Hi there! My name is Peter Smart and I’m the Director of User Experience and Strategy and Fantasy Interactive.
How did you happen to venture into the digital arena ?
Well, I started my own little design business at the age of 15. This is when I first discovered the web. Back then, all the amazing website experiences were built using Flash (the Macromedia logo still makes me feel nostalgic!). I taught myself ActionScript and started there. The web has changed so much in my time as a practitioner – but the same childlike desire to create experiences that feel amazing has never changed.
"The raw essence of design is problem solving."
Is there a specific process in digital design creation?
The raw essence of design is problem solving. Unlike art, the process for almost all problem solving starts, continues and ends along similar lines. It starts with understanding the problem and the person you are solving for. It continues with applied expertise and creative ideation to generate solutions. Then concludes with craft and rigour to create well-executed, intelligent digital experiences that make people’s lives a little easier or more joyful.
Your approach to design is focused on problem / solutions. Do you think digital design can be emotional?
Absolutely. The web is just 1s and 0s. By it’s nature it is mechanical, but the interface we apply is personal. Design is empathy applied - and those who create for it are, after all, human. The best solutions are those that captivate the individuals using them - both their rational and emotional minds.
"The end user is paramount in any project."
When you create, do you always think of the end-user or do you also follow your intuition?
The end user is paramount in any project. You could have the best looking app or website in the world (and win some nice awards for it too), but if it doesn’t consider the needs of the end user ultimately you’ll fail. The best process is part science, part inspiration - being driven by the realities and constraints of those you are designing for but following your intuition to create new, untried solutions.
You work at Fantasy. They have released two brilliant prototypes on rethinking Fly and Health UX. Is there any chance of seeing them in real life?
We work with companies in both the Health and Airline space so all I can say is watch this space!
We had a very creative decade. It seems that digital creativity is more and more focused on efficiency. Do you think there is a brighter future ahead?
Great design is increasingly becoming a commodity. Proficient, large companies the world over have recognised the immense value of design has, but with this has come standardisation. In the past decade I think we witnessed the web’s adolescence - experimental, creative, odd lumps and bumps, rapid growth. Today, we see maturity. Yet, we cannot let maturity become laziness. New ideas and executions - that feel magical again - are waiting for those brave enough to try and find them.
"What is more meaningful and efficient than a website? Let’s find out!"
Do you think that mobiles / apps will completely replace desktop / websites?
Of course one day - but it doesn’t really matter. A good content strategist knows that the medium is secondary, information is paramount. Whether it’s cave walls, parchment, encyclopedias, websites - humans have always strived to communicate in increasingly meaningful and efficient ways. It’s exciting! What is more meaningful and efficient than a website? Let’s find out!
What do you think of new automatic creation tools such as The Grid?
Brilliant ideas - keen to see it in reality. The web is roughly 8,500 days old. My current talk considers the next 8,500 days of the web and data driven mutation is a big part of this. 10 years ago, the web was practically immovable. We were very used to designing one fixed execution of one website. Responsive design changed the game first: flexible presentations of the same core idea. Mutation by data driven design (AI, data-mining, hyper-localization, real-time personalization) will change the game again. For us as designers this is going to create amazing new challenges and cause us to rethink our role. When design decisions (imagery, content presentation, space, layout) are not fixed but changeable and adaptive, where and how do we now apply our expertise?
"WebGL is awesome - powerful and increasingly supporting across devices."
What do you think of WebGL? Do you think it will the new ''Flash'' ?
WebGL is awesome - powerful and increasingly supporting across devices. It’s great for very specific types of experience which is why is never be the new flash (which tried to do everything).
Is thinking solutions in 3D totally different from 2D?
Absolutely. Thinking in 3D opens ups amazing new possibilities. Working on ViziCities - a real-time SimCity for real life co-founded with Robin Hawkes - we had to think about new ways of presenting information for 3D. A key principle to explore was progressive disclosure - presenting simplicity before enabling increasingly levels of complexity as users explored the depths of how a city comes alive. Just considering things like z-space, also presents incredible new possibilities. Peeling back the ground to explore the real London Underground with correct depths, flows and live trains moving along the lines it is certainly more compelling than seeing it top down in 2D.
Do you think Web-VR will become a standard one day?
Yes, but not in the form we know it today. Imagine a web all around you (without having to wear the cumbersome headset). Sounds far-reaching. But take a look at the signals we see today with OmniTouch, HoloLens and ambient displays and the future might be closer than we think.
Is there a new technology out there that you find particularly exciting?
Yes, haptics - 100%! Imagine being able to not only see, but touch the person you are Skyping? We’re going to see this soon. Lots more info on this in my talk here: https://vimeo.com/108336618
What's the weirdest request you've ever received?
I’ve received a genuine request to help redesign someone’s dishwasher - that was pretty interesting! I love taking up unusual challenges though - it keeps you sharp! Right now I’m designing both the presentation of DNA and live airplane data. Weird is often fun :)
What are you working on these days?
All kinds! At Fantasy, we’re working with products, fashion brands, travel companies, health startups, world news providers and lots of great projects in between. Beyond this I’m enjoying speaking, writing and chatting with other inspirational designers out there. So much to learn and lots more great experiences to have!