In this #mtpcon London talk, artist and designer Brendan Dawes discusses the spaces between analog and digital, and how we should use universal themes to connect with people and get the best out of our products and ideas.
- Combining things that already exist is a great way to create something that’s truly new
- People aren’t interested in technology – they care about the stories that technology can tell us and the way they make us feel
- If we’re to bring in humanness and empathy to our work – we must leave space for the unexpected ideas to grow
Brendan kicks off by explaining that, like many people in the room, his mum still doesn’t really know what he does. As a communicator, he tells us, this bothered him. In the end, he drew her a diagram showing how design, technology and art all overlap. Her response was that she thought he invented google maps!
Combine everyday things to create something new
His role clarified, Brendan begins to explain that there’s a long-standing idea that all art is made up of readymades. For him, this started by cutting and splicing vinyl beats for DJs and hip hop artists to use. He still believes that forms the basis of what he does now.
In fact, much of the work Brendan does today involves helping teams to understand how best to make bigger ideas from smaller components.
As the artist picks their way along, rejecting and accepting as they go, certain patterns of enquiry emerge – Bridget Riley
Analog in, digital out
Pushing this idea even further, Brendan explains that by fusing traditional channels with our new ways of working and tools, we can create something truly new.
He articulates this point with an example – what he really loves about vinyl, the moment just after you drop the needle but before the record plays. To Brendan, this is an actual illustration of a comma. It’s a fusing of real-world feeling and technological tools.
He goes on to talk about some of his work – Plastic Player, his device for fusing the best of analogue and digital music.
This concept, he tells us, allows you to explore your Spotify library, using slides to line up albums. It combines a physical product with a digital service, and allows people to fall in love with the form factor again – something which is lost in most digital tools.
“When we hold things in our hand, we feel closer to them. It is human nature.”
Practice Makes Perfect
As we all know, great and creative ideas like this don’t just happen. Often it’s a case of taking messy things and working hard to make them perfect. This takes time, focus and energy but the more he practices, the closer Brendan feels he gets to where he wants it to be.
He then shares his top tip – if you ever get stuck on an idea, go sit on a park bench. He explains that he’s spent a lot of time thinking about his process on park benches – a simple activity that can be very powerful.
Boil. Simmer. Reduce.
Finally, Brendan highlights the importance of focusing on the underlying truth of what you’re trying to communicate – you must boil, simmer and reduce it down.