Interview: Marlus Araujo
In Brazil we can see overtime more and more designers starting to work with programming and merging those tools to create their projects. The figure of the designer/programmer has emerged and became fundamental in the web market and the quality of their work is improving as the time goes on.
Marlus Araujo is a Brazilian design student at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro and has a great experience working as a designer and developer. He worked at SuperUber, a design atelier that works with technology, developing applications for exhibitions and advertisement. He is now researching new media art under Guto Nóbrega’s leading at the laboratory NANO-UFRJ.
Marlus is one of the founders of Encontros Digitais which is a discussion list about technology where the participants talk about the innovations in the field and from time to time promote meeting do lectures, and workshops.
Mario: Hi Marlus, can yo tell a little about how did you started working with the new media?
Marlus: Before I enter the market I was already working with the new media in college because of my teacher Guto, in whose lab I am working now. But back then, it was 2002 or 2003, we worked on a project named Animalice, which was a rereading of Alice in Wonderland in a multimedia project that involved many students from the arts and the design schools. We created animations, drawings and scenarios to tell that story. Guto was my illustration professor, but I didn’t had much contact with him, some friends indicated me because I was working with Flash at the time, doing sites, than I could assemble all the multimedia.
In that project I could see that I was playing an important role making sense of all that material. It wasn’t just gathering everything, but one had to think about the interactions and animations, how would all workout together.
Back then I realized also that even being a conservative University more focused on the classical arts, there was room for developing some new media studies there.
Guto helped me a lot by showing many artists who were programming, they were already investing in computing to work in an artistic way and that was a great advantage because when I started working I had only experimental work with animation and multimedia.
After I started working at 6D my work became more straight, but not in a bad way. The internet and the market was asking at the time for sites so I started to develop a more technical work and design. What I mean is that I started using it as a communication tool and not exploring it in an artistic sense. We produced websites rich in experience and I’ve learned a lot of design and programming. Today 6D is a reference in that fiel at Rio de Janeiro.
Mario: How do you understand the relation between design and developing?
Marlus: I started to be valued personally for having these expertise, and I was doing something that only a few did. And a lot of misunderstanding happens when want to do something but you have to call someone to do it.
When I started programming i learned a lot. I started working with flash. Back then flash used a lot of animation and you could do interactions like a DVD menu. As I was learning programming I was able to do more complex structures, I haven’t learn design patterns, but I learn everything from a designers perspective.
All that have given me a great know-how even in working with other programmers. I was in the intersection between both sides. It also gave some good results in design and aesthetics, because when you are programming an animation you have to know how to animate.
This is nice, because now there is a lot of people trying to occupy this space, to do it means to have an overview of the entire project and not separate it in small parts.
Mario: Could speak a little more about how you started working with the new media?
Marlus: The nice thing is that we can learn tools to create methodologies and understand the creative processes through design. This is something I miss in design schools, at least here in Brazil, we can find a huge specialization but you can’t find the professional to work in the intersections.
The transition happened because when one starts working with computer, one can see all the different possibilities there it offers. Also looking for others projects around the world: people in universities creating multi-touch screens, really good programming works with a high artist appeal, out of the computer screen, on other platforms, projection and all that.
It all came to me and I realized: I can do that too, the market isn’t offering me opportunities but it is worth investing because it is fun. It allows you to get all your know-how from multimedia and new media and apply in multimedia projects.
Then I had the opportunity to work at SuperUber, which is a studio that already worked with that, used new media for education and entertaining. The experience I had there was great, because they merged all that knowledge very well and developed great projects: the self-structure of the team is amazing. It was great to work there because before that I was work with a lot of people that did the same things as I. But when I went there I had contact with many different professionals: electric engineers, technicians, foreign programers. And I could see that what I did in programming was a small part from a much bigger universe.
Also the projects started to have another kind of challenge and bring up different discussions about interface issues like: is it really necessary to have a button? can’t I replace that for a gesture as the user is in front of a huge screen?
And that was how I started working with the new media and that’s what happened. When you work in a multidisciplinary team you become multidisciplinary yourself.
Mario: What is your opinion about collaborative work and which tools do you use to do it?
Marlus: Git is a tool for code versioning that was created by Linus Torvals, he also created Linux, today most servers use Linux and it is open source, it is growing a lot because of the operational system Ubuntu which has a more evolved design and users can use as a tool. He is the one who created this versioning tool, there were others tools, but his concept is to disarticulate a central server, so he created a tool that gives moor independence for collaborators. You can create your project, work on it and after go back to the origins of that project.
For sure his concept helped develop the community, in the Github website you can see that he is like a Facebook for programmers. You can see everything they are doing there, you can follow project’s progress by email. This community emerged because of the concept that you work for the community, but still have some independence on your projects and you don’t need to send everything for a central server to be approved. And for a work I did remotely for the typographer Gustavo Ferreira in Amsterdam I use Git for the first time and it worked just fine. Now I’m working with other programmers and it is a great system: you can comment something you did, doesn’t need an email to communicate. All these things are done intuitively and sometime we can’t see how good that is, but I believe it is one of the most complete tools we have nowadays.
Mario: What is your relation with open source?
Marlus:There something good about open source that I saw when I was studying Drupal (a content management project, a machine to build web sites, a framework). In Jonh VanDik’s book introduction there was written that this is how a programmer learns: he starts by hacking things, after that he modifies programs and then learns how to build from scratch. But nowadays when you learn how to do from scratch a lot of experienced programmers have that work done, and you almost never have to actually do it, you can just joint on of these projects and help. This is what has created these great platforms like Drupal, WordPress and also the open source tools like Blender.
The difference about them is that as they are open source they have this exponential developing curve. Each time they are improved more people use them and more people contribute to its improvement.
Mario: What could you tell about Encontros Digitais?
Marlus: Encontros Digitais started as a will to keep in touch with everyone from the office because each one went working in different studios. We started with an event where we would level up everyone’s knowledge with lectures. That was a good idea because sharing the knowledge we could develop it more.
In Encontros Digitais we create a Facebook group in parallel which has some very useful tool such as an easy access to the content posted and shared. The Facebook group created a great dynamic because of its simplicity and we started using it a lot. As the group grew lot of reference work showed up there but we kind of lost our identity a little.
We are now are thinking of changing the format, not the Facebook group, but the “TED like” lectures didn’t work for us because we can go deeper in the subjects. Then we are thinking about starting producing things, realizing projects. And then we realized that we need a physical space to do it because working together is important for this development.