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OFFF 2013: Brendan Dawes

Described as a “Jamie Oliver of interaction design”, UK-based designer and artist Brendan Dawes believes in putting new objects into the world that disrupt the status quo. The award-winning maker is famous for mixing the digital with the physical in increasingly challenging projects that explore the interplay of people, code, design and art.

We sat down with Dawes before his talk at OFFF 2013 to find out what he’s been up to recently and what to expect from him at the event…

Computer Arts: We're looking forward to seeing you at OFFF. What can we expect from your talk on Thursday?
Brendan Dawes: I'm going to be talking about various projects, from my data viz work for EE to silly electronic things, as well as my process for making and designing things – such as that is – and also about how it's OK to make stuff even if you have no end goal in sight or know quite why you're making it.

Pretty much everything I've ever made has led to something else – for instance the OFFF Twitter archive piece that I've just done for The Poool, which is to be given out to OFFF attendees, was just something I was playing about with. Hctor from OFFF then saw it on Instagram, after which he asked me to make one for OFFF. I'm also going to be talking about how much stuff I've had to learn since going out on my own – and it's been a lot of fun!

Brendan Dawes was commissioned by EE to create a series of digital portraits for 10 cities across the country, to mark the of arrival 4G in the UK

Brendan Dawes was commissioned by EE to create a series of digital portraits for 10 cities across the country, to mark the of arrival 4G in the UK

CA:Your project Box of Tweets is an OLED display that shows tweets from your Twitter archive. How did this come about?
BD: Archives are kind of interesting because they mostly just gather dust, so to speak. Once you get your archive of tweets from Twitter it's then a case of now what? I've done stuff in the past around the thinking behind physical boxes for digital things, but this one I really like, and even though it's a prototype at the moment I think there might be something in it.

I like the fact that you can put it on a shelf and occasionally bump into it, turn it on and have a look back through past tweets to remind you of what you were up to. You can't bump into digital things on your hard drive as easily, so I think it's this aspect that really appeals to me.

CA: You've said before that people should be embracing digital a lot more than we currently do. How can designers do this in their day-to-day work?
Well, it frustrates me when I see the reinvention of things like Polaroid-type cameras – they were of their time to provide instant photos, yet we now have a device in a pocket that can do that and a whole lot more. I get that people like the physical nature of holding a photo, but making stuff like that doesn't move us forward – it's purely hipster bullshit. Whereas you look at the amazing Lytro camera and it's a completely new way to think about taking photos. That stuff excites me.

Brendan Dawes


CA: What are you working on at the moment – any cool projects coming up that you can spill the beans on?
I'm lucky to be working on some very cool projects at the moment, ranging from data visualisation all the way over to some bespoke electronic products. One of the things I'm working on is for a lovely company in the States, creating a series of six internet-connected objects to explore our relationship and interaction with connected objects in the home. I can't say too much about it at the moment, but it's a lot of fun and I'm also learning a lot working on it, which is always a huge bonus.

CA: Who are you most looking forward to seeing at OFFF over the next few days?
GMunk is always great entertainment – I love his infectious enthusiasm for what he does. I've heard Brosmind are also a must-see and I'm also really looking forward to seeing Sara Blake again after seeing her speak at OFFF Cincinnati. Oh, and of course Jessica Walsh. To be honest, I'm just going to try and catch as much as I can and try and soak it all up.

CA: Tell us something we don’t know…
I once played Cream in Liverpool under the guise of Vitamin Beat – I roped in my brother to pretend to play keyboards so it looked a bit better!

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