I’m a Creative Technologist with a background in computer science and a keen practice of design & user experience. For 5 years I have crafted and carried out the vision of Night Zookeeper as its Technical Director, aiming to make children more creative online through reading and writing. Now I’m working on the future of the book and interactive digital marketing campaigns as part of the Creative Technology team at Penguin.
Our goal as a team is to create interactive spaces which will help reach new audiences. Half of it is finding an appealing concept, and the other is helping readers see the books in a different light. Oftentimes a book, particularly non fiction, can seem a little out of reach when in reality these books are made to be accessible. It’s easy to imagine someone dismissing a book because they think “it’s not for me” even before they’ve opened it. All they need is someone to shine a light in order for them to see the book for what it really is.
30 years ago, Richard Dawkins wrote a suite of computer programmes to demonstrate evolution in action. We brought Dawkins’ code back to life, making them available in the browser for the first time. We then used the code to generate unique covers for each of the three books Penguin re-issued, each copy featuring a unique biomorph, shell or wave pattern.
Play with evolution at mountimprobable.com
The challenge in converting what’s effectively a research tool into an accessible interactive game lies in abstracting what’s not necessary for the user to understand, and emphasising what’s taken for granted in the original presentation. For instance, in the original programs you could breed to infinity but seeing the consequences of your actions over multiple generations was almost impossible. Tealising how far you had come from your original creature but how closely related they can seem is part of the magic. By using a tree, similar to phylogenetic trees, we made it possible to visualise multiple generations from multiple creatures at the same time. It now clearly shows the difference in offsprings over time.
“I’m spellbound by the fact that the Penguin computer wizards have managed to put a different random biomorph on every single jacket of both The Blind Watchmaker and Climbing Mount Improbable.” — Richard Dawkins
When it came to manually tweaking your creature, replacing the series of obscure numbers was crucial to make the process more accessible. We wanted the user to feel like they could elongate and squish their creature by hand. Direct manipulation would have been the best approach, but given that the genes have a high interplay, the resulting interaction was confusing. Instead, we paired relevant genes together and plotted them on an interactive surface. This way you can make your changes in the physical space rather than in number space like the scientific original.
Creative Review Annual Award - Best in Book winner for the categories Digital Craft & Technical Innovation and Websites
This project also won the British Book Design/Production Awards for Best Multimedia Book as well as Best Digital Marketing and Publicity Campaign at Futurebook
The Pocket Penguins website was designed to showcase the simplicity and the quality of the book as an object. The series has a very minimal design which lets the content speak for itself and the website echoes that by putting an extract for each title, emphasising the use of quotes to hook the readers into the rest of the text. To enhance the physical aspect of the series we also include 3D renders of the books with a 360º view. Getting the homepage right was crucial, presenting all the elements we thought were essential to the series in a playful but also reminiscing of high end brands like Apple.
Explore the Pocket Penguins at pocketpenguins.com
The Pocket Penguins website has won two Lovies, one for Best Home/Welcome Page and one for Best Brand Microsite.
A digital narrative that brings to life Carlo Rovelli’s bestselling book Seven Brief Lessons in Physics. The book, which explains our universe and the evolution of physics in seven short, simple lessons, has a striking cover. The website uses the same visual language and crafts a unique interactive animation for each of the chapters. The resulting animations allow readers to experiment with the principles of physics in the most unusual ways, and are accompanied by audio and text extracts to explain what’s happening on screen. At the click of your mouse, particles swirl and undulate, multiply, scatter, disappear and explode, all by the hundreds.
“The site is serious, yet playful, and we think that’s very important. The interactive diagrams offer another level of understanding and playfulness which you can’t get in print.” – It’s Nice That
Discover what the universe has to offer at sevenbrieflessons.com
The Little Black Classics website is now in its second iteration. The first version was an iPod clicking wheel inspired interface which allowed the user to flip through the list of 80 ttiles very swiftly. For the second version, which included 46 more books, we revamped the interface with a familiar bookshelf look, echoing the way these books were presented in bookshops, whilst retaining the original functionality of the first website.
“This is how you sell books in the digital age” — FastCo Design
The first version’s introduction screen
The website was extremely successful in driving pre-orders and was an important point of contact for customers to discover the series.
See the 127 books at littleblackclassics.com
Play the game at default-man.com
Night Zookeeper is a website to help children to be more creative online. It’s a writing tool that takes the shape of a game that students can play and teachers can monitor. Entire lessons, custom or pre-made, can be taught through the website whilst the story, characters and game encourage children to produce their best writing.
Night Zookeeper was nominated for a Children BAFTA award as well as received accolades from The London Book Fair, BETT and Design For Experience.
“My students were able to make a year’s worth of progress in their writing in one term, as a result of their involvement and enthusiasm for Night Zookeeper.” – Emma Cotton, Langham Village Primary School
As one of the founders and Technical Director of Night Zookeeper, I was in charge of full stack development and project management. We built and designed a cross platform client side architecture, hybrid mobile apps all supported by the same API backed by Node.js. I directed and carried out the technical vision of the business, consistently allowing it to move fast, innovate and experiment. To that effect, I was heavily involved in the product design process and user experience, leading student test sessions to come up with features and refine the interface.
Technologies used include Node.js, Hapi, HTML5 Canvas, MongoDB, Backbone.js, CoffeeScript and Phonegap.
I’ve worked on numerous freelance projects of various sizes. Highlights include pelicanbooks.com (maintenance, improvements & new checkout flow), thehappyreader.com (bespoke CMS & magazine subscription backend) and studiojoyride.com the in house agency of The Lad Bible (landing page development).
In the last few years my work has been featured in magazines, on television and radio. Some people have written some very nice things about it too and some even have awarded us prizes. Here’s a short selection.
Guardian, Guardian, BBC World Service, BBC News, New Scientist, It’s Nice That, It’s Nice That, It’s Nice That, Creative Review, FastCo Design , FastCo Design, FastCo Design, The Bookseller, The Bookseller
Nomination, Primary Learning, 2015
Winner, Best in Book, Craft and Technical Innovation, 2017
Winner, Best in Book, Websites, 2017
Winner, Bronze + Popular Vote: Best Home/Welcome Page, 2016
Winner, Bronze + Popular Vote: Best Brand Microsite, 2016
Winner, Best Digital Marketing and Publicity Campaign, 2016
Nomination, Best Digital Marketing and Publicity Campaign, 2015
Winner, British Book Design & Production Awards: Best Multimedia Book, 2016
Winner, Book Marketing Society: Best Multi-Title Campaign, 2016
Winner, Experience for Children, 2013
Finalist, Best In-house Website, App or Campaign, 2015
Commendation, Best User Experience and Usability, 2015