strategic design & innovation

The Digital Future is Already Here

human experience strategic foresight value creation

William Gibson's phrase "the future is already here, its just not evenly distributed" is a personal favourite of mine, currently revived as the tag line of the 2016 Sydney Biennale. And if you want to experience the future, and develop strategic foresight, in my experience, a visit to Japan is always a good start. From fashion or technology, market discovery trips to Tokyo always yielded strong insights.

Last week I had the good fortune to meet Toshiyuki Inoko, the founder of teamLab, the Tokyo based interdisciplinary creative digital studio. I had first come across their mesmerising work at an exhibition in London and eagerly anticipated the opening of their first Australian exhibition*.

What is so innovative about their work? Many are neither pre-recorded animation, nor looped video: they are rendered in real time by complex algorithms generating artworks that never repeat. They are endless. Moreover, they respond to interaction with the viewer. Reach out to catch a butterfly and it disappears from the digital canvas.

sarah leslie the future is already here its just not evenly distributed

Once you've experienced the immersive qualities of these works, you realise you've experienced the future of art. Much is lost in translation to the small screen, but thankfully our conversation was not.

I asked Toshiyuki whether he had set up teamLab as an artist, designer or software engineer, and was not at all surprised when he replied that actually he graduated in Mathematics, but had nurtured a deep interest in art and design.

On graduating he established the collective, drawing together professionals from various fields of digital practice - artists, programmers, engineers, animators, architects, web and print graphic designers and editors. And initially their output was seen as purely commercial - video walls and user interfaces - and the studio seen as a digital solutions company.

Toshiyuki is a firm believer that companies must learn to be more "intuitive and artistic" in their approach because customers increasingly expect products an services of all types to deliver "elegant" experiences.

Sound familiar? Steve Jobs was passionate about calligraphy, a great champion of digital arts, and used his mastery of typography and design to help create a series of products which consumers fell in love with without having ever realised a need for.

Toshiyuki's ambition though was for teamLabs's work to be valued as fine art and in the last few years, this has been realised. Concurrent exhibitions around the world right now from Singapore to California attest to power of digital scale and reach. 

* 'Ultra Subjective Space' continues through April 10 at Martin Browne Contemporary, 15 Hampden Street, Paddington, NSW 2021.

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