What led you into design?
A postman and a deer.
My mum’s family were refugees in the 70s so everyone around me worked blue collar jobs. I always thought artists were of a different breed of people. One day when I was about six years old, my uncle drew a picture of a deer for me, copied from an old book. It blew my mind. I had never imagined that someone who worked in the warehouse of the post office could draw at the same quality as a published illustrator. I doubt he even remembers that but for me it changed my whole outlook of what was possible.
From then on my brother and I drew almost everyday. My parents owned a restaurant, where we spent a lot of our childhood bored and we filled the boredom by drawing pictures all day.
Growing up in the 80s and early 90s shaped my sensibilities dramatically too. Life was filled with cartoons, amazing packaging art, character designs, animation, and video games. That naturally led me to illustration, animation and interactive experiences. My six year old self would be pumped!
What does a typical day look like?
For the work day, depending on the job, it’s usually a mix of...
- Meetings with clients and project teams
- Reviewing and providing direction
- Concepting / Strategy / Ideation
- Designing (Graphic / UI / Illustration / Animation / VR)
In and around that is spending time with my wife and two little kids, working on side projects and creating in VR.
With Covid lockdown however, that typical day has been smashed by a wrecking ball. Now our typical day is pure chaos, with schools and kindergartens closed, it’s filled with homeschooling, getting kids dressed, making snacks, entertaining kids, all whilst juggling work!
What’s your workstation setup?
Above the surface of my desk is my dual screen mac, with the original 12” Cintiq or iPad pro for illustration.
Below my desk, like a dirty little secret is my PC. I use it solely for working in VR, so I have a tower with my headset and controls hanging off hooks below the table.
You’ll see that I have two keyboards and two mice in my photo below. Everything’s hooked up so I can switch easily between Mac and PC.
We’re also currently living in a rental at the moment whilst we’re renovating our house, which will include a brand new studio space. My wife is also a designer (natcheng.com) so we’re planning to make it as cool as we can. It’s going to have a vaulted ceiling with big windows and skylights, it’s probably the best space in the house (don’t tell the kids!).
Where do you go to get inspired?
Having worked in Advertising for many years, where you’re challenged to make seemingly mundane objects like detergent, bread or toothpaste into something interesting, you start looking at things in a different way. It makes you realise that inspiration can come from anywhere.
Leaving your desk is a great start. Not only does it clear your head and allow you to come back with a fresh perspective but it also lets problems settle and ideas marinate. It’s also a great way to see, hear or smell something different. On a short walk outside you might see interesting colour combinations, unusual textures or surfaces, or even things that look like faces if you open yourself up to it.
I also recommend trying new experiences whenever you can as it fills you with new sensations, new perspectives and insights to draw from at a later time. If you’re feeling brave doing something that pushes you out of your comfort zone provides you with even more to draw from.
What product have you recently seen that made you think this is great design?
Quill, which is a Virtual Reality illustration and animation tool that I use a lot. Creating in Quill is incredibly satisfying and surprisingly intuitive.
It has been a long time since I’ve been this excited about a creative tool. The fact that I can create an animated short story in one or two hours from scratch with multiple camera angles is testament to the product’s UX design.
I think in the near future, VR tools like Quill will quickly become an invaluable addition to a designer’s arsenal.
What pieces of work are you most proud of?
Ready Attention Go
Firstly, I’m very proud of the work that I just completed for TALi, as Creative Director for an app that helps identify attention strengths and weaknesses in early childhood.
It was a joy to be able to contribute to a project that helps kids in need. As a parent myself with two young kids, I wanted to champion the experience for both parents and kids. In the end I think we delivered a product that supported overwhelmed parents and at the same time created a fun and memorable experience for the kids.
A few years ago I found myself writing a book, WTF?! It was for an online publication/resource I started over ten years ago for interactive designers called HUDS+GUIS. It focuses primarily on FUI, Fictional User Interfaces and was created as a way to give back in some small part to the design community that I’ve benefited from for many years.
The book is called FUI: How to design user interfaces for film and games, and features artists responsible for the groundbreaking UI from films such as Minority Report, Star Wars, the Marvel films and more. Through the book and HUDS+GUIS itself, I am so grateful to have connected and made friends with people all around the world, who I would otherwise never have met.
The last one is my lovechild, Skate Bums, a mobile game I’ve been creating with my friend Danny Masalkovski. It is our first venture into indie game development and it has been full of surprises but I have loved every minute of it. Through this project I am living the dream I had since I was a little kid. We’ve both spent countless late nights and hours working on this, trying to fill it with as much awesomeness as we can. So stay tuned, it is not far away from being launched!
What design challenges do you face at your company?
The biggest challenge I’ve faced recently was designing for young children with special needs, but it was also the most rewarding. It gave me the opportunity to learn more about different types of colour-blindess, ADHD and Autism. I was fortunate to have access to very clever scientists and pediatric specialists who were on call to answer all my stupid questions!
On a similar note though, I’ve found myself fascinated in designing accessible experiences. Whether it’s designing form factors to accommodate wheelchair access and people with injuries, or creating single-handed experiences for people who are holding a drink at noisey venues, I find those challenges incredibly satisfying.
What music do you listen to whilst designing?
Any advice for ambitious designers?
Be nice, share, help each other. Contribute to making the world a little bit better.
Creatives are generally cool people, try not to be someone who holds things too close to their chest, ultra competitive and unwilling to work together openly. It only brings anxiety and unnecessary tension to yourself and others.
The other piece of advice I used to give students when I was teaching was to try and find what you truly love doing and figure out if there’s a way to make a living from that. Then work on that. Practice your craft. Work on it until you’re good enough that people will pay you for doing it. You will get better, people don’t become black belts overnight.
Anything you want to promote or plug?
I’m starting to use Instagram as a place to keep people updated on what’s going on in my life, so follow me if you want to see what I get up to!
A resource for interactive designers. With a focus on FUI 'Fiction User Interfaces', it houses a curated collection of the most creative and interesting examples from films, games, concept design to practical developments.
A nostalgia infused skateboarding game straight from the 90s and transformed for today.