Daniel Brown is one of the UK’s top interactive artists, and he believes we’re only scratching the surface of the computer’s creative power.

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Faced with emerging Web technologies in the mid-1990s, many designers saw only limitations – but not Liverpool-born Daniel Brown, who discerned in it a wealth of exciting possibilities. 
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“Back then, Web sites were as dull as junk mail, and a lot of designers were saying this was due to the limitations of the technology. It was in fact due to the limited thinking of traditional designers and clients when faced with this new world.” 
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Brown’s response was to launch his groundbreaking multimedia-fest Web site Noodlebox in 1997. “I wanted people to see the site as a piece of content rather than as a Web site.” 
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This leftfield approach proved to be the launchpad for a stellar design career that continues to hit new heights. 
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In 2004, he was named Design Museum Designer of the Year, while recently The Observer newspaper included him among the 80 people most likely to define the next decade. 
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Entirely self-taught, Brown became noted for the humour and playfulness of his interactive animations, many of which were inspired by nature. His aim is to cause users to react instinctively to his work, making them blind to the technology. 
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“All my work is concerned with allowing people to interact elegantly with aesthetics, and seeking ways that computers can generate dynamic aesthetics.” 
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This is Brown’s obsession, and it sets him apart as a design pioneer. But, he believes, it’s incumbent upon designers to lead as well as follow. “Clients can only ask that you copy something else they know, such as a competitor’s Web site. Sometimes you have to make things on your own initiative and then wait for clients to come and say ‘yes, we want something like that!’” 
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Brown’s we-want-that clients are unlikely to dry up, given his clarity of vision for a future of all-encompassing interactivity. “Today the only interactive portals we have are the computer screen, the game console and, the television and mobile. But soon, a great many surfaces and materials will be able to show dynamic images.
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"You’ll be able to change the colour of your walls, change the face on your watch, and the text in the book you carry will be able to change when you’ve finished reading it.” 
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This gift for identifying insightful and marketable creative openings is cherished by big business, and Brown numbers the BBC, Sony, Volkswagon, and MTV among his clients. 
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Brown’s current work sees him as new media director for renowned fashion photographer Nick Knight, and he works on independent projects through his company Play-Create. 
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“Play-Create is born out of a principle that computer-game technology need not just pander to superficial violent and hyper-active pursuits. Play-Create poses hypothetical questions such as ‘what is the interactive equivalent of classical music?’ and ‘what is to a plasma screen what paint is to a canvas?’” 
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Artistic freedom Brown’s take on technology was shaped by his parents. “With an artist/programmer father and a musician/mathematician mother, I think its fair to say my childhood shaped my career.” 
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Winning the Design Museum’s Designer of the Year award cemented Brown’s reputation, and earned him priceless creative freedom. “Before the award most of my work was standard brief-led design work but now it’s what I’d class as ‘artistic commission’.” 
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The type of work Brown undertakes has also been influenced by paralysis, following a swimming accident in Barcelona in 2004. 
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“I’ve no movement below the stomach, no use of my fingers and only partial use of my arms. I’ve got tools to help me use the computer, plus I’m now more of a programming designer than a pixel-mouse designer.” 
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His creative direction has been influenced by a change in audience. “My audience has evolved from designer-peers to the general public, and I’ve tried to change my work to suit. I like to make my work more instinctive now. I like to think that people of all ages will enjoy it.” 
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One unchanging aspect of Brown’s career is his ability to generate good ideas, the seed for which he says was sown by his mother. “She once said of learning the piano that you can either memorize all the scales in the world or all the songs in the world. Learning all the scales means you can play every song as well as being able to create new ones. Plus there’s far fewer scales than there are songs. 
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“There’s a metaphor here. I know how a computer works and I know how logic works. When I apply creative ideas to the digital field I just think in that mindset and ideas pop out. I suggest young designers find out how a computer works, and then they’ll understand what it’s capable of.” 
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