[photo credit: Marjorie Becker, Chiptography]
With a foundation in programming, design and music Neil Voss, creative technologist at The Moving Picture Company, has always made technology a center point to creativity. With a unique ability to break down creative- and experience-driven problems into practical and beautiful solutions, his past work includes Tetrisphere and The New Tetris for Nintendo 64, Racing Gears Advance for Game Boy Advance and, recently, "The Echo Temple" for Virgin Mobile and Kyocera and "Radballs," a music-driven action puzzle for iOS.
Neil's award-winning portfolio consists of Webby-winning work and a client list that includes Toyota Scion, New York Times, NBC Universal, Microsoft MTV Networks, Bravo, USA, Canon, LG Electronics, 7Up, Vans, BBDO, Publicis and Dentsu.
Accepting The Random Nature of Things
If you have a degree in what field is it? I grew up studying music, design and programming—very much self-taught—and actually ended up quitting college to take a job working with Nintendo.
What’s the best site you've seen lately? What's so great about it? Instagram. Traditional desktop websites are more or less a dying breed and this is a great example of how to make social media meaningful by cutting out the noise and focusing on one of the key things people want to do—share photos from the cameras in their pockets. It does so without the awkward bloat of Flickr or the soapbox focus of sites like Facebook and Twitter.
If you were to change professions, what would you choose to do? Write and produce music.
Design or technology? Which is more important? Why? They should be equally considered but design is more important in the context of creativity. Both are just part of the language of creating things. Technology is a means to an end, but choices in technology can shape ideas and make statements. At the same time, informed design thinking can be a workaround to technical limitations. Ultimately what is most important is that the creative minds behind an idea have full view of the landscape they’re working in and aren’t being blindly influenced by trends or uninformed requirements; this has been a truth of the creative process since people started making things. Politics, logistics, technology and resources all impact creative output, and artists who can consider all of these often conflicting variables, and still manage to make something meaningful, tend to be successful.
From where do your best ideas originate? I can’t pinpoint a precise source, but: late nights, good input, working against barriers.
How do you overcome a creative block? I don’t really get traditional creative block (if that’s defined as a lack of ideas). I have an issue where I have too many things I want to accomplish and have trouble focusing on any one thing enough to move it forward. And then I have this OCD perfectionist side that gets in the way. The best way to deal is to back away and focus on something else entirely.
In one word describe how you feel when beginning a new project. Scared.
What well-known site is most desperately in need of a redesign? Amazon. It’s amazing that a company that powers a majority of innovative startups has such a horrible, piled-on UX sitting in front of their own public-facing products and services. It is the web site equivalent to a hoarder; an odd, seemingly emotional force keeps everything old while the new is caked on top of it. A testament to how screwed-up it is: Despite its music downloads being cheaper and more universal, I can’t think of a single person who prefers it as a download source.
Do you have creative outlets other than web design? Music production, remixing, very unprofessional photography, family.
What music are you listening to right now? Contemporary artists Com Truise, Danger, Noisia, Acid Washed, Daze, George & Jonathan, VHS Head and a bunch of other French producers. But mostly a random stream of late disco, acid house, post-punk, '80s synth wave, computer music and acid house.
What's your approach to balancing work and life? Accepting the random nature of things as best I can and trying to enjoy the moments, in work and life, where the stars seem to align.
What product/gadget can you not live without? I overuse the personal technology at my disposal but I could definitely live without it. The verdict is out as to how much better any of this is making our lives.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve bought online? It’s a trade-off between a world map with a MOOG logo on it and a backpack upgrade for a character in a video game that I didn’t even like.
What’s your favorite quote? “You’ll eat more dirt than that before you’re six feet under.” —Eleanor Benderoth (my grandmother)
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Self-publish.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? Knowing and doing good work is only part of the battle.