#3 The Storyteller

Chris Ball is Head of UX at DigitasLBi. Chris has been involved in the design process leading to the creation of the new Digital Experience Design MA and he ran a stellar workshop on storytelling for Crew 5 of Digital Media Management last year. Here’s what he has to say…

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learnt over the last year?

By now it’s a cliché, but I’ve only recently come to realise how dangerously stifling the fear of failure is. Until you remove this fear, until you cultivate a safe environment where mistakes can be made without punishment, creativity will continue to be governed by personality and agenda. Add equal doses of urgency and necessity (the mother of invention, so they say) to this safe environment and you might just have a chance of reaching design nirvana.

What’s your burning question of the moment?

As designers we’re privileged to be the architects of a new world order, and this extends beyond new patterns of experience and human behaviour. We’re in David and Goliath territory; our work has the potential to disrupt established mind-sets, corporations, and I’m sure, soon enough, governments. But do we have a handle on the long-term effects of limitless innovation? We need to be mindful that what is shiny and new now could have unpleasant knock-on effects for later generations. We need to temper progress with responsibility.

What’s the most inspiring thing you’ve seen/ heard/ read in the last year?

I recently met the owner of a start-up in the Philippines focused solely on designing simple mobile apps for small businesses in Manila’s shantytowns. His design journey was fascinating: after dozens of rounds of user testing he created something so simple, so pared back, it stood in stark contrast to the Western hunger for complex, luscious interfaces. His focus on simplicity, usefulness, and social impact made me wonder if the time we spend making the bigger, the better, the faster could be appropriated a bit more wisely.

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What would be your one piece of advice to students on Hyper Island’s new MA in Digital Experience Design?

Keep an open mind and look for inspiration everywhere. It can hide in the most banal of places. Look around you, listen to the stories being told, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. That’s more than one piece of advice, but it’s all loosely related to one of the universal truths of creativity: observation rules. You can learn more about the human condition by walking down the street than by reading a thousand books. Read books, too, of course. But not whilst walking down the street. That’s just annoying.