Xploring Content at Xplorer Digital Camp

Creating experiences in the age of digital technology means using new tools and even new parts of your brain to create content. Xplorer Digital Camp West—in Seattle Aug. 6—will introduce you to the tools and techniques you’ll need to create next-gen experiences, from motion graphics to data and code. Join us in Seattle! (Better hurry, seats are filling fast!)

Researcher, academic, and digital experience designer Rachel Fujitais fascinated with the cross-pollination that experiential graphic design demands, and she’s spent the past several years making sure that emerging new practitioners are equipped with the skills they need to enter the digital market. Her former student Julie Guirlis now with Gensler, practicing those cross-disciplinary skills in her work every day. Together, they’ll lead the Creating Digital Content: Video, Type, and Image session during SEGD’s Xplorer Digital Camp West in Seattle Aug. 6.

David Maymanis a multidisciplinary experience designer driven by his passion for pushing possibilities and his curiosity of the unknown. In his work in Gensler’s San Francisco office, he bridges the gap between technology and space by creating rich user-focused experiences. David will round out the Creating Digital Content session with his presentation focused on Data and Code.

We spoke to Rachel and David this week about their sessions and why exploring new content modes and tools is so important for designers right now.

Rachel, why is it so important for designers to embrace technology and new digital tools? Or is it??

At the end of the day, as a designer you have to take responsibility for developing your own voice and using the tools that will help you do that. Experiential graphic design is unique and exciting in that it requires you to be adaptive, flexible, and on your toes. That means being open to new technologies, but not necessarily abandoning the old ones. It’s not about labeling oneself as a print designer or a web designer or a signage designer—rather, it’s about using the most effective tools and approach to solving the problem at hand. The firms that are making the biggest impact don’t define themselves by the tools they use. They’re tapping into creative collaborations, looking to other disciplines at times, and being fluid instead of married to one approach.

What will your session focus on?

We’ll focus on some of the basics of content creation and storytelling. We’ll touch on storyboarding and the different types of sources you can use to create dynamic visual content. And we’ll do a primer on Adobe After Effects [video and visual effects software], which is just one tool that’s an industry standard for creating prototypes for dynamic and interactive storytelling that can be implemented on varying devices, screens, and interfaces.

What do you hope attendees will take away from your session?

We want to demystify the process of digital content creation and make people aware of some great storytelling tools they can easily learn to use. We hope people will walk away with the confidence to go back and try creating a simple animation on their own.

I’ll also use this opportunity to show how this kind of storytelling can make such a dramatic impact on your work. Although a lot of EGD companies are shifting into digital, most don’t have enough work yet to quite make it a meat-and-potatoes service area. Our presentation will show that you can begin “making digital” in small, simple ways that will enhance your projects and improve your skillset right now.

David, your topic is using Data and Code to create content. Why do you think that’s such an important skill for designers now?

I’m always curious about what coding can allow us to do that we didn’t have the ability to do before. As a coder you can certainly make websites. But you can also create really awesome experiences that you might be able to think of on your own but don’t know how to build. That’s where it gets exciting. Coding helps you jump from concept and ideation into a really fast execution. You’re creating a system based on a set of rules that allow you to control various attributes and change them quickly if you want. In essence you’re designing the machine that designs the thing.

Coding seems scary to a lot of designers. How are you going to break it down?

Yeah, it’s a huge topic. I’ll focus on the basic concepts of code. It can be used to automate any process, like organizing a database or creating an interactive web experience. I’ll be using a visual context to teach from the perspective of input and output: When you put code in, it makes something appear on screen. And really important, I want to show how to use code to help break down a big problem (such as something I want to make) into many small problems.

What are some of the basic tools that you'll be sharing?

I want people to come away with a basic understanding of what coding can do and demystify it so it’s not this huge thing to approach. I want them to come away thinking, it doesn’t really matter what language I choose or the angle I approach a problem from. A coder’s best friend is Google. You just read the documentation and learn how the tool works. You have to always be ready for something new.

That being said, people get good at particular language and develop clever ways of doing things, so that it’s not a completely fresh start every time. I’ll be using a software called Processing. I like it because the environment you type your code into is the same environment that runs it. It’s also built on Java, one of the most popular programming languages. It was developed as a teaching tool but it’s really more like an in-between language that goes from code to visuals very quickly without having to know a lot about an environment. It’s very useful for learning as well as prototyping and building things.

What will you cover in the world of Data?

The basics: what is data, how do we define it, why is it useful, and where do we get it. Data can be any consistent source of information that is meaningful in any sort of context. For example, one random type of data is every Facebook status you’ve ever posted. Every one has a time stamp and probably 50 other kinds of information attached to it. 

So you’ll be explaining how to use data as a basic building block, as a type of media for creating experiences?

Yes. I’m still figuring out how deep to go, but I’ve created a cool example of using a live data stream to basically paint a picture… that will be our output and I’m going to break down how you get there. That will require the basic foundations of coding. The crux of my presentation will be about understanding the logic of code thinking. That’s the number-one priority. My example is eye candy that proves just how cool coding and data can be!

Can you talk about a recent project that involved creating content with code/data?

Most of my projects are confidential, but I use data and coding every day in small and big ways. It can be as small-scale as writing a script in After Effects to handle a thousand different objects in creating motion graphics, or as big as creating a generative digital experience projected over 80 feet in a physical space.

Sometimes I use these tools behind the scenes (not to produce a deliverable, but as a way to solve a particular problem), and in some cases it IS a deliverable, especially in interactive experiences. The possibilities are endless, which is the fun part.

>>Join Rachel Fujita, Julie Guirl, and David Mayman at SEGD's Xplorer Digital Camp Aug. 6 in Seattle! 

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