive to detail, taking strong visual concepts and delivering them with impeccable, pixel-perfect precision. Take Intentionallies, made way back in late 2003. This is a portfolio site for an interior design company, that questioned our perception of the interface and still holds up as though it was produced yesterday.
Likewise, Amaztype, which is built on the idea of imagining Amazon search results returned as the search keywords themselves, is a tour de force.
More recent work, for the Nagaoka Institute of Design Gallery and Uniqlo, is testament to Nakamura’s strong understanding of the psychology of interaction. The Uniqlo Explorer really stands out for me. His own personal digital ‘playground’ website, including archives, is full of weird and wonderful Flash experiments that exist somewhere where art and technology fuse. There are many excuses here to kill a few hours, or even days, on-line.
For all these reasons, I think Nakamura was, is and will continue to be notable in shaping our experiences on-line.
Guy Moorhouse of Airside specialises in front-end design and layout, and is passionate about interaction with Flash and other Web technologies. He has worked on a wide range of high-profile digital projects including a multilingual Flash site for Sony Playstation and an interactive art installation for the Liverpool Biennale. He has also judged for D&AD. In his free time, Moorhouse showcases the best in digital design and interaction on a personal website, Refresh.