Creative Lives — “Building, breaking and inventing” with creative technologist and Comuzi founder, Alex Fefegha
Creative technologist Alex Fefegha admits that he didn’t have a definite idea of what his company Comuzi would be when he started in 2013; “We just wanted to create things, and it turned into something much bigger than we imagined.” Now working out of ustwo Adventure in East London, Alex uses code as his primary creative tool, but also carries out a wide range of services for his clients – including trend forecasting, technological research and carrying out workshops. Here he describes the experiences that have shaped his path – from dropping out of a BA to learning the ropes of financial management.
Co-Founder/Head of Creative Technology, Comuzi (2013–present)
ustwo Adventure’s Playground co-working space, London
Digital Design Apprentice, Lambeth Council (2010–2011)
MA Innovation Management, Central Saint Martins (2016–2018)
Alex at work inside ustwo Adventure
How would you describe your job?
I describe my job as designing, making, building, breaking, coding and inventing. I’m truly not a fan of titles, however, I call myself a creative technologist – though I prefer ‘maker of things’. There is a stereotype about coders having a particular aesthetic but I don’t fit that – I have dreads, a piercing, I like fashion, I went to Art school.
At Comuzi, I work on interactive prototypes for our clients. We pitch ourselves as a research and development team for hire, working at the intersection of emerging technology and culture. I’ve also started working on developing playful, interactive tools that engage the public.
What does a typical working day look like?
I could be leading a design sprint, doing kick-off workshops with teams, conducting user interviews, doing mock-ups in Sketch or coding something. I don’t like working on too many different things at once. I try to cap the number of projects I’m working on at once so I can concentrate.
“I describe my job as designing, making, building, breaking, coding and inventing”
A collaboration between NikeLab and Central Saint Martins (Alex did the art direction, visual design and prototyping)
What inspired you to found Comuzi?
Comuzi was born as a uni project – we just wanted to create things and it turned into something much bigger than we imagined. We didn’t know what we were doing and honestly didn’t have a plan or direction for it. We’ve always made it up as we went along.
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
Working with a BBC research and development team on the future of digital story formats. I can’t reveal much right now, but a blog post about the process will be written soon
What skills are essential to your job?
Being willing to delve into the unknown, being cool with being scrappy at times, an ability to work under pressure, developing an arsenal of tools to use in projects. Code is my creative tool.
What tools do you use most for your work?
Notebooks for ideation, Evernote for noting, Sketch for designing, Visual Studio Code for coding, Keynote for presentations and Google Docs for documenting.
Would you say your job allows for a good work/life balance?
I’m self-employed, so sometimes work and life gets blurred. It is something I’m trying to improve.
Alex and the Comuzi team
Inside ustwo Adventure
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
I wanted to be a professional football player, a sports psychologist or a film director. I played for youth teams of professional clubs, but after seeing that football was going nowhere for me, I headed for greener pastures in the creative technology space.
How is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
When Comuzi started, I was going to do a creative computing degree, but I dropped out of uni during freshers week, because I had the chance to go to Barcelona and talk about how musical artists need to create more interactive experiences for their fans. This was before Spotify became the music industry’s best friend.
Then I told myself I was going to get a master’s degree – a really crazy idea, but there was no way I was going to do a BA for three years at that point. I was always told that you are able to focus on your own project studying a master’s degree, so I contacted Central Saint Martins with my creative technology portfolio, got references from clients and applied for an Innovation degree. I did the MA part-time while working on Comuzi full-time. It has been a great learning experience, as it gave me space to experiment and helped me refine my creative process, especially since a lot of the client work we get is innovation focused.
“Financial management is an art – something I’ve gotten into to make sure I’m able to thrive during slow periods.”
Design and illustrations for app More Than We, 2018
How has ustwo Adventure’s support impacted the company?
The team at ustwo are real Gs, they gave us a space, they connected us with a great family of people, and they have been big supporters of our vision, especially since Akil and I started focusing on building Comuzi as a brand known for emerging tech and culture.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
Staying self-employed – I want to be self-employed for as long as I can. Right now I’m not doing badly, but it’s been a daily challenge for five years. Financial management is an art – something I’ve gotten into since I started working for myself in order to make sure I’m able to thrive during slow periods.
Is your job what you thought it would be?
Most of the time, no one understands what a creative technologist does – especially in advertising. There is a great report titled the State of Creative Technology that touches on this. We were listed in the report as a company that deserves more attention, which I’m really grateful for.
AI Cheatsheet, Comuzi, 2018
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to set up their own company?
1. Self-employment is a lonely path.
2. You may never see wealth.
3. It takes years to be an overnight success.
4. Your network is your net worth (social capital).
5. You might be a really shit boss or manager.
6. Know your customer and client.
7. Relevance – you’ve gotta be spoken about in the right rooms.
8. Don’t become too attached to anything, be ready to change.
9. Financial management is an art.
10. Don’t get caught up in the hype.
This article is part of a feature on ustwo Adventure – a Lecture in Progress Agency Patron. Every year, Lecture in Progress partners with like-minded brands and agencies to support our initiative and keep Lecture in Progress a free resource for students. To find out more about how you can work with us, email [email protected]