Richard Harvey came to the creative industries via an unusual route. He initially began a degree course at the University of Bristol studying Audiology – hearing and balance disorders – before switching after two years to the London College of Communication, joining the Interaction and Moving Image pathway on LCC’s Graphic and Media Design BA (Hons) course in the second year. “I heard about the course through a friend who’d completed the degree already,” he explains, “and thought the interaction side would suit me – it was quite a change from dishing out hearing aids! I’ve really enjoyed the chance to be creative and make ideas into a working reality.”
The projects that Harvey created while at LCC mix interactive technology with great visual effects, often with a cheeky sense of humour. One piece, the Floating Forecaster, is a 3D display featuring 30 polystyrene balls that can be manipulated to float magically in the air (via the use of an air bed pump) by playing with sliders on an iPhone over a wireless network. “Initially the project set out to display live weather information via floating patterns and movements – like a floating barometer,” explains Harvey. “It essentially is a 3D floating display with each ball representing a hovering pixel, it could be used to represent anything.” While the version of the Floating Forecaster that Harvey created for his degree show proved impressive, he has plans for a more advanced version too. “On a greater scale, the 3D creation would achieve greater definition and with the inclusion of sound and lighting the piece could become something really special,” he says. “Unfortunately the student loan wouldn’t stretch that far.”
Another interactive work by Harvey, the Note Drop, allows users to compose music by manipulating balls to drop onto a xylophone, creating different notes. The balls are then sucked back up to the top via a vacuum cleaner. A similarly domestic object is at the centre of a further piece, the Nervous Toaster.
Describing the work, Harvey says: “The Nervous Toaster injects a bit of personality and humour into something naturally jumpy but soulless. A short while after being turned on, the toaster starts to shake. The nearer he gets to popping, the faster the shaking becomes, until it all gets too much and the tasty treat is released.”
Harvey cites the work and philosophy of Greyworld as an influence on his work, and the artist collective’s simple but charming approach to interaction design is indeed evident in his work. Harvey’s next move is to join the Design Products MA course at the Royal College of Art, where he hopes to combine product design with interaction. He is planning to work while studying, however, and already has a few projects lined up. Harvey is also in the process of registering his company, Richard Keivor, a joint venture with a spacial designer to create “innovative, playful products”. “I see success as being in a job where I’m always learning and challenging myself whilst being financially self-sufficient,” he says.