Alex McDowell - Richard Gregory Memorial Lecture Speaker 2019
Alex is Creative Director, Narrative Designer, Experimental Design; Professor of Practice USC School of Cinema; Director, World Building Institute, World Building Media Lab.
After graduating from the Central School of Art in London in 1976, Alex McDowell fell forwards into music graphics at the start of the Punk era. After booking the Sex Pistols first gig, he worked for Vivienne Westwood as a printer of her early design graphics. In 1976, he founded seminal graphic design studio Rocking Russian Design focused on music packaging and graphics and giving renowned designer Neville Brody his first job. This evolved into media design house Da Gama where he designed some of the earliest music videos for acts like the Cure and Iggy Pop. In 1986, he migrated to America to design the next wave of music videos for musicians from Neil Young to Aerosmith to Madonna to Michael Jackson, and commercials for director David Fincher at the influential Propaganda Films.
In 1990 Alex fell forward again into a career as production designer of over 20 movies, working with directors like Steven Spielberg, David Fincher, Terry Gilliam and Tim Burton. He designed Lawnmower Man, the first film to feature virtual reality, The Crow, Fight Club, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Corpse Bride, Minority Report, The Terminal, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Watchmen and Man of Steel amongst others.
In 2012 Alex became a professor at USC School of Cinematic Arts, creating a pocket of post-cinematic storytelling and narrative design that cuts across disciplines. Alex now directs the World Building Institute and the World Building Media Lab where he is working with Intel, Unity, Technicolor and 21 Century Fox, to pioneer visual and narrative semantics. In 2014, he was awarded the William Cameron Menzies endowed chair in Production Design by director George Lucas.
Falling forward again, Alex co-founded Experimental Design Studios where he is executive creative director, building worlds of future-facing holistic narratives for multiple clients and partners, including game makers, architects, anthropologists, neuroscientists, musicians, and storytellers. The design studio is unique in its integration of design, platform agnostic media and storytelling built upon Alex’s film career, particularly the film Minority Report.
His many awards include the lifetime RSA Royal Designer for Industry (RDI) and the President's Award from the DNAD (UK). He is a Visiting Artist at MIT Media Lab and at the Getty Research Center; currently serves on the board of the National Academy of Sciences, Science and Entertainment Exchange (SEE) and is advisor to the Johnny Carson Center for Emerging Media Arts in Nebraska. In 2014 his World Building Media Lab was awarded the Future Voice Award for Interaction.