Head of Relationships
I’m the resident head of comms and partnerships here at Draw & Code. I work on strategy, sales, marketing and other vital areas at a studio that was founded on a dream and has spent the intervening decade trying to make that dream come true. I believe that immersive and interactive technologies are impacting on our lives and being in the epicentre of this industry makes every day a thrill.
We were founded with innovation in mind, it drives us, so it's etched into our company DNA.
Describe in 50 words what draw and code does
At Draw & Code we master emerging technologies to allow brands, artists and organisations to tell stories, engage audiences or to make lives better.
What is draw and code really good at?
Understanding the big picture – that is one of our strengths. To give it the proper parlance, we excel at UX design thinking that is borne from experience.
Draw & Code is the ideal blend of innovators and realists, we have the confidence and experience to push the technology hard but we never lose sight of the audience or aims of the project.
After working on so many immersive projects we are one of the most prolific companies of our kind so it puts us in a really good place to offer design and development services to a very varied array of clients.
Describe the difference between the immersive technologies you deploy
It’s common in our industry to talk about the XR spectrum.
This is the idea that all AR and VR experiences are similar but it’s the degree of immersion that defines each.
I like to think of immersive as a technique rather than a technology.
Projection mapping onto walls puts you in the centre of a digital environment, just like VR does – but the two technologies are miles apart.
Equally, augmented reality is about putting digital content into the real world, but could you argue that this is similar to Mary Poppins, Roger Rabbit or just about any green screen Hollywood blockbuster? So on that basis, virtual reality puts you inside a digital world, augmented reality puts digital content into your real world and everything else is somewhere in-between!
Whats the best use of Immersive tech you have ever seen?
Can we bang our own drum here? OK, good. I think one particular part of the China’s First Emperor and The Terracotta Warriors exhibition that Draw & Code worked on with NML (National Museums Liverpool) stands out.
We led the immersive content throughout the event and the brief was to make this spectacular yet truly accessible.
At the exhibition’s conclusion was a recreation of the Emperor’s Tomb. This was made using the old school movie-making technique of a false-perspective set paired with some delightful projection mapped animation.
It all combined to make something that was clearly physical and really there but also felt like you were peering into a 3D model on a screen.
It translated so well from our original all-digital mock-up into real life. And all without a headset to be seen!
What type of projects do you really enjoy working on?
The best thing about working at Draw & Code is the variety of our work. I enjoy applying our experience to new sectors and projects, I think I’d have to say that my ideal project is seeing a new concept being worked up for a client. The concepting stage is so exciting.
Apart from Draw & Code who else is at the top of their game?
We benchmark companies including those in other adjacent sectors and personally I take a great deal of inspiration from Pixar.
We all know Toy Story, but many people don’t realise that in their earlier incarnation Pixar were a work-for-hire studio and they also developed technology products used by the wider animation industry.
I think this combination of creative, commercial and innovation is a heady mix.
What are the best industry uses for immersive tech?
I can give you a use case for XR in just about any industry you care to mention!
Games is clearly at the heart of what the technology is, so that is an extremely neat fit.
Architectural visualisation is a very natural bedfellow for immersive as it is all about visualising spaces and making them feel real.
However, I think immersive in arts and culture has become such a predominant trend.
It feels like it’s no longer enough to be passive or distant in arts venues, now you have to feel like you are within the artists’ vision or able to have agency in the experience.
In the early days of Draw & Code arts and theatre were the first sectors we looked into applying our talents within and it’s a vindication to see them working so well.
We have AR, VR, XR, MR - Can we expect anymore or are we going to see a more organised structure develop?
I think XR was such a catch-all we don’t need another ‘R’! Unless someone finds a term that mixes AI with an XR-related term, maybe that will become a buzzy new space. Generative reality? How about that?
Where do you see the industry going in the next 3-5 years?
Immersive is such a broad church. A beauty filter on SnapChat or a projection on the Burj Khalifa, it’s all immersive! AI will seep into games, most notably in making more natural and spontaneous non-player content and characters. AI assistants meeting AR truly useful and useable AR glasses would be further out, but it’s on the horizon too.
Which project past or present are you most proud of, whats your go to case study to show off?
Aside from the Terracotta Warriors project, our work with Mercedes-Benz was a highlight. When we talk about the XR spectrum, this was a single project that covered all of it. A mobile AR app, a 360 VR motion-platform experience and a spectacular physical city set that was brought to life using Magic Leap mixed reality glasses. It was such a comprehensive and bold project.
Whats the best industry event/expo?
Without hesitation, it’s AWE – the Augmented World Expo. This is where the XR industry comes to meet and get inspired. It’s proved pivotal for Draw & Code too – some of our most innovative projects have been showcased here and long-lasting relationships have started on that show floor.
What online resources do you use to help you do your job?
As it’s all about reading the news and following trends for me rather than using tools online. Twitter and Linkedin are good starting points. Beyond that, there are some really good specialist news and opinion sources; relevant Forbes writers, AR Insider, Road To VR and plenty more.
How do you keep your technology skills current?
For my role it’s less about my skills being current and more about keeping up with trends. Knowing where we are going next and what areas of technology our clients are likely to be interested in over the coming months is vital. Happily I don’t have to do this alone, I’m surrounded by people who are always feeding me inspiration and information.
What strengths do you think are most important in your role?
For my role it’s less about my skills being current and more about keeping up with trends. Knowing where we are going next and what areas of technology our clients are likely to be interested in over the coming months is vital.
Happily I don’t have to do this alone, I’m surrounded by people who are always feeding me inspiration and information.
What are your favorite and least favorite immersive technology products, and why?
Least favourite is so easy to answer – Nintendo’s Virtual Boy. It’s the opposite of what makes good VR in every possible way. And it doesn’t feel like it should have come from Nintendo at all. VR replaces the right stick in games – your head moves the camera.
So the idea of a desk-mounted headset which doesn’t move is utter insanity. That’s before you get to the colour, or lack of it.
It’s VR made by people who have zero concept of what VR is. It’s sole saving grace is that it has a game called Nester’s Funky Bowling, which is a dynamite name.
How do you think technology advances will impact your job?
AI marches on and will impact many jobs, mine included. However, there is still enough nuance in comms that you can spot the use of AI a mile away, so it’s not time to hand over the reigns to the machines just yet.
In a more specific sense, technology advances always impact me as my job involves communicating them. So even if I eschewed new tools to help me do my job, I’ll still need to get my head into advances in tech.
What does Draw & Code do to stay on the cutting edge of innovation?
We were founded with innovation in mind, it drives us, so it’s etched into our company DNA. However, we are now dedicating a specific arm of the business to innovation – Draw & Code Labs. This is an EU-based team that are tasked with R&D, product development and consulting.
What do you love about working here?
A lot of things! Being around creative people, meeting partners and clients from all walks of life, playing with new tech – it’s all brilliant. If I had to be pinned down on a single thing then getting to explore the possibilities of new technology is the one.
By this I mean working out how brand new hardware and software can be used, thinking about who it will benefit or what happens when we integrate it with other existing technologies.
At those early stages it feels like anything is possible and that is such a buzz to be a part of.
Phil's Fun Fact
In a former life I would DJ around the country and occassionally further afield; I’ve even played on a moving steam train!