Student Spotlight: Danilo Parise - Creative Director and UI team lead at Vodafone Group
April 11 2022
The Interaction Design and Prototyping for XR course from Circuit Stream is a project-based 10-week live online course. The course aims to teach students why and how UX practices are essential when creating AR and VR experiences.
In this segment of our Student Spotlight series, we talked with Danilo Parise— the Creative Director and UI team lead at Vodafone Group.
Meet Danilo Parise!
What is your professional background? Where are you employed, and what do you do for work?
I’m Danilo Parise. I’m a creative and art director. I’m a problem solver, whether this is related to digital products, campaigns or branding projects. I love to leverage design thinking and technology to drive positive emotions and make sure that my work output isn’t just aesthetically pleasing but also delivers profound meaning to people. I’m currently at Vodafone Group working in the Creative Director and UI team lead capacity, helping the company deliver the next generation of digital consumer products and the company's ambitious digital transformation plans.
Before Vodafone, I worked at Microsoft as a creative lead, shaping futuristic solutions that allow people to intuitively author and consume 3D content with traditional devices and Mixed Reality. I was also the founder and Creative Director of AngelStudio, a Milan-based animation production and creative technology company.
Where can we see your work?
You can find my works on my medium page and here. The latter is a tribute to my early entrepreneurial days in Italy. Unfortunately, I can’t disclose much of my most recent work as most of them are still under a non-disclosure agreement. Sorry!
What do you like to do in your spare time related to technology?
I try to stay updated with technology trends when I'm not working. In particular, when I spot a new piece of software, I like to try it out and explore its capabilities for future projects and I also play with creative video recording with my go pro camera and aerial photography with my drone during my outdoor activities.
Danilo's XR Journey
When did you first encounter AR/VR technology, and what moment piqued your interest?
I can’t pick an exact moment; however, since my early days at the university, I have always been intrigued by 3D. This urge accompanied me throughout my career, and I applied three-dimensional thinking in different areas, including branding, motion design and physical installations. That’s why blending digital and physical represents a natural extension of this passion of mine. Today, I believe we are on a leap into a new, exciting era of spatial experiences, and I’m all up for it!
What was the moment you realized that you wanted to learn more about interaction and XR?
In the middle of my career, I realized that most of my work was driven primarily by the beauty of the craft. Nothing wrong with it; however, I discovered that I wanted to deliver more meaning to the solutions I was creating. That’s why I started learning about interaction design and design thinking to be able to solve real problems for people. As 3D is my innate passion, my goal is now to merge this knowledge with spatial interaction and ultimately connect the dots with everything I learned during my professional journey.
Which AR/VR apps are most impressive to you and why?
I recently had the opportunity to try Meta Horizon Workrooms. And I absolutely loved it.
I understand there’s still a lot of work that needs to be done, but having the chance to see the origins of working immersively with people across different locations and countries I thought it was is absolutely mesmerizing. I spend most of my time in meetings and workshops at work, and the current video calling framework is far from ideal. I’m sure with the next app iterations alongside more performing, and lightweight devices, the sense of presence will raise the bar to a new digital sensorial dimension, making us completely forget how we used to work in real offices.
How did you start learning about XR?
At Microsoft, I was very fortunate to work on a broad project to allow people to consume and author 3D content quickly and easily. From there, the step to learning spatial interaction was relatively small. In XR, you face similar problems, particularly when interacting with three-dimensional assets from different angles and projected against various environments. This context has always triggered my curiosity, and by applying logic and a structured approach, I learned to solve minor user pains and deliver on more considerable interaction challenges. Regarding tools, I have always been a self-taught professional. I love to be inspired by videos and tutorials from the community and discover new techniques while trying new software and platforms.
Story with Circuit Stream
Where did you first hear about Circuit Stream, and what made you get in touch with us?
As my core duties at work cover primarily traditional user interfaces, with major tech players' recent shifts toward the metaverse, I had the impression I was missing out on the opportunity to design for XR use cases. That’s when I started looking for courses that would allow me to upskill in this area. I love emerging technologies, and my LinkedIn feed is all about those and the community that pushes the envelope in this field. That’s when the Circuit Stream courses and articles started to appear on my stack. I spent some time following the free workshops, and I realized the quality of the teaching and the active community around it. Hence, I decided to join the XR interaction course to uplift my abilities in Unity, XR interaction and real-time rendering.
Did you have an XR idea in mind already? What was the goal before attending the Circuit Stream course?
I love creative technology, and I love working with prototypers. I have been hearing them always buzzing about Unity vs Unreal and how gaming pipelines bridge well to spatial interactions. More recently, I wanted to discover a bit more about the Unity tool and put my fingers in it directly to find out how far I would be able to go with my product designer hat on, mainly when designing digital applications. And discover the point at which learning coding would be a priority to progress my career in this space. Luckily, I realized that, with limited experience in writing code, dedication, and a focused approach, you can still achieve excellent results with rudimentary tools currently available on the market.
At what point did you decide to enrol with Circuit Stream? and who was your primary instructor for the course you took?
I attended the XR interaction in the Nov21 cohort, led by the brilliant teachers Aleatha Singleton and Raghav Bashyal. I loved the breadth of their expertise and how easy it was to talk with them. They were able to transfer to us enough complex information to ramp up our curiosity and also assigned simple exercises to practice the skills, with the ultimate goal of gaining a better grip on the subjects covered.
Can you tell us a little more about the project that you developed along the way?
I had the idea for the trainer's concept since my early days at Microsoft and did some sketches back then. At that time, it was for Nike, and more recently, I just evolved the concept to the Adidas brand and Iconic NMD R1. I usually wear both shoes, and nevertheless, I always dreamt about the opportunity to prototype a customization and purchase experience in augmented reality and deepen into an industry segment very far from my daily professional routines.
Experience with the Course
What is the hardest part of learning XR development/design? Also, is there something that surprised you about learning XR?
As I tackled the course specifically from a product design perspective, I came to the conclusion that XR interaction patterns are very far from being fully established, together with a solid approach for creating 3D design systems. This situation has pros and cons. On one side, there’s plenty of space for you to explore and discover the best experience strategy for your project. On the other hand, coming up with the proper framework requires a lot of time and experimentation, putting your project at risk in terms of efficient workflows and delivering with pace.
Did you enjoy your learning journey at Circuit Stream?
I had a great experience attending the course. The information load depends on how much you want to invest time in each specific topic. Indeed I never felt that instructors were communicating something too difficult to absorb, which allowed me to take ownership of that shared knowledge for my future project and eventually deep dive if I was interested to discover more. More importantly, it was great to share the room with other like-minded people moved by the same interests -and doubts– I had before attending the lessons.
Would you recommend the course to others? What would you say to someone who is on the fence?
I recommend the Circuit Stream courses to anyone interested in XR development. The notions obtained in the course will give you plenty of room to define your own trajectory in this industry. Or even decide to upgrade your game and deep dive into coding. I suggest upskilling your knowledge in interaction design for traditional screens and UDC methodologies too. With the knowledge gained with the Circuit Stream courses, you will find yourself in an advantageous position, especially when dealing with real and tangible user problems in your next project.
What is next for Danilo
You’ve finished the course. What are your short and long-term plans and goals in the XR space?
After such a long time spent on the course and my own project, I’m now recharging a bit, as I achieved all the above while working in my actual job. It has been an intense period of learning, and I now feel the need for some time to metabolize the information and find the focus for the next exploration; I have a few ideas for self-initiated projects, still in the AR and VR space and looking to create again e2e journeys that cover use cases in the fashion and automotive industry. I’d also like to give Marvellous Designer and Unreal Engine a go to value their potential in practice. I’m eager to discover opportunities and challenges in each sector and explore how emerging technologies can play a part in it. And fulfil my passion for helping users solve problems they are currently facing and ultimately achieve goals they didn’t expect to be able to accomplish!
Where can we find you?
If neither of the above works for you, just drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org for anything XR-related. I’ll be super happy to connect and share views on the industry and tools!
Interested in Interaction Design and Prototyping for XR
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