In our series of interviews that explores the role of the Creative Technologist, we chatted with Bill Marks, Chief Technology Officer at DPDK, about how technology and creativity intersect.
What does the role of a creative technologist entail?
Creative technologists or developers as we call them at DPDK come in all shapes and sizes. The role isn’t new - creative developers have been around for decades and we’re standing on the shoulders of many brilliant men and women. While it may not seem obvious, technology and creativity go hand in hand. Technology is needed to bring ideas to life, and that’s where a creative technologist comes in. Their role is to develop innovative, technology-based solutions, acting as a bridge between creative ideas and tech. They aren’t afraid to push boundaries to create exceptional digital products and experiences.
To craft memorable experiences that leave a lasting impression on customers, we need to get creative - on every account. True creative environments enable creativity in all layers and processes of the organization, including the tech department. When creativity becomes the guiding principle in a project, it enables teams from different departments and expertise to work together in unison, towards a shared vision. Techies start getting involved in strategy and design, for example, and other team members begin to better understand the technical side of a project. That’s where the magic happens and extraordinary work is produced.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
A solution-oriented mindset is crucial. And of course, a passion for beautiful, pixel-perfect interfaces. Creative technologists are also vocal. They have a heightened sense of aesthetics and feel ownership of the entire creative process.
An important skill to have is knowing which applications, frameworks, and solutions to use in a given project. There are so many options out there that it can be overwhelming. But you don’t have to join a coding club pledging life-long allegiance, like Richard Sheridan describes in his book Joy Inc. For creative technologists, the key lies in mastering the mix: in identifying the right solutions and support for the challenges at hand. It’s kind of like a music producer sitting behind a giant mixer, working out which instruments will be played live in the studio, and which sounds will be pre-recorded. Creative developers work in a similar fashion to achieve maximum impact within time and budget constraints. It’s not about cheating or cutting corners. Instead, it’s about focusing on the parts of the project that will make a real difference.
Where do creative solutions intersect with functional design?
Creativity and functionality intertwine like DNA. In today’s market, combining form and function is no longer optional. Customers expect the best of both worlds. Of course, this wasn’t always the case. I remember the tingle I had from using the first monochromatic touchscreen interface on the very first ATM in town. I was in awe.
On the other hand, younger talent entering the industry have very different frames of reference. Their idea of ‘normal’ already has form and function baked into it. They’re used to sleek designs and seamless experiences across all devices.
Speaking of new normals, I wouldn’t dare estimate the total value of premium collectible sneakers my team owns. Some don’t even wear them - they just keep them as currency. Let me put it this way: I’ve been in developer teams where godliness was measured by how faded your metal band T-shirt is and how long your hair is. Kind of like Cliff Stoll from The Cuckoo’s Egg.
What’s the most challenging aspect of the creative technologist role?
You don’t always have the liberty to go all out and follow your gut. Sometimes, tough decisions need to be made, especially when time and budget constraints are imposed. It can be difficult then to pull out from the original vision. Keeps you wondering what could have been...
How do you see the role expanding with the introduction of the metaverse?
The promise of connecting online worlds isn’t brand new. Lots of people game online and own unique assets like NFTs and skins, so I don’t think the role will change much. I do think that more and more developers will start picking up 3D techniques, and more agencies will dabble in game engines. We might even see developers rebrand to ‘metaverse engineers.’ Just kidding!
Are there any passion projects you’ve worked on that you’d like to share?
We recently worked on an exciting project with Dutch interior brand HKliving. We designed and built an inspiring and future-proof shopping interface. The interface sits on a modern cloud-based platform called BigCommerce and a cloud-based content management system (CMS) named Prismic. The project was definitely challenging, as the website needed to offer a smooth shopping experience while showcasing HKliving’s craftsmanship. The brand is known for their exceptional design, and the website had to reflect that. The project was a true example of combining form and function, and we’re proud of what we delivered.