Fearless - Ep 11: "The Designer" - Nick Scappaticci

"The Designer"

"We have a responsibility as designers to really understand the human condition."

Nick Scappaticci is one of the founders of Tellart - an experience design company. The experiences they create for their clients range from the playful to the provocative. From the magical to the mind-bending. 

Nick and I talked about what defines 'experience design', the environment in which it flourishes, the art of attracting and unlocking a diverse eco-system of talent and the key to turning ideas into physical expressions that live in the real world.

Three Takeaways

  • Openness to where the idea can come from, or might come from - the art of not being precious.
  • Respect for and appreciation for the power of technology, without being in love with any specific element of it, which engenders a willingness to use it or ignore it, depending on the need.
  • The willingness to give people room to figure out what they can do and encourage them towards it and then help them when they stumble or find their own limitations.


Episode 11: Nick Scappaticci

Charles:                                   Hello. You're listening to Fearless, where we explore the art and science of leading creativity, an unpredictable and more valuable resource critical to every modern business. Each week, we talk to leaders of the world's most disruptive companies. How they're jumping in to the fire, crossing the chasm and blowing up the status quo. Leaders who've mastered the art of turning the impossible in to the profitable. So stay tuned, because in the next half hour, anything could happen.

Creativity, by some measurements, requires unleashing chaos. Blow up the rules, so that originality can flourish. But in other cases, it's the application of rules and disciplines, that produces the environment in which creative thinking can be at its awe inspiring, problem solving best. In many ways, design is the embodiment of that environment. Design has become one of those terms used with increasing regularity, across the creative industries. Sometime insightfully, sometimes not. Design as a discipline manifests through so many prisms. Graphic, UX, system, product and increasingly, experience.

The introduction of the word itself suggests a plan, a method, a process, a discipline. It's practitioners are known for seeing the world in details the rest of us miss, in our fractures, fast paced obliviousness to the way the world actually works. And yet, as with all powerful and impactful expressions of creativity, the very act of designing requires an openness and exploration to possibility. To trial, and therefore, to error. The precision and elegance of the final outcome are only released by a willingness to unleash mess and uncertainty. A few years ago, when I was unleashing chaos in my own life, be deciding to sell the company Chris and I had conceived and built, in order to find out what else we were capable of. I met Nick Scappaticci. Nic had recently embarked on his own journey, to build a company that reflected his view of the world. Today, that company has become an icon for creativity come to life. Literally.

If you go on the TellArt website, you'll see what I mean. TellArt is an experience design company. And the experiences they create for their clients range from the playful, to the provocative. From the magical, to the mind bending. Nick and I sat down and talked recently about what defines experience design, the environment in which it flourishes, the art of attracting and unlocking a diverse ecosystem of talent and the key to turning ideas in to physical expressions that live in the real world.

Nick, welcome to the show. Thanks for being here.

Nick Scappaticci:               Thank you for having me.

Charles:                                   So you are one of the founders of Tell Art, a company that, on your website is described as experience designers for engaging with the world in new and transformative ways. What is an experience designer?

Nick Scappaticci:               Experience design is really looking at the whole experience of a use of a product, service, installation, exhibition. It's the what happens before, what happens during and what happens after. And that experience touches on all the sense. We're not just talking about an Ipad with an app on it. We're talking about the thing that holds the Ipad, the how that Ipad is connected to the floor, the kind of content around that Ipad, the lighting in the room, the sound, the temperature of the room. Everything that really touches on someone's understanding of what immersive space they're in. What kind of story is being told? Really painting the picture with technology, and design, to create, to kind of sweep people away, in to a new world, in to a new space. And so the experience is really everything. It's considering all part. And in to the depth of how it touches people emotionally.

Charles:                                   So how did you get in to that?

Nick Scappaticci:               Well, me ... Tell Art was started in 2000. Matt [Cottomb 00:04:20], the other co-founder and myself were just out of [Risdy 00:04:23], and my draw to this kind of work really started even before college, and even before ... When I was in high school, kind of interested in theater. And I did a lot of theater. And for the most of the time, it was kind of following under my older brother's kind of track. And he was kind of doing a lot of the technical stuff, behind the theater. And so, I got involved with the back stage of how to operate the sound, and how to create lighting. And then I was looking onstage one day and I'm like, "I kinda want to be out there. I want to see what it's like on stage. I want to create these worlds for people." They required me to do some song and dance, which I was slightly uncomfortable with, but I got over it pretty quickly.

But that kind of immersion in theater, in combination with my interest I architecture, 'cause I was doing some ind of vocational training through my school, and art and design. And kind of that went in to Risdy. Matt and I actually met in a class at Risdy, called the Cabaret, which is a, it was a theater design class, where the students would gather with a director that the school chose, and would put on a performance. They would help to kind of write the performance, they would create the stage, they would kind of work out the characters. We would be acting in it, we would be developing the props. And this kind of idea that creating kind of a story around object, creating a kind of an environment that these things that we're using live in and painting that whole world, was as much a part about communicating the kind of importance of that product, and the usefulness of that product, as the product itself.

TellArt started in 2000, kind of the name Tell Art means the art of story telling. And while we were working in the web, doing kind of information design, we then kind of evolved and started working with physical computing. All of, the whole thread of I think our portfolio and our work, up until this day, is really about understanding the question and telling a really compelling story, through object and through experiences.

Charles:                                   You said you're based out of RISD, came out of RISD. What did you study at RISD that gave you some of the platforms for this?

Nick Scappaticci:               The department that I graduated from was the industrial design department, which is a kind of more tradition kind of design of product kind of course curriculum. And while we were in shops, using wood and kind of blades, we were doing kind of metal work, we learned how to draw product renderings. Really the basis for the program is really about thinking, and it's about how to solve problems. How to use design to solve problems. To kind of understand your constraints, understand the affordances of the materials you have, understand the people that you're doing it for. It's not very different than what we do, because we're a human centric kind of design, experience design group. And while we, you can look at our portfolio and maybe it feels slightly kind of far out there, and some kind of strange, utopian future work that we're doing, all of it is rooted in a kind of traditional practice of design. And while we're borrowing things from other methodologies, whether it be design thinking or future studies, it comes back to understanding your audience, understanding the questions and using time and object as a way to explore conversations.

Charles:                                   Do you think all designers is intended to solve problems? I mean, obviously there's lots of kinds of design, but from your perspective, your experience? Is that where design is at its strongest?

Nick Scappaticci:               Some design creates problems But that might be the point. I think design can mostly, is mostly used to solve problems, and create efficiencies. Maybe some design is trying to kind of create solutions for problems we didn't know we had, like carrying the internet around in your pocket, but all of a sudden, it becomes the most useful thing, and we can't live without it anymore. So it's a powerful way to approach problems. And I think that we have a responsibility as designers to really understand the human condition and understand what is truly needed in our world, and make sure that we can kind of go beyond the stuff we put between us and really utilize that stuff to create better connections between the humans on either side of it.

Charles:                                   Does design have to start with a problem?

Nick Scappaticci:               No. No, I mean it can, there can be a really broken solution, that you're trying to kind of unpack and understand. There is plenty of solutions out there that probably need better design. Everywhere from the government to our school systems. Transportation. There's a lot of existing infrastructure out there that I think may be incorporating design in to the way that they're trying to go about engineering solutions, might maybe produce some more efficient and maybe some better solutions.

Charles:                                   I'm interested, when you focus on experience design, what are the skills that you need to bring together, to be able to provide those kinds of answers?

Nick Scappaticci:               Well our studio, and we have offices in Providence, Rhode Island and here in New York. In Berkeley, California. In Amsterdam and in Dubai. And we have some pretty standard, kind of the standard arrangement of skills that one would see at a design group, where there are people who are focused on kind of visual design. People who are more strategic in their design thinking. People that are more on the engineering side, more technically creative. But, those people, it's important that when we look at individuals coming in to our organization, it's not necessarily about those hard skills. It's about their kind of character, and it's the softer things about their personalities that need to come together, in order to kind of appreciate the subtle qualities that I think a lot of experience design needs. And you're talking about individuals that are in our organizations that have music backgrounds and they can speak seven different languages and they're interested in, I don't know, like some of them are kind avid bikers. They have all of these interests that I think may not necessarily relate to our job, but I think perspective coming in to the kind of power work in a way, that can create this very kind of diverse set of solutions.

Charles:                                   What strikes me about that is, that you're saying that the personality of the person is every bit as important as the individual disciplines.

Nick Scappaticci:               Yeah. Yeah, and that's ... My work and the work that I do, while I'm probably a bit more removed from the execution, it's really about the kind of empowering and enabling of those personalities to work well within a team, but also be able to kind of blossom and elevate professionally for themselves, and we kind of capture that excitement, in our work I think.

Charles:                                   And how do you do that, as a leader?

Nick Scappaticci:               Yeah, that's just kind of, just kind of take a step back. Yeah, most of the time it's really, there's lots of different ways I think to lead an organization and to lead people, right? And Matt and I have probably very different styles of doing it. And I think both effective in our own way. And my approach is probably more of that of like a head coach of a team, than someone who's the quarterback. And I think in that, you have to kind of develop a kind of real understanding of the capacity of the individuals within each position and what they, not are capable of doing, but what they might be capable of. And understand where that difference is. And giving them opportunities to kind of reach in to those unknown space, but have a team around them to support that gray area they're exploring, so that there's a little bit of kind of I guess blurry lines in between the way in which a lot of our team operates and there's a lot of support going back and forth, to kind of help everyone really kind of grow together. Right?

And so if you look at growth as a kind of team wide experiment, not just an individualized experiment, you kind of have enough of a support structure around individuals, to allow them to kind of stretch and tear some muscles and regrow and learn. And maybe it might feel like a bit of, I didn't quite do that as well as I could, but with some kind of post mortems and with some kind of conversation about where they could've done better or where they might want to go next, based on that experience, is important. I think kind of being transparent about your abilities and kind of creating a forum in kind of a safe space, where people can kind of discuss those things, and not just with me, but with a wider team, with kind of speaking to their peers, speaking to maybe their direct kind of project managers, but giving everyone lots of angles to understand who they are and where they can go within out organization, or professionally, whether it be here or somewhere else.

Charles:                                   Do you see this as a process, or an environment?

Nick Scappaticci:               I think it's an environment. I think you have to create, with good people that are motivated, that have a real kind of passion for what they're doing, it's really about setting up the condition. Setting the condition up for creative work. And keeping that condition reliable. So that they always have something that they kind of bounce off of and fall back on. And they understand their boundaries, but they have enough space to kind of move around. And so, our culture and the environments in which we create are something that are really important to us, and we try to, I try to focus on that, as a part of what I do. I leave the brilliant work to most of the team, but I want to make sure that they have the right, that they're armed with the right tools, that the environment that they're working in feels comfortable and those elements, those ingredients can enable lots of things.

Charles:                                   One of the attributes that we hear all the time about creative companies, great creative companies, is that they are prepared to let people fail, they encourage failure. There's a lot of physicality to what you guys make, right? Most of it has real, physical presence. It manifests in a structural, physical way. Does that in some ways allow it, does that make it easier to allow failure, 'cause inevitably, failure in terms of making something physical, does it work, does it not work, is more immediately obvious. Does that encourage that kind of environment?

Nick Scappaticci:               No one encourages failure. No one wants that. Come on. No, but I think there is, you can look at failure different ways, and I think the way we look at it is that it's more of experimentation. And kind of experimenting, whether it be with a new technology or a new material, what you're trying to do, is you're actually looking for answers. You're looking for where the limitations are. And while maybe a limitation could seem as failure, what it is, is actually a new constraint. And so, understanding those constraints more and more helps you create a more appropriate solution in the end. And so, yeah we have an environment that allows for experimentation, and in experimentation, it's inherently ... There is failure there. But that failure is turned in to lessons, and those lessons can create better criteria for your next experiment.

Charles:                                   Does the same philosophy apply to developing and managing people?

Nick Scappaticci:               Yeah. Yeah, I would think so. Yeah. I mean, when we work with individuals in our organization and we kind of use ... A lot of the professional development is inspired by our employees. It's kind of understanding their needs and understanding where they want to be and kind of modeling an environment that allows for that. And while we're kind of steering a greater vision for where everything is going, we set up the boundaries, but within that, there's a lot of room to move laterally and diagonally and backwards and I think you're right. Creating ways to kind of experiment with individual abilities and capabilities, is a great way for younger and even ... Actually, anybody in any part of your career. Kind of looking at your work as an experiment, as opposed to an execution or a delivery. That what you're doing and who you are right now is just a prototype of the next version of you, is how we try to look at it. Because that goes down in to the way in which we work.

I mean these kind of immersive spaces are a result of a constant prototyping of them, and as we're prototyping, we're learning more and more about the level of depth we might need to go through, in order to get past an individual's perception of what reality actually means in that moment. And so, the more we create, the more we surround ourselves, the more we immerse ourselves and the more we are not precious about those things, the more we advance. 'Cause I think a lot of what, and going back to Risdy and our education and where this all came from, is that I think the one thing that I learned is, you can never be too precious, because once you are too precious about something, is when you stop growing. When those ideas don't come. You hold on to something too tightly, and it can not only, not only do you suffocate the potential solution, but you suffocate yourself from advancing anywhere beyond that one thought.

Charles:                                   So and in that context, which I agree with entirely, where does idea ownership [inaudible 00:20:50]? Who owns the idea? Is it the group? Is it an individual?

Nick Scappaticci:               I think we kind of call it the ideas are a part of the collective imagination of the company. We're all contributing ... Everything that goes in to an idea, is derived from the way in which we operate a business, the environment that you're in. It's not just about kind of creating the idea on paper and it looks great and here it is, delivered. We're a pretty small business. We're a pretty close knit group of people. We're 35 across our offices and we're growing in ways. But I think in that, there's still a connection between the kind of people doing the work and the way in which the business is running. And there's a lot that ... And we try to kind of do our best to make everyone understand that in order to create great work, you need, there's a lot that goes, the kind of strategy around the initial conversations you're having with a client, kind of the budgeting and the financial kind of matrix that you have to create in order to kind of produce the work correctly. The kind of expenses that you have to submit, in order to kind of document the prototyping. All of that is a part of creating great work.

And everywhere from our kind of studio managers to our designers to even some of our legal and other advisors, I think are all a part of that. It's an entire community of people that come together to produce what we produce and we have brilliant partners we bring in. And I think everyone kind of comes in, and we try to bring them in with this creation of a kind of, it's like a sense of family around these works. And a sense of community really. And especially when you're touching on all senses in the work that we do, the sound, the lights, the furniture, the virtual kind of interfaces, the kind of code in the databases that are driven by that. That's all a part of the community of a piece of work. And those are all touched by peoples hands and those hands come together and I think we do try to, in the work that we do and the way in which we talk about our work, try to look at it as a collective. And a collective thought that has come together based on all of these aspects, that help to drive this business on a day to day basis.

Charles:                                   One of the things that I see companies really struggling with is the world evolves to rapidly, and creativity becomes more and more important, is exactly what you've described, which is this sort of capacity to create collaboration. Not only within the company itself, but with an extended community, an ecosystem. So as you're looking for partners, because with the kind of diversity of work that you guys do, and we'll tall about that in a second, but I mean the range of projects is extraordinary and with 35 people spread across five locations?

Nick Scappaticci:               Yeah.

Charles:                                   Obviously you can't have all of those, so as you said, you have partners. So as you look for skills, and sometimes for the first time I imagine, you must be coming up with stuff and thinking, "Oh, we need somebody who does that. Where do we find that from?" How do you cast that kind of collaborative partner for the first time? What are you looking for, beyond just the skill of the discipline?

Nick Scappaticci:               With having a kind of organization of our size, I am fortunate enough to have good relationships with a lot of the people that are kind of running maybe some of the subsets of the way in which we operate. Whether it be our kind of strategy or our production or our ... Whether it be locally within an office. And I feel like I don't just, in order for individuals in those positions to operate, I need to kind of inherently know and trust the way in which they make decisions. And I do. And so a lot of the way that we vet extended network of people, is through that kind of trust network. And I think that some of them probably use the filter of, "How would Nic deal with this?" I think I've heard that. And then they might [crosstalk 00:25:51], or they'll do the opposite, in some cases, because sometimes I don't necessarily ... I can't say that I'm always making the best decisions. But I trust them to know when to listen to the way that I would do it, and not do it or do it. So that's fine by me.

Charles:                                   That's a design process in and of itself.

Nick Scappaticci:               That's ... Yeah. Yeah, yeah. You gotta get really ... It's called inception. There's a whole movie about it. Everyone knows the kind of character that has to come together to do this kind of work, and I think the things about being kid of wildly creative is certainly one thing. Being a team player and knowing who you are and knowing what you are capable of doing, is a lesson that I think a lot of us struggle with. And I think, as kind of a leader and being entrepreneurial, we sometimes try to, "Oh, let's just ... I know that I can't do that, but I could. I could do that. I dot need to find somebody to do that. I'll just do that myself." You kind of get in to these modes, and I think, I'm starting to learn that lesson a little bit, for myself.

And I think that when we look for partners, we try to make sure that, and people to collaborate with, we try to kind of, are they self aware? Do they know where their limitations are? Are they open to criticism? Are they collaborative? Are they willing to give up the idea they loved to find the idea that they could fall in love with again? Are they not being precious about those things? And I think those are kind of, we've found those great people. We have some great partnerships right now with our extended network. We've worked on projects that have incorporated a dozen outside vendors and partners. And again, it-

Charles:                                   And it worked to the end.

Nick Scappaticci:               Yeah, and it worked.

Charles:                                   The thing worked.

Nick Scappaticci:               Yeah, and it worked. And it's still, it just always comes down to creating the conditions for community to exist and to coexist. And if we can, while our ideas are maybe at odds sometimes, if you can create an environment that allows for a discussion ... And the great thing about we do, is we make stuff. We can always just look at the stuff and blame it on the stuff. But it is with that stuff that we create, we can have a conver- Whether we're bringing different perspectives, we can have a conversation about a thing. And I think that's something that helps our work kind of move forward, is that at the end of the day, we're talking about putting our experience in to these things and this environment, and I think that we're able to kind of illustrate these ideas, and kind of move and kind of play with them and talk around them and talk about them. And do it in places where, the kind of goal of creating those things is about creating conversations between people.

So if we're able to have those conversations about our work, then we hope that the work that we create, are put in to environments where people can then have further conversations about it.

Charles:                                   You said earlier that you have this network, I think the phrase you used was you were fortunate to have this network, but in fact, it's not luck, right? I mean, this is the bi product of a pretty intentioned commitment to expanding the number of people that you know and kind of the disciplines that you understand. And just, over the years, as you look back and reflect on how that network has grown and how you have grown it, what have been the things that you have found most important, to build that network? In terms of your own intention.

Nick Scappaticci:               Yeah, well some of the important things are getting out of the way. And I think that's an important one too. I don't mean to joke about it. But I think, not being too heavy handed all the time, and kind of forcing a way to work. Forcing people to work in this way, with this process. Looking at our process itself, and the way that we engage with organizations, we've probably to a fault sometimes, have always been very flexible about the design process and what direction it can go in, to create solutions. And again, it's that not being precious about the way in which you work and, because we're all ... Greatness can come through many wavy lines, in many directions and I think that when you find a good relationship that you feel like is productive, you allow that relationship to kind of lead itself a little bit. Having clear vision, having important goals, but kind of how you get there together, and I'm not saying that all of them have worked out.

I mean, I think we've always kind of strived to create the best out of whatever moment we're in, and sometimes the kind of partners and the network and the people you have in your organization don't always, they don't always kind of want to follow that method. They're not always gonna dance in the way that you want to dance. They always want to lead, or they always want to kind of do, kind of execute on work in a particular way, and they're very rigid about that. I think that rigidity is, sometimes for us becomes a kind of problem, because again, when you're being too rigid, you're limiting yourself from lots of opportunities in free thinking about where something can go. Because you're dealing with new, emerging technologies. And in that, we tend to try not to impose solution over, before we get to understanding what the goals are, right? And I think there's a temptation with technology to say, "Well, here's this new thing. And let's just start using this new thing. Well, we want that VR. Can we have that VR?" I'm like, "Well, what do you want to do with the VR first, is probably a more appropriate question."And become so rigid about, "No, no, we need this thing. It has to be incorporated in this way."

And so, let's just aim that as the goal, but let's back up from that. If you're not willing to move the goal line, then let's take a few steps back and let's just look at that solution and maybe from a different perspective, and see how, maybe we can build a better story towards it. Because at the end of the day, you're not selling that thing. That thing isn't going to get people to talk. It's the context that that thing exists in that are gonna get people to talk.

Charles:                                   It's so interesting to hear somebody who lives their life in a design environment, which I think most people feel has got structure and process and a narrative arc, if you will to it, talking about the freedom that is really important to the creative process. And I think it's one of those areas that creative companies struggle with, isn't it? Is finding that balance between, "We have to deliver a thing at the end, but we need to flexibility." Let's talk a little bit about- Actually, before we get in to that, the other question I have, I guess coming out of that, is that you talked about how you interact with partners. What about with clients? Do you have more process when it comes to clients, or do you go through that same sort of journey of exploration and being open minded? What's the-

Nick Scappaticci:               Yeah. I mean, I think everyone wants to know that they're buying something. That you're committed to a way of doing something, and you're confident that if we follow this course of action, that we will get to our destination. And we do have some formal ways that we will kind of sum up certain parts of our process, and I think that they are probably not much different than most design firms out there. But within each part of that process, there is a lot of kind of wiggle room. And as we get to know our clients, and as we build a relationship with that client and we start to kind of move a little bit together, we start to discover things about each other's processes. That maybe start to move us in a slightly different direction. And I think, one thing after 17 years, that we can now use as a way to build confidence, is that we have experience. Trust us. It was harder to say that in year one, but now we can fortunately say that. But-

Charles:                                   And most of the time, do they?

Nick Scappaticci:               Yeah, I think they do. I think the ones that are really looking to create a new, innovative solution, have to be prepared to take a little bit of a leap of faith. And we need them to kind of trust that while we may not follow a straight line, we will definitely get there. But we need to kind of break out of this mold of thinking that everything that they have done up to this point, what we do together is just a continuation and an evolution of where they are right now. Sometimes you have to kind of, you have to meander and wander a bit. To kind of see where you are going, from maybe a slightly different perspective. And in that shift in perspective, you start to see new possibilities. And when you start to see new possibilities, I think is when you really start to get to know what you're really after. Because it's not just seeing it down the road, it's potentially seeing new horizons. And I think when we can start to work with our clients, so that they start to see new horizons in their work, is when I think we're really striking the kinds of partnerships that we look for. And ...

Charles:                                   I was on your website, prepping for this, and in candor, I hadn't looked at your website in a year or so, and I was struck by the diversity in projects. I mean, I actually just jotted some down. You've got projects for the Museum of Future Government Services, for the Prime Minister's office of the UAE. A project with Purina, about how to live better with pets. An extraordinary project with Toyota, concept I. Project with Cadillac House, auto portrait. Project I thought was just charming, the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, the great map. Sales Force, voting doors at the front door of their office. Talk to me for a second about, what are the characteristics that draw you to a project?

Nick Scappaticci:               I think, in our mission, and the way in which we look at our work, really it's always been about making kind of intangible things, more tangible. And in every one of those projects that you've listed, they never started with, "We want voting doors." It never started with, "We want this kind of thing that you scan a dog with and you can see its emotional response, based on ..." They never start with those things. They always start with, "How do we immerse people in this relationship they have with their pet?" And it's a pretty far out, broad concept. There's nothing to hold on to there. I mean, it's this intangible thing that is between you and somebody else. And what we want to do, is we want to create a tangible moment, where you can understand that question. And in a lot of that, we've been using object and space and new and emerging technologies, to really kind of use those as materials, to explore this intangible concept. Making this kind of invisible thing, more visible. And hopefully, transforming the way that you might think about that.

And the diversity of the subject, is obviously clear when you look at our portfolio, but it's not so diverse in execution. We are talking about just materials. But it's our appreciation for having a kind of diverse set of questions to be answered, that I think results in that, 'cause I think our staff and the kind of clients that come to us, we're exploring a bit. We're exploring how design can help to solve some of these problems. And it's a type of execution that works well in the work we were doing with Toyota and our partners ICI and [Kelty 00:40:26].

It works well when you're working inside of a government. Who would have thought? And especially the government of Dubai, there's just a kind of a particular way in which they are looking at themselves right now, and advancing how the future, and how the future of their country and how the future of innovation can really transform their position in the world. Where they can get kind of beyond what we know the Middle East to be kind of thriving off of and actually find new economies, by adopting technology, design and future studies, as a way to basically prototype those kinds of futures. And that's where that work comes from. It's really looking at prototyping futures, to see whether or not these are futures that are preferable or are these futures that we want to avoid. And if we are to understand that now, well we're creating better future already.

Charles:                                   And how do you design a project like that? How do you design a project that looks at or creates the museum of the future?

Nick Scappaticci:               Well, I mean the collaboration and the partnership we have with the Dubai Future Foundation, which is a organization within the government of Dubai, who's direct client is the Prime Minister's office. And so, there are individuals on our client's side, who are brilliant in understanding who they are and where they want to go. The vision that is handed down to them and the vision that His Highness has, is one that everyone can get behind. And so, that strong kind of leadership in our client, is one piece. The openness that they have to incorporating global thinking in to that work, is another piece. And we as an organization have a network of partners, we have individuals that we connect to, but they also have their network. That are futurists and advisors and people that are subject matter experts around block chain technology.

And our role is to kind of create a community around this project and create kind of parameters that all of these insight, and all of this thinking can come together and through that collaboration, we can kind of look at the themes, the trends. An as we're doing that, what we're getting closer and closer to is creating constraints around what this future is that we're all talking about. Is it a future that's 20 years from now? Is it a future that's 30 years from now? And if it's 30 years from now, what is happening in it? Let's paint that world for ourselves. And while it seems a little like creating some scyfy movie, we're following these signals in our world of change right now. It's like there are things out here that if you sat and thought about where AI is now, and where it actually could ... With certain factors around it, where it could actually go. If all of a sudden, the plastic surgery industry, alongside Apple and some other groups, got together and all of a sudden, they're implanting new chips in to our brain.

Sure, all of these things can happen, right? But it's interesting to kind of think about what tiny little requirements can shift us in 50 years from now. And while we are not the subject matter experts on the future of AI or block chain technology, we bring ... There are brilliant minds out there, that come together in this project. And we, using kind of design and kind of using this methodology that we have and a series of kind of framing of certain conversations and documenting those conversations and analyzing those conversations start to create a brief that we can all get behind and design within. And then that brief just happens to be 30 years from now.

Charles:                                   Speaking of Ai, I don't know. Sis you see the article that Maureen Dowd wrote a couple of months ago, about the future of AI in Vanity Fair? It's worth looking up, because she did a great job of going to all of the subject matter experts. Everybody from Elon Musk to people implanting stuff in people's brains, which I think is already happening in some ways. And talking about both the incredibly inspiring possibilities and the utterly disturbing possibilities. And she asked one of the experts, who has a very, very negative view about the future of AI, and is convinced that ultimately will be just the complete destruction of man kind, and said, "Well how will they kill us?" And he said, "I don't know. They'll be way smarter than me, I have no idea how they'll be able to do it, right? I can't possibly predict that."

Nick Scappaticci:               Yeah, and I think that's healthy. I think it's healthy to have both a kind of dystopian view about our future, but it can't be without a utopian view of our future. I think that having a conversation that can find ... 'Cause we're not going to be either of those things. The realities are going to be somewhere in the middle. It's gonna kind of be great and it's also going to kind of suck. Just like today. It's kind of great and it also kind of sucks. But without having a diverse set of kind of perspectives on where AI can go and where the future can go, and being able to facilitate and mediate that conversation. You know, I think that's our role as designers. I think we have to be translators for these, what seems like very polarizing views on these subjects, and create experiences that allow people to understand and maybe capture what is a more reasonable and more preferable way to look at these things.

Because for me as a designer, and I think a lot of people in our organization share this, while I do look at the future in a utopian way, I think that things can be positive, I also as a designer have the ... I have agency, I can change these things. I can make stuff. I can create things that can help to create a better future. We can adopt AI in a way that we want. It's not in control of us. We can incorporate it in a way that we want it to be incorporated, and put limitations around it and work with our governments to say, "Maybe we do need policy around this. Maybe this will go too far. Here's a version of it going to far. We're gonna make that, right now. And we're going to put you inside of that and let's see how you feel. Because if we don't act now on these things ..." 'Cause things are moving so quickly. Things are going so fast, that it' not enough to wait for them to be real, to deal with them.

Charles:                                   You know, I think that's really well put. It's interesting, but I saw, I was at a conference a year or so ago that Elon Musk spoke at, and somebody asked him, "What role will AI play in our future?" And he said, "Well, it's already playing a role now." "What do you mean?" "Well, the algorithm that controls Google is already more complex than any human being can understand. That's being rewritten on a minute by minute, second by second basis by AI." And he said, "But I'm going to give you a more immediate reference point." He said, "The algorithm that controls Match.com is already more complex than any human being can understand. So essentially, computers are matching human beings, who are having children as a result of that." He said, "You could make the argument that AI is already actually directing the development of the human race."

Nick Scappaticci:               Sure.

Charles:                                   So we have missed the moment actually, where we can control it. What's the future for design? Where do you think it goes from here?

Nick Scappaticci:               I think it continues to do what it has always done. I think the [inaudible 00:49:19] were doing this in their own way, with the materials of their time. They were trying to create cheaper, better, more efficient furniture, and they were trying to kind of look at the manufacturing process and take advantage of these efficiencies and take advantage of the efficiencies of how materials work. I mean, we're just doing that, but we're doing it with technology now. We have all sorts of other materials to do it with. So I think, hopefully the future of design becomes more ingrained in the way that we look at the problems of today and that we do have kind of parts of our education system and parts of our government and parts of our every kind of function that is servicing human kind. And part of those institutions have a design group in them, and they're helping, just like administrators, like engineers, like content developers and program managers. They're a part of the team. And they're not in some kind of ivory tower, making beautiful things. They're just thinking about problems and helping to facilitate the solutions, with maybe a slightly different perspective.

Charles:                                   There are three things that strike me today, listening to you talking about TellArt ad how you manage it, that I think contribute greatly to the kind of extraordinary work that you and your company does. One is I think that your openness to where the idea can come from, or might come from and you described it as not being precious. And I think that that is very, very symptomatic within the best creative companies that I see these days. The notion of idea ownership has really become very diluted and it's really about how the groups comes together. Second I think is that you clearly have respect for and appreciation for the power of technology, but you're not enamored and in love with any single piece of it, and so therefore, you're willing to use it or ignore it, depending on the need. And I think the other part that really struck me today is the humanity with which you do this. You're willingness to give people room to figure out what they can do and encourage them towards it and then help them when they stumble or find their own limitations. And I think all three of those pieces are fundamental truths to successful creative businesses today. I want to thank you for being here today. This has been a fascinating conversation.

Nick Scappaticci:               Thank you.

Charles:                                   Thanks for coming Nick.

Nick Scappaticci:               Thank you.

Charles:                                   You've been listening to Fearless, the art of creative leadership. If you like what you've heard, please rate us on Itunes. It helps a lot. If you want more information, the others, go to FearlessCreativeLeadership.com, and thanks for listening.