• Transform magazine
  • August 09, 2020

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Five minutes with James Paterson

JP Blacka Nd White

James Paterson, creative director at B-Reel speaks to Transform magazine about how brands can still be relevant as consumer trust is declining, what role virtual and augmented reality will play in the creative industry and how creative tech has changed.

How does technology work with the creative industry? How can you achieve the perfect balance of both?

Maybe one way to look at it would be to not separate tech from creative at all. Writing code is an incredibly creative process! As an avid fan of traditional media (drawing, painting, animation) I strongly believe that code is a first class citizen as a creative medium, ready to take its place alongside pencils, pens, paint brushes etc. One of the most interesting things about code as a medium is that it allows us to operate on a meta-level: not only can we dream up solutions using the tools we already have, but we can also dream up and build new tools as we go. This opens up a whole new range of motion for creative problem solving.

How has the creative industry changed since you began more than 20 years ago? How has technology helped make that change?

20 years ago creative tech teams were just starting to be spooled up as minor parts of more traditional companies. Creative tech was just starting to be taught in schools, and dedicated schools like Hyper Island were just opening their doors. In the industry the creative tech work being done at the time was often seen as a cute add-on, and frankly not very well understood by the more traditional departments. Now tech is woven into practically everything. It’s not so much that tech has helped make that change, it’s that it has just completely taken over, for better and worse.

What does your background in animation and software development add to your creative work?

I think it has helped me to have a better understanding of the level of effort involved with different creative tech solutions. It has also given me a deep appreciation for bottom-up exploration as an important part of the creative process. Often the best ideas can’t be dreamed up sitting around a table brainstorming. Rather, they come from playing around and experimenting.

What role will VR & AR play in the future of the creative industry?

Spatial computing has had a lot of false starts, but one of these days it is going to hit our world like a ton of bricks. Someone is going to come out with a great pair of AR/VR glasses that are indistinguishable from regular glasses, or an affordable contact lens display. This will be another big leap like the introduction of the iPhone. We are already completely fused with our smartphones (problematically so for many of us!)  but once spatial computing tech evolves from its clunky present to a seamless future version, things will never be the same. Technology will no longer be about clutching metal/glass/plastic gadgets. Rather it will be completely fused with our perception on the ground floor. I find the possibilities that arise from that simultaneously fascinating and terrifying.

How can brands make sure they are still relevant in a world where consumer trust is always decreasing ?

There are major shadow sides to brands leveraging tech, and lots of valid reasons for consumers not to trust.

Unfortunately some brands are taking advantage of their power and we are being manipulated in ways we don’t even have the vocabulary to understand yet. Right now, we're in the midst of an interesting moment for brands. They have an opportunity to service their communities and focus on positive action versus adding to the noise. One of our clients LVMH switched their factories over to producing hand sanitiser for distribution in hospitals. There are lots of examples like this of brands showing up in authentic ways; MoMA offering  free art classes, Nike switching shoe parts into face shields, which help build trust.

How has Covid-19 affected the creative industry? What new solutions, especially on a digital level, are you adopting to confront this crisis?

Companies like GitHub and Automattic have been happily working remotely, and decentralised for a long time. Now it’s time for everyone else to catch up. A few things that come to mind: Learning how to work asynchronously - rethinking when something should be a meeting (hint: rarely) -  living outside city centers with more exposure to nature - cutting out soul crushing commutes - thinking about resourcing and team building in a truly global way - lowering overheads by cutting out office space expenses - the list goes on.