CS recently went along to the latest event set up by the guys from the Young Creative Council. The event, hosted by Mother, was titled ‘How do you talk to people in a digital world?’. Not content with a boring ‘first come first serve’ system for dishing out the free tickets, the only way to get through the door for this one was to back the winner of an online snail race.
First up was Pete Hellicar, one half of Hellicar & Lewis. Pete started his talk entitled ‘Burnt Toast’ (they name the presentations after whatever they where doing when the request comes through) with a brief history about how he got to where he is today. When he was fifteen, Pete borrowed his sister’s skateboard and was instantly hooked. As well as the skating, he loved the DIY aspects of the culture, from making zines and videos to building ramps, which led to Pete setting up his own skateboard company in 1996. His next move was out to California to working as an Art Director for skate brand Etines. It was here that he began to experiment with set building, creating systems that would allow him to design quickly without having to spend hours in front of the computer. Pete moved back to the UK and met his creative partner Joel Lewis, and in 2008, Hellicar & Lewis was born.
Right from the start they were clear about their values and the sort of work they wanted create. Using open systems that create narratives is something that runs through the work they produce. Pete explained that this means ‘people will be in the moment and have something to talk about’. Self-documentation is also something they try to build into all of their work as a way of quantifying what they are doing and because, as Pete says, ‘we get a kick out of looking at the documentation afterwards.’ Another running theme through their work are uncertain outcomes. They have an idea of what is going to happen, but there are always surprises, and for them that is where the fun is. Pete summed it up by explaining ‘if you knew exactly what it was going to look like at the end, then there’s no point in doing it’.
He moved on to talk about a couple of their more recent projects. During a meeting with Ian Tait they were asked to help out on a pitch for Coke. The idea developed into Coke 24hr Music, a 24 hour music event broadcast on the Internet that allowed interaction with a projection mapped multi-touch sculptural object in studio, with the fans interacting live via Twitter. They were able to create a real experience that drove a dialogue in the digital world and extended out to the real world.
He finished by talking about a project they are particularly passionate about. They have been developing a series of digital ideas designed to help Autistic children (CS will be catching up with the guys to talk about this project in more detail in the next couple of weeks). After finding out that the equipment on the market costs a huge amount, they decided they wanted to create something that was available to everybody. This is another great aspect of Hellicar & Lewis, everything they do is open source. Talking about the work they produce Pete told us ‘if you see something you like just take it, its all out there’. It’s really refreshing to hear people championing the sharing of knowledge to enhance creativity. Check out the rest of the Hellicar & Lewis portfoilo here.
Next up was a man who needs little introduction, Tom Uglow, Creative Director for Google and YouTube in Europe. He took us through some of the projects he has been involved with in the last few years, starting with the Android Yourself app. He explained that this had been created as an extension of the logo design but had gone on to reach top of the download chart after it was released at the Mobile World Congress. He made the point that success can come from simply asking the question ‘what should we do with it now?’.
Tom went on to discuss how a digital conversation is started. Today we are all incredibly immersed in the digital world and conversations take place seamlessly across different platforms and locations. Giving people the ability to publish instantly and broadcast live has made a massive impact on the world and led to some extraordinary things. He used the example Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ song that notched up over a 150 million YouTube hits in a matter of weeks.
Tom talked about how the ‘Life in a day’ project began as an experiment into global similarities and a curiosity about what would happen if everybody in the world did the same thing at the same time. By adding data to the clips that were gathered, they were able to navigate through the vast amount of videos and create clusters. Tom admitted that the results were much better than they had ever expected and the project eventually developed into a feature film.
Another project Tom spoke about was YouTube Space Lab. Open to 14-18 year olds, the basics of the competition is to encourage kids to create a science experiment that can be carried out in space. Tom said that a challenge with this type of project was was how to start with a huge audience, then narrow it down to select the winners, and then extending it out again so that it reaches a huge global audience. A successful example of this was the YouTube Symphony Orchestra. They received between 3 and 4 thousand video auditions in 2009 and had an audience of 40 million when the symphony was broadcast live. Tom explained that these sorts of numbers didn’t just happen. Creating something like this is an incredibly complex journey with many steps. In the end its about creating a narrative around a shared passion, this sort of success relies on connecting with people on an emotional level.
A great event with some really interesting speakers. Keep your eyes on the YCC blog for more of the same.