Creative technologist Dan Adeyemi on blending coding, design and digital art
As a child, taking computers apart and putting them back together was creative technologist Dan Adeyemi’s playground. Combining his interest in music, digital art and computers, the Creative Computing degree course at Goldsmiths made the perfect match for his interests, and solidified his nascent career path, designing for web and mobile platforms. Bravely forging space for himself in the uncharted territory, Dan moved into a niche area of digital design, writing code for interactive publishing projects with Vogue or scripting bots to use on Facebook. Collaborating with editors, writers, graphic designers and photographers, Dan’s job is to find new ways of breathing fresh life into digital content: “At the end of the day, it’s me interpreting what you want to do through my gaze.” We caught up with Dan to find out more about creating his own job role within the constantly shifting digital sphere, and what happens when the ever-expanding orbits of coding and design collide.
Freelance Creative Technologist
Re-bel Magazine, Isabelle Sayer, ShortList Media, KK Obi, Net-a-Porter, Dazed Media
Interactive Developer, Condé Nast International (2017–2018)
Creative Technologist, ShortList Media (2015–2017)
Junior Front End Web Developer, Dazed Group (2014–2015)
Junior Web Producer, Net-a-Porter Group (2013–2014)
BSc Creative Computing, Goldsmiths College, University of London (2009–2013)
How would you describe what you do?
I guess I’m a creative technologist. I’ve always been in the middle of coding, technology and design. My job is also very much about thinking and coming up with ideas. I can see a page or be given a design and I’ll code it into a website or something interactive. I also do a lot of design work, prototyping, wireframing, thinking of how things will look on a webpage or mobile, or even look in the real world.
I just became freelance, but before that I was at Condé Nast International, which takes care of every Condé Nast market, minus the US. I was part of the editorial team of Vogue International, working as an interactive developer/designer. We were a very small team, like two people, and our role was to elevate what you can do in terms of digital within journalism and editorial at Vogue. I specialised in making interactive long-form articles and experimenting with new technologies, such as the the Amazon Alexa.
What does a typical working day look like?
I wake up in the morning and read – either a book or just looking around the web at the latest stuff in tech and in the news. Then, I think about what I can pinpoint, put into action and use in my work. How can I spin this into something interactive or something that can be published in a new way? From there, it’s about actually doing it. I open up my computer and go.
What tools do you use most for your work?
I use Sublime Text for writing down the code, and do most of my web work in React. For design work, I normally use Sketch to line things up and see what they’ll look like before I start coding.
How collaborative is your work?
What I do has to be collaborative or it doesn’t work. To make interactive articles, I’ll sit down with editors and writers and participate in commissioning photographers or videographers. For example, with a photo editor, I might say, “I’m thinking about placing this photo here, making this strange effect – what do you think?” And when I’m freelancing with magazines and visual artists, I’ll sit with the artist or graphic designer and ask, “What’s your idea behind this? How do you feel?” and I’ll interpret that into a site.
“What I do has to be collaborative or it doesn’t work.”
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
Last year we did a project with Vogue Spain – it was me, a UX designer and another developer. We studied the ways that people look at trends online – both on mobile and desktop – and created a new interactive format for this [see above]. We worked quite closely with their editorial team to redesign what a trend outlook should look like – no longer having 100 trends or images on the page, but only 20 or 25, and let people interact with them in this manner.
What skills are essential to your job?
Analytical skills, and being aware of what’s going on in the web, like keeping up to date with all new technologies. Then also people skills – I have to know how to speak to people and explain what I do in a manner that everyone can understand, not being too coder-y, developer-y or designer-y about it. Being able to make things accessible is key to what I do.
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
I always wanted to be a musician or an artist growing up. I made music for a bit and ran a record label for about three years. But then, I always had fun with computers. My dad was very much into computers and would always have them around the house. He was always encouraging me to take computers apart, put them together and just mess about with things.
I also went through a very strange phase for a year or two of wanting to be a politician, I don’t know why. I thought I wanted to go to Oxford and do a PPE, but that dream died quickly.
How is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
I did a course at Goldsmiths called Creative Computing, which was half computer science, half art. I was heavily into digital art at the time, so I was creating loads of digital art works and exhibiting them. It gave me core skills in programming, and also informed my thought process. I was lucky, as I don’t think I could have done this anywhere else. My dissertation wasn’t even a computer science dissertation; it was pretty much a philosophy piece. Their computing course was pretty good, but I feel I really learned more about coding afterwards. For me, coding has always been a vehicle to get to something else, like creating artwork.
“Never be afraid to fail. If this doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out – that’s fine.”
Is your job what you thought it would be?
No, I think the hybrid nature of what I do was something I didn’t expect when I started. However as time has gone by, it makes perfect sense for it to be like this. The idea of having a set of skills and finding a way to apply them to numerous things is amazing. In my career, I’ve been a designer, a developer and a creator and everything else in-between.
What would you like to do next?
The next step is to live the freelance life full-time, as well as completing some personal projects I’ve had on the back burner for a while.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to do similar work?
Never be afraid to fail. If this doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out – that’s fine. It’s helped me to say, “You know what, I’m going to do this because I’ve got an idea, so I’m just going to try it.”
Interview by Arielle Bier
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