My wife will tell you i'm working 24 hours a day, but turning your brain off is just not an option for me. I'm a huge believer in the sub conscious mind problem-solving thing, I'll let a problem simmer in the background for days until its baked itself and suddenly everything is clear and formed, by forming the connections between two factors to create a new solution.
Please give us a brief bio of yourself.
My name is James Deeley and I'm Director of Creative Strategy at Amaze, in the London office. As part of the strategy team my role is to shape business strategy, industry and consumer insights with wider research into big ideas and strategic planning, then work with the creative team to develop the creative direction and technology, delivery and programme teams into project delivery.
I've been working in digital agencies for over 16 years for brands such as adidas, Channel 4, River Island, BBC, American Express, British Airways, Sony PlayStation and co-created JK Rowling's Pottermore experience. Since joining Amaze i've been focusing on developing digital innovation and campaigns for Lexus and ASICS.
What do you do for inspiration?
Watching films, sifting though dusty second hand record shops, wandering round bookshops, travel, visit the coast, go somewhere new, talk to strangers, reading books and comics, looking up instead of at the pavement, continuously trying to change my environment. Deliberately trying to do the opposite of what should be done just to see what happens. Anything that stretches my brain and gives me that creative spark to start a train of thought.
Beer helps too.
Please list 3 of your favourite sites.
I'm a innovation junkie so its all about emerging technologies, new ideas and engaging stories. I'll look over PSFK, The Verge, Springwise or Kickstarter each day for big new ideas. Its Nice That and Fast Company will always feed my inspiration needs, BBC and Pitchfork give me a media fix, and when i need to invest in my ways of creative thinking i'll switch over to Brainpicker, Good.is and 99U.
That's a bit more than three.
What do you regard as being your biggest achievement?
Recently seeing peoples wide eyed reactions to virtual reality experiences, helping organise a near year long campaign that had great success for Lexus, and watching people use digital screens in shops. Longer term, being able to ask JK Rowling to write some stories for a website is up there too.
How many hours do you work each week?
My wife will tell you i'm working 24 hours a day, but turning your brain off is just not an option for me. I'm a huge believer in the sub conscious mind problem-solving thing, I'll let a problem simmer in the background for days until its baked itself and suddenly everything is clear and formed, by forming the connections between two factors to create a new solution. That said, my timesheets usually total about 45 odd hours though.
If you weren't working on the internet what would you be doing?
I'd love to think i'd be a writer or painter, perhaps an old school adventurer. But the reality is probably run a pub in Sheffield and have something to do with local bands.
What's your favourite part of your job? What's the hardest part of your job? What do you do when you get stuck?
The best part of what i do is getting to start with a blank piece of paper, the freedom to be able to throw huge ambitious ideas around, the 'what if' moments where nothing is out of bounds.
The part i love the most is the strategic construction side of projects, where you can build a campaign or experience from the foundations up, adding layers of where you can put new ideas together, how they can connect and feed other ideas, where other experts and very talented people here can take over and add all their parts.
I like to think its a little like sitting behind a mixing desk in a recording studio, adding layers, dialling this bit up, that bit down, add something here, link to something there, until you have something that tells a full story and is ready to push out the door into the big bright world.
The hardest part is keeping all the moving parts on track, and not letting things get too big and out of control. Keep it as simple as you can. When you have loads of moving pieces it can lose shape easily if you're not careful.
We all get stuck, dry up and hit a wall. What works for me is changing environments, moving round, do something different to break your train of thought. Anything to change what isn't helping, certainly the answer is not sitting looking at a screen. And the best thing is to stop thinking about the problem, come back to it after a break and the answer might be obvious.
Beer helps too.
What's the longest you've ever stayed up working on a project?
I once did 40 odd hours straight for a pitch a few years ago at another agency, having to buy clothes in the morning type of scenario. It ended up having all sorts of ideas and digitally ambitious concepts in, a site based on depth rather than horizontal and vertical page layouts, sentient linking up to mobile devices and so on. It was completely silly by the end.
We lost. I then decided that getting some sleep is way better than being slightly out of your mind and winging it and looking like an idiot.
If there are any pivotal experiences/decisions you could point to that helped shape your career, what would they be?
One day i packed my job in a few years ago and decided to travel round the world with just a bag of clothes and an iPod. I learnt a lot and got a whole different way of thinking from trying new things, in new places with new cultures. I came back and decided that i was going to make a career out of this digital stuff.
In terms of software, is there anything new you have been playing with lately or that has impressed you?
At Amaze we're neck deep in the virtual reality world right now, working on our third VR experience for Lexus. We're pushing it and trying to go further each time, now the industry is past the novelty stage, its about what you do with it, how you turn VR into a brilliant consumer experience that has a purpose. We're playing with narratives, plot twists and how we augment the product experience (we're trying to find a way of bringing space travel in).
We're also constantly working on how digital will fit into the physical world too, from in-store tools and interactive experiences, to how apps will feed of data and beacons. We've been working on an in-store digital product advisor proof of concept for ASICS and seeing how this works, then looking to a phase two of development. Elsewhere other teams are working magic with loads of different technologies and platforms too. Its a great time to be experimenting in digital right now.
Has winning FWA awards helped you in any way?
Absolutely, the Amaze team here have won a couple of times and are rightly proud of this. And the client loves it too. Awards given by peers are always something you relish that bit more.
What did your very first site look like? Is it still online?
As an ex-graphic designer, probably like most people it was an early portfolio attempt. It was horribly over thought, loaded with gratuitous black backgrounds, needless rollover graphics and tiny grey text. Bloody terrible now i think back.
The first real client piece of work of any substance was probably a British Airways redesign in the early 2000's. There's probably some obscure pages still out there, hidden down some obscure parts of their site. These days i stick to the thinking and planning side.
Have you written any books, if not do you plan to?
Not yet but i'm a practising phillumenist. I've been collecting match boxes and books from bars, restaurants and brands for years that i'd love to turn into a book. But its getting harder to find any new ones. Either that or a British version of Kramer's coffee table book on coffee tables (I like a good coffee table).
The web is getting out of the web. Do you find that thinking in digital solutions alone hinders you? Do you feel the urge to solve the problem using all mediums necessary?
A good question... For me the next stage of digital is where we start to move away from a sort of 'one size fits all', responsive design world. Lots of people talk about context first, and evolving from content first, and for me this is where it could get interesting in the next year or two. We are dealing with wider and more grown up digital eco-systems everyday now, much more sophisticated clients, so everything cannot and should not do the same thing. Where i am, what i'm doing, what i expect are all important factors to consider in what you provide and what you don't. For me a websites purpose will need to be clearly defined, if i expect self-service, tools, immediacy and connectedness from a mobile or wearable device, then a website should be something else, a place to saviour, take time perhaps.
Digital is increasingly the invisible glue of the modern world, and its set to influence everything, but (and its a big but) its the only thing. We'll still live in a physical world, people still buy books, records, visit shops, fly to places, go running and so on. Its a huge part of the way we live our lives but not the only way.
Either that or we'll be sitting in driverless cars, talking in emoticons, watching fifty newsfeeds on a visors, with clothes that walk for us.
There is perhaps a shift in web use these days. We are seeing a decline in the purely experiential sites in flash with huge production efforts, to a relationship with clients based on tools and services, that many times have simples interfaces. How do you see that trend developing? Will Flash suffer?
Flash has suffered from a number of well known and well documented factors, but i think it will find its 'voice' again pretty soon. Like anything it will be taken up by a whole new breed of digital artists and innovators. Maybe if we start to see websites as places to learn, take time, step inside something, then perhaps Flash will be the way of creating these experiences.
If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring FWA award submitter, what advice would you give them?
Always challenge a brief, and demand to know what success looks like.
Never accept 'good enough'.
Always demand that creative people present creative work.
Never trust anyone who has a job title with Ninja or Guru in.
Avoid bandwagons (remember brands rushing to Second Life?)
Take a big deep breath, plan what you need to say and then say it, don't leave a meeting or presentation thinking 'should have'.
Take inspiration from everything, that thing that will help you design a website is very unlikely to only be someone else's website design.
Invest in your head and soul: read more, watch more, listen to more, explore more, play more, eat more. As Einstein said 'there is nothing that is a more certain sign of insanity than to do the same thing over and over and expect the results to be different'.
Enjoy yourself, you could have ended up being an accountant or cleaning toilets.
There must be a project that you have always dreamed of doing, what is it?
I've always had an idea on recreating the history of the world's iconic cities, such as London, New York Paris and so on. Telling the story from the beginning to present day, it would explore all the sub stories, leading characters, major events and iconic buildings. I imagine it to be almost an open ended game like experience where you could wander the streets and follow someones life digitally. Absolutely no idea who would want to pay for it though!
A more recent one would be recreate landmark band concerts from history in virtual reality. Imagine seeing The Doors at Whiskey a GoGo, Beatles on Saville Row rooftops, MC5 playing Detroit's Grande Ballroom, The Clash at the 100 club, and so on.
What are you excited about learning next and is there a long term challenge you are considering tackling?
A number of things: wearable technology and the intersection between digital and physical, the growth in virtual reality, the maturing augmented reality, and the untapped potential of experiential audio.
We're fortunate to have clients, such as Lexus and ASICS, who get the need to innovate, its one of the best things about working with a client for a long time: they look at you as a partner, trust in your judgement and will come with you. This has helped make VR part of the Amaze toolkit now, and the more we play with it the more we want to go one step further each time. I'm fortunate too in that I can work alongside some very talented and imaginative people here, so there's plenty of possibilities.
The way wearable technology will develop in the next few years is where i get excited too, its not going to be lumps of plastic but the fabric weaves, and the way it interacts with ambient technology.
What i want to start to play around with next is how we can create audio experiences, its largely a secondary thought today but its a massive opportunity.
What is the most expensive thing you have bought in the last week?
James Brown's Black Caesar Soundtrack LP, mint condition, from Discogs.
What type of overcoat do you wear when Flashing, basically are you a labels man?
I've spent most of the winter in an lovely Oliver Spencer Grandpa overcoat. I think its got a lot of flashing potential.
Should you be that way inclined of course.
Any parting shots or pearls of wisdom?
"Magic is sometimes very close to nothing at all. Nothing at all." Zinedine Zidane
It has been a privilege, thanks very much
Pleasure, enjoyed it.