Interviews

Paulo Barcelos

Lead Creative Technologist at Oakwood

Joanna Ray

Team Assistant

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Career to date:

2015, Co-founder & CTO, Quirkbot
2013, Co-founder, Kids Hack Day
2011, Lead Creative Technologist, Oakwood Creative Digitial Agency
2009, Grant holder, FABRICA Interactive (Benetton's Communications Research Centre)
2007, Designer & Lead Flash Developer, Osso Design

creativebrief: As Lead Creative Technologist of Oakwood what is your primary focus?

Paulo Barcelos: As a digital agency, technology is Oakwood’s main medium for communication. But many times ‘technology’ is perceived as something complex, magical and above most people's heads. My role is to change that perception; demystify the idea that tech is something that only belongs to engineers and instead make sure that both our clients and our internal talent understand it as a ‘material’ that can be used for expression.

creativebrief: Please share a part of your career up to this date – specifically talking us through the high points.

Paulo Barcelos: Back in Brazil, I started my career as a graphic designer and due to my interest in computers that quickly gravitated towards web design. While doing that, I became curious about programming and when I realised I could actually build things with my own hands, I got completely hooked. I joined an art collective where my main work line was to use code as a way to create music and illustrations. I was then invited to join Fabrica, a communication research company in Italy, where I spent two years in their Interactive Dpt. exploring how to combine technology with different subjects.

After leaving Italy, I decided to experience the fast moving tech scene of Stockholm where I then joined Oakwood. As the agency grew I became more involved with research and development and assumed a more inspirational role in the tech team. While at Oakwood, I managed to find a great balance between external and internal projects, and with their support, co-founded the non-profit education platform Kids Hack Day and the ed-tech startup Quirkbot.

creativebrief: What’s unique about your agency / business? Why did you join Oakwood?

Paulo Barcelos: Oakwood puts people first. Be it with the client or the team, things feel very personal, very human. That’s what matters the most to me, especially when working with technology.

creativebrief: Who are the people new to you (either within your business or externally) who have particularly impressed you in the last twelve months?

Paulo Barcelos: By far, the kids I’ve been working with at our after school hacker-club. It’s really refreshing to see 10 year olds being super curious about how things work, confident that they can change their future and using technology to express themselves!

creativebrief: What has been your agency’s best work in the last year?

Paulo Barcelos: The one I am most excited about is a service / app that we are just about to release. It’s called Speeks and it let you create audio commentaries on top of YouTube clips. What is interesting with Speeks is that it is not ‘client work’, it was instead initiated as a side project by one of our Art Directors, Oakwood decided to join forces and help bring it to life as an in-house project. I love it because it shows that we can actually build real products from scratch if we want to.

“Catering for local initiatives is a great chance to show to an increasingly conscious audience that a brand cares about their impact. It’s hard for our type of business to change a brand’s way of doing good since that needs to come from within, but we have a responsibility to always push our clients to reflect upon these questions.”

creativebrief: Industry wise, what work has excited you the most this year?

Paulo Barcelos: I am really impressed by how SpaceX has been re-igniting the interest for space exploration. Of course the topic is interesting in and of itself, but the way they constantly lay out their surreal and grand visions of colonising Mars, on top of very well orchestrated live-streaming ‘shows’ of their rocket launches, are something impressive.

creativebrief: Who or what inspires you?

Paulo Barcelos: The everyday anonymous heroes that share their knowledge freely through open-source initiatives. It’s amazing to see people come together around an idea and putting in the effort to push it into something greater. It reminds me of the power of community everyday and really gives me a lot of energy to go on and build new things (that I can hopefully share back).

And as an advocate for free knowledge sharing and a lover of the open web, I am also very inspired by people who act upon really serious and complicated subjects, like the ‘decentralisation of the internet’ and ‘net neutrality,’ on behalf of everybody else who enjoys freedom online.

Speeks, Oakwood Creative Digital Agency

creativebrief: How do you stay in touch with the industry’s best work and culturally relevant news?

Paulo Barcelos: Throughout the years I’ve subscribed to so many news feeds, podcasts, video channels and social networks that it’s hard to miss anything that’s really interesting - because it will just pop up everywhere anyway. The main challenge is to discern what is really relevant for a broader audience and what is just my filter-bubble giving me exactly what I like. I guess there is no better way than to just try and keep my eyes, ears (and heart) open, but also to take the time to simply talk to people and understand how they are processing the world around them.

creativebrief: What work or agency from outside the UK do you think is particularly influential?

Paulo Barcelos: It’s not just because I am based here, but the communication work that comes out of Sweden (and the Nordics in general) is really inspiring. The mix of conscious ideas, no fear of being on the bleeding edge and top notch presentation really makes it stand out.

creativebrief: What do you think are going to be the main challenges for agencies in the next two years?

Paulo Barcelos: Change is not going to slow down in any way - new mediums, new outlets, new consumer patterns... not even agencies or clients themselves stay the same. But the challenge is still the same as always; to understand the context and work together to create long lasting value.

 “Technology is perceived as something complex, magical and above most people's heads. My role is to change that perception; demystify the idea that tech is something that only belongs to engineers and instead make sure that both our clients and our internal talent understand it as a ‘material’ that can be used for expression.”

creativebrief: How do you see the media landscape unfolding in the next five years?

Paulo Barcelos: I wish I could really know that - or actually, I am happy I don’t, as it is a sign that the future is malleable and we can be part of influencing it. But I am at least expecting a lot of changes in how customers interact with brands due to the rise of machine learning and AI. With the ability to process and learn from the data that has been harvested in the last few years, the possibility of creating communication pieces that actually feel personal and self aware is really exciting.

creativebrief: What’s your attitude toward the “traditional” pitch? Do you think there is a better/more modern way?

Paulo Barcelos: Pitching has its role, it’s a time efficient way of presenting an idea. But the way people understand ideas has evolved (together with the ideas themselves) and unless the concept is extremely straightforward, it’s much more interesting to see things actually functioning in order to comprehend them. I am totally in favour of spending more time building small, rough prototypes that actually show how something could work in real life instead of simply showing glossy slide images that look good but don’t tell the whole picture.

creativebrief: What’s the best agency review process you’ve been involved in?

Paulo Barcelos: It was a pitch for the launch campaign of a wireless collection for a headphones brand. It consisted of placing headphones on severed mannequin heads that were then taped onto remote controlled cars that we raced together with the client across the office - needless to say, we got the job.

creativebrief: In what ways do you think the industry can change for the better?

Paulo Barcelos: The people working in media need to repeat to themselves everyday that they can never (ever, ever, ever) forget that on the other side of their work there will be real, breathing, feeling human beings interacting with it. We live in a world that is heavily shaped by media and the responsibilities that come with that should be considered more like top priorities and less like side effects.

creativebrief: What’s the next big thing for Oakwood?

Paulo Barcelos: When we create our work, we are conscious that people are moved by emotions and that is not enough to simply fulfil their needs. Looking ahead, we are working to find new ways to create emotional design by exploring new technologies and UX. We can’t reveal so much of that exact ‘next big thing’ at this point, but in November we’re taking our whole staff up in the mountains of the Pyrenees to challenge ourselves and how we’ll work in the future to keep up with the ever changing landscape...

Topic of the Moment

With increasing pressure on governments, do you think brands have a responsibility to step in and help local communities? How are you working with brands to help implement social good at a local level?

It should not be because of governmental pressure that brands help local communities, it should be part of their business model. Catering for local initiatives is a great chance to show to an increasingly conscious audience that a brand cares about their impact. It’s hard for our type of business to change a brand’s way of doing good since that needs to come from within, but we have a responsibility to always push our clients to reflect upon these questions.