For our first In Focus of 2020, we talk to Tim Clark about creating generative soundscapes for Bjork and finding inspiration offline.
From Muse to Dua Lipa, Microsoft to Google, Tim has worked with some of the world’s biggest musicians and brands, exploring the creative boundaries of emerging tech. We asked the Designer of Technologies about his greatest achievements and challenges so far.
What’s your background? Give us the condensed version of your life story
I grew up just outside New York City. Studied new media art, photography, and art history in university, moved to Vermont work and teach at a college (and mostly to ski and hike a lot), went to architecture school, realized I should have gone to design school instead so I went to Royal College of Art for design, moved back to New York and worked at several creative agencies and here we are today.
You wear many hats, what does a typical day look like for you?
I lead the creative direction for interactive and experiential projects with artists, museums and musicians for a small agency in New York. On a typical day, I’m juggling all of those things which might include creating a HoloLens experience with a conceptual artist, figuring out the UX/UI for a website for a musician, designing an exhibition for a museum, and mood boarding potential executions for an interactive installation.
In your website bio, you’re described as ‘A thought leader on designing new forms of interactions and content with new technologies’ how do you get started on a project that demands the use of emerging tech?
All my projects are rooted in pushing the creative potential of emerging tech whether that is VR, AR, AI or machine learning or whatever is new – since all of those will be “old” at some point too.
Once I get a brief from a client/collaborator I do a deep dive into both them and the positives and negatives of the technology we’re looking to explore. This allows me to find the ideal creative solution that aligns with both and to find the right tonality of what to propose, whether that’s a critique, celebration or speculation on a certain technology. I have a very research-driven practice and like to find inspiration offline as much as possible as opposed to searching for ideas online. If someone went through the trouble to put it in a book it’s a concept that will stand up longer.
What are your key considerations when creating future-forward designs?
Where we came from, where we are, and where we might be going. I look at these three things and drop in a new technology at different points along that path – from past to future – to see how that new tech might disrupt what has or will be done – and how it can be used in a way we haven’t thought of yet.
What has been your biggest achievement to date?
I just finished up a project with Björk which was a pretty solid collaboration. I worked with her and other members of my team to create a generative soundscape that looks up at the NYC sky and uses computer vision to recognize objects like birds, clouds and changes in weather, triggering chorus arrangements that she’s recorded throughout her career. We then made a website where you can hear it and see the live stream of the sky.
What has been your biggest challenge?
Artificial Intelligence. For one, it really can’t do as much as most people think it can at the moment, even though people claim it could do anything. Also, to do really out there things it requires a whole highly specialized (and exorbitantly expensive) dev team to make custom software that is out of the reach of most creative projects and budgets at this stage.
Who or what has been the biggest single influence on your way of thinking and creating?
Moving to London and studying at the Royal College of Art. The creativity, level of rigor and interrogation is unmatched. There I learned not only what I wanted to work on but more importantly learned HOW I worked. Learning that is essential to know how to structure your process and to know when you are most productive and/or creative.
And finally…What is your quirkiest trait?
The longer I talk, the more I start waving my arms.
Give us two truths, one lie.
I can’t swim, I can’t drive, I can’t 3D model
You’re sent to the moon and can only take 3 luxury items, what are they?
Tesla Cybertruck. I feel like it’s actually meant for the moon and why not try it out.
Costco brand trail mix. It’s my “eat 1 thing on a desert island for the rest of your life” food so I’d have to think it would be my moon choice too. It’s got every delicious thing you need to survive – M&M’s, peanuts, raisins, cashews, almonds. What more can you ask for really?