Creative Lives — Myles Palmer, Future Corp's senior digital art director on how coding informs his design practice
At university, Myles Palmer's ideas could not always be expressed through the printed page. Looking beyond physical parameters, he soon taught himself to code, and in doing so laid the foundations for a career in digital design. Now, as a senior digital art director at Future Corp, his knowledge of coding still informs his approach to developing user experiences and interfaces across a range of projects. Software will continue to change, but alongside fundamental design skills, for Myles communication and people skills will always be vital in nurturing a supportive and collaborative working process. Myles talks to us about his early influences, working with clients and what it takes to design the best possible solutions.
Senior Digital Art Director, Future Corp (May 2017–present)
Associate Lecturer, Chelsea College of Arts (2015–present)
Senior Digital Designer, Freelance (2016–2017)
Digital Designer, Jonny Lu Studio (2015–2016)
Designer and Developer, THIS IS Studio (2014–2015)
BA Graphic & Media Design, London College of Communication (2011–2014)
Myles Palmer (middle) with founder Marc Kremers and digital art director Gemma Copeland
How would you describe what you do?
My job is primarily to oversee and develop user experiences and user interfaces from concept to final execution across a wide variety of projects in the studio.
As we are a small studio I’m responsible for being a part of the whole process from end to end – all the way from when the brief comes in and working out the scope of a project and quote with our creative director – to the end where we launch it.
There are several phases of a project and each member of the team at Future Corp contributes to these significantly. We don’t have separate teams for UX and UI for example, we’re all expected to be able to work in each phase and we all work collaboratively to create the best outcomes by encouraging, challenging and supporting each other.
My role is fairly client-facing, so I spend quite a lot of time presenting and meeting with clients, as well as working on processes across the studio with the team – more so than I spend sitting down using Sketch!
Inside the studio
What does a typical working day look like?
Busy! There’s usually a lot happening and my time is often divided working across several different projects, so there’s never a day that’s the same as another. Checking my calendar and emails in the morning are the only real fixed parts of my day.
I'll often talk to the team in the morning to check everyone is on the same page and knows what they need to work on. Unfortunately, unless we’re in meetings, working in digital design means we’re often sat in front of the computer all day.
How did you land the job at Future Corp?
I’d been familiar with Future Corp’s work for some time as the founder, Marc Kremers, gave a workshop and talk at Registration Summer School (a design summer school I helped found) in 2014. While freelancing, I saw they were looking for some people on Twitter, so I reached out. We started working together on a freelance basis, but then I ended up sticking around permanently because I believe in the work and the culture that Future Corp is creating.
What do you like about working in London?
I moved to London to study. Being from the countryside (Devon), it’s quite a drastic change. I like being here because of how easily accessible everything is; I’m not just talking about going to visit museums or gigs – if you have an idea, a passion, anything you want to do, you can make it happen and achieve whatever it is you’re looking to do.
Having said this, as time passes in our increasingly chaotic political world, that feeling feels like it’s slipping. Things are astronomically expensive in London and I no longer feel as free as I once did; it feels like opportunities for young people in particular are slowly vanishing with them becoming increasingly alienated.
“When I was studying, digital design wasn’t really a thing; it was established in the industry, but not booming like it is now.”
What has been the most exciting project of the last twelve months?
I tend to be too deeply involved with current projects that I don’t take enough time to step back and reflect on projects that have happened, which I probably should!
I’m currently working on a website for a prestigious interior design company in London. We’ve developed a way of navigating through content that feels fresh and different, which I’m really excited to explore more and watch how it evolves in build.
What skills are essential to your job?
A very high level of attention to detail, communication, diplomacy, thoughtfulness, organisation, honesty, empathy, logic, inquisition and fundamental design skills (layout, typography, UX and style).
Are you currently working on any side projects?
Not really, no. It feels odd for me to say, but since being in college, I’ve been constantly on the go: I had a job, I freelanced on the side, and in recent years I also lectured. But about half way through 2017 I decided to take a bit of a break, concentrate on my job, not work in my spare time and bring more balance to my day – it's important to do other things and not just work all the time.
Sometimes I still get an itch to design and build small things when I get home, so very occasionally I’ll open my laptop and mess around with small ideas. For example I'm currently working on building a small discovery, moodboard-type sharing tool that works with the Are.na API.
In the studio
Is coding an important part of your work?
It’s important because to design the best solutions, you should have an understanding of the medium that you are working with. My understanding of code informs the design decisions I make; it allows me to understand where I can push things and sometimes where we have to pull ourselves back and not overcomplicate things.
I’m often striving to minimise complexity in the work we create – it tends to be when designing without knowledge of the implementation that you sometimes create over complicated design solutions, or on the flip-side, you don't take full advantage of the technology available to you.
Portfolio for Photographer Benjamin Swanson created with Nathan Matthews
Portfolio for Director Kaj Jefferies with Robin Pyon
What tools do you use most for your work?
I use Sketch for designing, Omnigraffle for most information architecture work, InVision for reviewing work with colleagues and clients, and make quite quick low fidelity prototypes in something like Principle or After Effects.
If I want to make something more interactive and test how something can move, work and feel, then I’ll start to code something using Sublime Text as my text editor, iTerm because it’s a lot quicker (and more customisable!) than Terminal and GitHub for code versioning and management.
The general day-to-day bits are taken care of in Asana for project management, Dropbox Paper for notes and documents, Slack for communication with the team and then the usual like Apple calendar and mail.
Work for Unmade
How I Got Here
What did you want to be growing up?
I always wanted to work in sport for some reason: teaching, coaching, whatever it was, as long as it was in sport, that’s what I wanted to do. Unfortunately a bad injury at a young age stopped me from doing that, and so after that I can only really remember wanting to work in design in some capacity.
How (if at all) is the subject you studied useful to your current role?
I’ve only studied graphic design since leaving school, so it’s directly related. However, when I was studying, digital design wasn’t really a thing; it was established in the industry when I was at university, but not booming like it is now.
Studying graphic design helped me learn all of the fundamentals: typography, layout, and so on. But the thing I value most from all of my education is how it helped me understand how important self-education is; the more you seek things out, the more you’ll get back. You can’t just sit and wait for things to come to you.
“Software will always change, but there are transferrable skills that apply to many things in life that won’t leave you.”
Portoflio for Set Designer Imogen Frost with Nathan Matthews and Robin Pyon
Work In Progress of a discovery and moodboard tool using the Are.na API
Was there anyone in particular that helped you at the start of your career?
Two of my college lecturers: Brian Sweet and Steve Browning. They were both very kind and had a lot of time for everyone, but had two contrasting approaches. Brian was really sharp and to the point. He would tell you exactly how he saw the work you were producing, no matter if it was good or bad. This direct approach taught me very early on that you need to be able to take criticism and not see it as anything personal - just feedback to help you do better.
Steve was gentler in his approach. He gave people the space to learn, and he encouraged you to seek things out for yourself. He was very much a facilitator and cared for each student genuinely, on a personal level as well as your studies. Both of them held students to a high standard and really formed not only my approach to design as it is today, but also how I carry myself as a person and work with others.
What skills have you learnt along the way?
Aside from different programming languages, design workflows, and different pieces of software – all of which are constantly in flux and changing rapidly – most of the skills I'm still learning each day are working with the complexity of people and clear communication skills.
Software will always change, but there are transferrable skills that apply to many things in life that won’t leave you. Being able to communicate and work with people effectively – whether that’s pitching to clients or feeding back to colleagues, these are things that stay with you no matter the profession.
What’s been your biggest challenge?
It's been a difficult one, but learning to let go a bit more. I can be a bit of a control freak, and I've learnt that you sometimes need to give a little more to everyone. I’ve always loved to debate and question things, but it’s important to give other people the space to work and grow. There’s a time and a place to push things, especially with clients, but you've got to try and bring them on a journey with you.
What would you like to do next?
I’d like to work a little more on tools and products, particularly for a cause I really believe in. I started creating digital projects at university because I was interested in how people used and interacted with those environments, so I’d like to try and do a little less client work and spend a bit more time trying to come up with helpful products or tools for people’s day-to-day lives.
Words of Wisdom
What advice would you give to a young creative wanting to get into the same line of work?
Be as diverse as you can be with your skillset, seek things out and don’t expect everything to come to you. Read lots of books, articles, study the history of design but also broaden your horizons outside of design. Soak everything in and try to apply the principles to what you do and push things on.
Inside the studio