What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received yourself?
I’m going to cheat and repeat what my mentor Alan Livingston told me a number of years ago: “Christopher, you’re a designer of minds….”
Until that point I’d never considered education as a design challenge. Of course, Alan was right (that’s why he has a CBE).
Education has huge potential to change people fundamentally, altering the trajectory of their lives. Understanding that is incredibly empowering. When others parrot: “Those who can, do. Those who can’t, teach.” I want to take them to one side and firmly, but politely inform them that they are sorely lacking in intelligence.
I love teaching and I’ve loved my time at Belfast School of Art, but I feel that education needs to move beyond universities.
Universities are archaic institutions that move at far too glacial a pace and are, sadly, burdened by ridiculous politics. I’m more than a little tired of the politics, which — frustratingly — impedes what should be the core focus: changing lives.
There is huge potential to disrupt education and I believe that disruption needs to take place. Watch this space.
You’re not only an educator, mentor and writer, you’re also an active designer. What are your favourite tools and why?
My primary tools are pens and paper. Tools change (in this day and age increasingly rapidly). Understanding how to communicate through drawing, however, is a skill that will stand the test of time.
Look at Leonardo da Vinci’s sketchbooks. They’re hundreds of years old and they are still incredibly potent.
If I could suggest one area to develop skills in, it would be drawing. When I meet a client, I always bring a sketchbook and I usually find that the answer to their problems lies in my initial sketches.
Tools like Sketch, InVision and Keynote are — of course — important to me to convey a higher sense of fidelity, but if I had to choose, it would be pens and paper every time. Don’t just take my word for it, Khoi Vinh’s research on this speaks volumes.
Why has Belfast such a vibrant web community?
We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Andy McMillan. His vision — establishing Build — really helped to put Belfast on the map internationally and without that conference we wouldn’t be where we are today.
I still remember meeting him many years ago when he outlined his plans to me. I thought he was crazy, but I admired his ambition.
His single-minded sense of purpose and his ruthless attention to detail saw Build move from taking eight months to sell out in its first year to selling out in a mere one hour and eight minutes in its third. That alone is evidence of the impact of Build, not just locally, but further afield.
I was sad when Andy decided to move to the United States, and I thoroughly miss our conversations over a pint or two of Guinness in The Duke of York.
I have, in a small way, tried to build on his legacy, helped by an intensely passionate community.
I feel incredibly fortunate to live in Belfast, I couldn’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be. Though I’m not from here, I’m proud to call Belfast my home.
What can people expect to take away from your talk at Pixel Pioneers?
I hope they’ll leave the talk inspired and ready to conquer the world.
We’re fortunate to be living in an incredibly exciting time and — though our industry is accelerating forwards, headlong — the opportunities it presents are nothing short of incredible.
I’ll be talking about the tremendous opportunities that we have as designers living and working in a ‘connected era’. The future, where we design increasingly complex interactions between hardware and software, is full of potential and I’m excited to be exploring that potential.
I’ll share a vision for the future that I believe is within our grasp, if we choose to reach for it. I’ll lay down a challenge to us all — as designers, as builders — to use our skills to effect change and, in so doing, shape and transform the world we live in.
Christopher Murphy will open Pixel Pioneers Belfast on 16 November. He will be followed by Harry Roberts and Eva-Lotta Lamm (who will also run workshops on Front-End Performance and Sketching Interfaces on 17 November), as well as Laura Elizabeth, Una Kravets, Sharon Steed, Sareh Heidari, and Chris Armstrong.
Tickets are still available, but workshop spaces are limited — reserve yours now.
Photography by David Pauley.