What does a Creative Technologist do?
Date posted: 5th Aug 2014
You don’t have to be a recruitment professional to realise that the term ‘Creative Technologist’ is one that’s seen its stock grow over recent months and years. As the technology world continues to grow and become part of our everyday lives (not just working environments), the need for it to embrace creativity is paramount.
Creative Technologists (CT) are in high demand and we asked former Head of Creative Operations at Kitcatt Nohr Darren Fernee to share his insights into what it is a Creative Technologist does.
What are the day-to-day tasks?
Anyone thinking of becoming a CT will first want to ascertain what a typical day will involve. After all, it’s one thing to follow a career path because you have the relevant skills or interests, but you still need to know what the work will actually be like before any serious decisions are made.
Distilling the role down into one sentence, Darren explained: “The overall mission of a CT is to push creative thinking into something more technically creative.”
Going into more detail, CTs need to offer a technical solution that will improve creative output, by using their in-depth knowledge of the technology available today. For this, of course, CTs need not only be creatively minded, but also have their finger on the pulse of all new tech developments. This marrying of the learned and innate is what makes for a successful creative technologist.
Explaining further, Fernee noted: “A typical tech role is building to specifications. A typical creative role will provide a visual concept solution. A CT should be proficient in both. Some people are naturally creative - with the ability to know what looks right. Some are born with a natural ability to take things to bits and reconnect. It’s finding that blend of both.”
Another part of any CT’s day, Darren said, was simply asking questions. “Is it possible? Can it work on all browsers? Will this work responsively? Should I get the whole site to react? What would make this technically advanced?” These are all questions that CTs could well ask themselves on a regular basis.
What about personal attributes?
A CT role (or any role, for that matter) is as much about a person’s attributes as it is their skills and experience. After all, there’s no point being a creative and technological genius - for example - if you lack the skills to articulate this effectively to the wider team or public.
On this exact subject, Darren said: “Evangelising digital through the agency is important. So too is enhancing the understanding and utilisation of digital, sharing the secrets and highlighting areas of thinking outside the box.”
This should also reach the new workers, with CTs being guru-type figures for the ‘young blood’. Simple advice on approaching builds with creativity in mind will help immeasurably, as will the kinds of simple tricks that come as second nature when you’ve been in the job a long time. Tricks, Darren explained, like a graduated shadow holding a tick box that can “make all the difference.”
These attributes don’t start and end with co-workers, though, as this information also needs to be relayed to clients.
“A CT should be comfortable in front of clients - just as much as fellow colleagues,” Darren noted. “The best CTs possess an ability to explain tough technical briefs and add a creative feel to them. They can jump from visual demonstrations to simplifying technical jargon with ease.”
The most exciting aspect about being a CT he noted was the agile way of working. Currently, the role is still relatively new and one that most people are trying to get their heads around. All this means that the CT is called on to help whatever team or department most needs them at any one time.
“I believe the role is yet to be typically defined,” he said. “I feel this is part of the fun.”
How much does it differ from agency to agency?
No two people are identical, and no two CT roles are the same either. Depending on the agency in question, the individual worker, or their goals and objectives, the role could be very varied indeed.
Much of this, Darren said, can be attributed to the CT’s experience. An agency looking to take their first steps into the creative technology world would be expected to require the style of a junior (and the pay packet to match). Any that really embrace it, meanwhile, would probably be looking for someone with a bit more experience to really drive their ambitions.
Are CTs as polarising as some people suggest?
If certain sources are to be believed, the CT professional doesn’t always have a smooth ride. It’s been said that CTs have the much-fabled ‘Marmite effect’.
“People love ‘em or hate ‘em!” Darren noted. “Some agencies believe that having creative and tech communicating will work just fine. Others believe it just created another chief, which can upset the hierarchy applecart.”
It’s largely because a knowledge of both technology and creativity leads some CTs to be viewed with a degree of suspicion. Someone who can sit happily between two specialities that have long been viewed as somewhat disparate is likely to be deemed too powerful. “I dare to suggest politics doesn’t occur in agencies!” Darren joked.
Much of this could be attributed to a fear of the creative technologist. In today’s blisteringly fast-paced tech world, tasks and outcomes are changing at a rate never before seen. Flow and adaptability are required more than ever before.
On the subject of this quickly changing world, Darren noted that the typical agency setup may now be redundant. Previously, a typical setup could involve “strategy, creative, build, client’. Now, he explained, there are professionals for each stage, making the new potential order: Creative Strategists, Creative Technologists, UX (user experience) and Build.
Of course, with the CT role still being a new and fluid one, there’s potential for it to change even more over the coming years. As it stands, though, it’s an exciting career to be in and a good time to get involved. CTs may well have the ‘Marmite effect’ now, but that won’t last forever.