“In order to make extraordinary stuff, you gotta be extraordinary stuff,” says Jeff Faulkner. He should know: as the Creative Director for Analog at Microsoft and former Creative Director at Xbox, he’s helped usher major innovations into the public sphere. One indelible example is Kinect, a technology described by the New York Times as “magical” and “astonishing.” We asked Jeff five questions—including what advice he’d like to give radical innovators.

Astonishing interface.

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Kinect lets people interact with their game consoles and computers by moving their bodies, talking, and gesturing—without hanging onto a game controller of any kind. This advance in natural user interface even broke the Guinness World Record for being the fastest-selling consumer electronics device ever. Jeff’s work has encompassed many other initiatives as well; he’s helped guide branding, UX (user experience), and R&D (research and design) for some of Microsoft’s most ambitious products, including Xbox One and Xbox 360. Formerly a professor at PNCA, the Pacific Northwest College of Art, he returns to Portland this fall as a panelist on the “What Sparks Innovation?” discussion to be presented by Liquid Agency on October 7th.

An interview with Jeff Faulkner.

T: What practices do you undertake to keep yourself open-minded, sharp, and inventive?

J: Stillness is it for me. Meditation just works. It’s not magic. It just simply works. I’ve been doing it over the past few years and I am really surprised and delighted to see just how far my imagination and my conciseness can go. I don’t have many problems keeping inventive or open-minded. My problems are along the lines of getting stuff done on time!

T: In your TAIGA video interview (which we’ve embedded below), you mentioned Carl Sagan as an inspiration. You’ve also mentioned Ray Kurzweil and Ray Eames. Who are some of your other innovation heroes?

J: I really liked the iWatch announce this week and so I’ve been thinking about our friends in Cupertino lately. Like many people, I really love Jony Ives. The humanity in his approach and his track record for shipping beautiful useful stuff is legend. Another Apple giant that continually floors me is Hiroki Asai and his team of storytellers and brand communication people. I presented to him once a long time ago and it didn’t go so well. I still carry that with me. Sometimes I think, “I wish I could get back in that room again and try it again!”

T: What’s the biggest buzzkill for innovators?

J: Certitude, I suppose. Sometimes certitude is good but most of the times it’s just boring. Humility, enthusiasm, and focus are all that really count—so whatever the opposite of that is my candidate for buzzkill!

T: Looking back on your life, what was a pivotal moment for you as a creative thinker?

J: I was always a poor math student and kept my distance for most my life, but over the last decade I have really tried to dig in and see what all the fuss is about. The brief moments of understanding I’ve gained have been really profound for me and have shaped my worldview in many ways, including being a creative thinker. It’s very strange. At times math feels like music. I have no desire to apply it anywhere and I don’t think my facilities are fluid enough anyway. I am happy just being an adventurer.

T: In your career, you’ve worked in and fostered an environment of radical innovation and creative thought. What advice would you give to others?

J: To radical innovators, I ask that you don’t give up on us. The world needs you and your gifts. We seem violent, selfish, and petty but you know that’s only part of the story. The world needs you to bend all this chaos and discord into something better. It can happen, and on the whole, we are worth it.

What Sparks Innovation?
Panel discussion presented by Liquid Agency
Featuring Genevieve Bell, Jeff Faulkner, Mohan Nair, & Michael Shea
Moderator: Marty Neumeier
Design Week Portland, 2014

Elizabeth Leach Gallery
417 NW 9th Avenue, Portland
Tickets are sold out.

Liquid Agency Open House
Featuring the Artwork of Kate Bingaman-Burt and a special listing party in the Liquid Space PDX Gallery: “Songs about money, emotions & objects.” Three custom mixtapes containing songs about money, emotions and objects will be available for listening and purchasing. Bring your favorite songs about these topics to share.
Liquid Agency
October 7, 4-7 pm
910 NW Hoyt Street, Portland

Beverages for both events are generously provided by Fort George Brewery.

Helpful Links
Elizabeth Leach Gallery