JEFF Julian readily admits he spends a disproportionate amount of time ‘‘taking the future very seriously’’.
As a designer and futurist, his skills have been used by companies as diverse as Apple and Rolls Royce, as well as Hollywood heavyweights such as Steven Spielberg and Ridley Scott.
Now, the University of Newcastle has appointed him the creative director for research and innovation clusters.
‘‘Futurism is about trying to build connections to see what’s possible,’’ he said yesterday in his office within the university’s Industry Development Centre. ‘‘What’s next? What are people overlooking?
‘‘I think it’s very easy to sit in the same pattern we always operate in because we find that it works [but] we can change things and discover something even better.
‘‘We don’t often go down this path because there might be 10 failures before success.’’
The California native’s partner, Jackie, is a Novocastrian and he has called Newcastle home for the past two years. The couple live in New Lambton Heights.
He describes the city as ‘‘kind of San Francisco to San Diego with LA in the middle then crushed with a little bit of London sprinkled in there and set in Hawaii’’.
He has continued working for Hollywood since his arrival, including designs for David Fincher’s remake of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, based on Jules Verne’s novel and reportedly starring Brad Pitt.
‘‘I help visualise the project,’’ he said. ‘‘Hollywood works on scripts but it’s a visual medium that you’re translating to so that’s where I come in.
‘‘I produce sketches, paintings, a freeze frame of the movie before a dollar is spent on filming.’’
Mr Julian’s designs have been used in Star Trek, X-Men 3, Green Lantern, Superman Returns and Minority Report.
The 39-year-old’s detailed drawings of dystopian settings are lifelike but, interestingly, visual dyslexia makes writing a challenge.
On the large, 23-inch screen of his Mac computer is a ‘‘free mind map’’ of the university.
Instead of bullet points and paragraphs, there are curved, coloured lines. He has been documenting, in his unique, intuitive way, ‘‘who’s on the ground, what’s happening and who is doing what’’.
‘‘I’m working with the vice-chancellor and the head of research, Professor Nick Talley, looking at how to make the university relevant to everyday life.
‘‘You’ve got this juggernaut of knowledge and learning that isn’t quite being used as it could be.’’
Mr Julian will work across disciplines for opportunities for innovation and corporate partnerships.
‘‘To be innovative you have to have an outcome,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s not just about being creative.’’
Mr Julian will discuss his vision for the future of design and the development of a design hub in Newcastle at the inaugural DiG Festival’s opening day tomorrow.
‘‘One of the things I’m constantly surprised about is what talent is actually here in Newcastle,’’ he said.
‘‘It would astound people. I think it’s an Aussie thing to be understated, not boisterous about what you do or how good you are.
‘‘You never know who you’ll run in to and how talented they are.’’
Heck, you could even find yourself chatting to a designer who once went barefoot to a meeting with Steven Spielberg.