Rob Peart Talks All Things Digital at Kinneir Dufort


With digital continuing to play such a pivotal role in the design world, we thought who better than one of our latest appointments, Rob Peart, to share some thoughts on the convergence of digital and physical; where the future may take us; and how he's finding his new role at KD...


What are your thoughts on the convergence of physical and digital in delivering engaging experiences?

For me, working with digital technologies is about opening up connections between things. Thinking broadly about the work in terms of creating objective, emotional and informational relationships that couldn't have existed beforehand, helps to overcome the limitations of thinking just in terms of the physical and digital. From ultra-bespoke, luxury product customisation, driven by digital fabrication, through to immersive worlds that engage all of the senses, the possibilities for creating compelling and engaging applications are almost endless. 

When engagement comes from the way experiences are tailored to individuals, challenges arise in establishing where the boundaries of responsibility lie. It's important to me that both physical and digital avoid becoming isolated from one another, and use digital technologies to sustain human connections and common ground.


 What do you think are the most interesting developments in recent technology that will enable enhanced engagement and relevance for society in the future?

The recent progress made in the machine learning field suggests that it's this area of technology that will have the biggest impact on how we live in future. Intelligent infrastructure and service technology will mean we interact with our environment in radically different ways to how we do now. Our environments will even start to look totally different and our visual environment is inherently shaped by the way we interact with it - as new forms of interaction develop, so too will new forms of visual language. Each change may seem small; shifting from a traditional remote control to using our voices to operate the TV, or being transported in a car that drives itself instead of us driving it - the result is that our perception of our own time and responsibility shifts significantly, altering our relationship with our environment, and ultimately, each other.


How do you think design conversations with our clients will change over the coming years as technology develops?

I've talked a little about this before, regarding the threat to graphic designers by automation. Many of our clients will be looking to further automate or digitise the processes that their businesses run on, and many of our own processes may become automated too.

Digital is about opening up connections, and as computational power and software capability increases, there may be no need to involve human moderators in many of these interactions. I hope there will be more conversations about contextualising our own position in the world, and how we can make use of digital technologies to develop more sustainable methods of production, distribution and energy creation. 


When thinking about your recent experiences joining the team at KD, what do you see as the major benefits in having expert disciplines, all under one roof?

One of the challenges around working in digital is coming up with useful applications that serve a genuine need and with almost endless possibilities it can often be hard to focus. Having such a wealth of experience in the company brings to light opportunities that I would never have discovered otherwise. We have already been discussing opportunities for VR to serve needs in healthcare and industrial design, and I'm only 3 weeks in, so that's exciting.

Alongside that breadth of experience, having deep technical knowledge of the regulatory process will help us overcome many of the barriers that digital agencies face when developing applications in the healthcare space. Having had frustrating experiences in this area before when developing mobile applications, this should really help us get valuable utility into the hands of patients where it's needed.


 How do you think the product design industry should adapt to the increased digital, virtual or non-tangible nature of our everyday interactions?

I’d say that, as a digital designer, there is a great deal that can be achieved by thinking about whole-product experiences: how to integrate digital touchpoints, with texture, form-factor and interaction to not only create functional value, but also to imbue emotion and connection. 

We're entering a phase of interaction that has less-well established patterns than we're used to. Web and mobile have significant links to physical interactions, albeit somewhat abstracted: button presses, swipes, slides and tilts all have links to the physical world. Computer vision, language processing and touchless haptic feedback technologies mean we're now able to interact with our environment without needing to physically touch it. Many of the techniques product designers use to communicate might not be available to them all of the time, which means they'll have to find other ways to communicate. In addition to that, there's a real need for all of us to develop interaction patterns that users can pick up quickly and easily, and that become second nature.