Getting to know the holistic mind of Recursive's David Yates

Published by

As the MD of international technology studio Recursive, David Yates has to keep his finger in many pies, often at the same time.

Where he really specialises, however, is in taking the disparate principles of audiovisual, IT, acoustics, lighting, content creation, and software development and bringing them together holistically. This way, he's able to bring spaces and buildings alive and connect his clients with their audiences by conveying their aims, ambitions and stories. 

As part of our series of articles Getting to Know some of the most inspiring figures in the creative industries, we picked David's brains on his achievments, his hopes for the future of the industries and how the best work shouldn't fee like work at all.


How did you get into the industry?

My degree was in audio and acoustics, however my background before that was theatre and music. I've always been more interested in the creative side and the application of science specifically to the subject of human interaction and human experience. 

Studying audio, you quickly learn how subjective this field is. This subjectivity of course applies to so many other creative areas and being able to overcome subjectivity and the human response and how this may vary from person to person is key to engagement. 

From audio, I then moved into video, lighting and then wider technology. We launched Recursive in 2012 and eight years on we have covered a huge area in terms of application. With everything from retail to corporate and government headquarters around the globe, we now look very much at the human experience in all areas of our work.

We really focus on how people use buildings and how people engage with their surroundings and we look specifically as to how technology can really help with this engagement.


If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

I would love to be involved in working closer with the natural environment so perhaps running a small farming focused enterprise which looks at working using technology to better develop our human connection with nature as opposed to working against it. 

Can you explain your creative process?

For me, the creative process is driven by first understanding the client’s culture, aims, needs and ambitions. What really makes them tick? I often find this is more valuable than any written brief because, without an understanding of the client and what they really want to achieve, the brief can often be widely misinterpreted. We often find that it is the nuances and small details that come from these conversations that can change the whole angle of what the brief actually means. It’s this small stuff which is often the most valuable. 

Once we understand where the client wishes to arrive at, we then work backwards at finding key ideas which can deliver the end result. We try not to get too focused on the technical details of this at this stage but rather allow the possibilities to flow in conversation within the team. We then play these back to the client and get their input and feedback and see what excites them and what resonates and connects. 

Once we have joined-up thinking between us and the Client we will then set about designing the components that bring this to life. We are always looking for a unique way to convey the client’s ideas and messages, be this visually, audibly or through lighting for example, or perhaps through content and software. More often than not we like to find ways in which the physical and digital can be combined.


How has technology affected the way you work (if at all)?

Technology is at the heart of everything we create so it has a huge impact. One thing we are very careful to focus on is ensuring that we are not deploying technology for technology's sake. We genuinely strive to ensure that any implementation of technology has a useful connexion or provides an enhancement. 

Outside of what we develop and design in terms of technology we also use technology in our creative approach through content creation filming designing and testing new ideas. 

What’s your secret to staying inspired and motivated?

I find working with clients the most inspirational and motivating factor. When clients open up to you and trust you with their thoughts, feelings and ideas but also their own story’s I find it hard not to be inspired and motivated to be part of that and to play a small part in their journey. 

What’s the work achievement you’re most proud of?

I would say the thing I'm most proud of, is the team at Recursive and their approach and dedication to our clients and our internal culture and values. When all is said and done everything comes down to people and the way we work together and treat each other and on that basis. I couldn't wish for a better team. 


How do you recharge away from the office?

The great outdoors I find is the best way to recharge batteries and to become re-inspired. I am fortunate enough to live close very close to the South Downs and the coast. There's not much else that can beat a walk in these environments to give time to recharge and reflect. Reflection is key to becoming re-energised

What advice would you give to other aspiring creatives looking for work?

The best kind of work you can do is the kind of work that self motivates you and that you feel you have a passion for. Sometimes you may not even be aware that you have a passion for a particular area, however, if you examine those conversations which most excite you and for which you have the most enthusiasm this is a pretty good indicator. It is often said that if you're doing the right work it should not feel like work at all

I think that this is an ideal view because in any job role, there are often tasks which you may enjoy and tasks which you may not, however, the overall vibe should be one where work is enjoyable even if this is only realised upon reflection. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing and don’t feel passionate then it’s hard to find the creative energy to do your best work.


What’s your one big hope for the future of the creative industries?

I think the creative industries are having a tough time right now we're all suffering as a result of the global pandemic. I also think the creative industries are hugely undervalued in the UK despite the fact that they are proven to provide a huge impact on the economy and the UK position on the globe. 

My one big hope, therefore, is that creative industries are better supported and more encouraged and better appreciated in the UK for what they offer and what they mean to people’s lives. Without the creative efforts of those across our industry on a daily basis life would certainly look very bleak and very dull. Creativity is the thing that joins us together it is the spark that energises us and connects people. 

If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?

I think the way the industry is valued within this country is something I'd like to see change. The creative industries are so important to so many aspects of our life yet they're always undervalued because they aren't always seen as a tangible return for investment, like a product that can be understood and sold. This hugely misses the point.



More Leaders



Melissa Ditson on creating your own role models

"As a creative, I've never had a female to learn from or look up to as an example of what was possible for my career." It's not uncommon to hear such stories from female leaders in the industry, even today. Though we are slowly getting there, we...

Posted by: Creativepool Editorial


Giving voice to the blind – Why innovation defies accessibility

Have you seen the new iPhone? Beautiful piece of design, almost completely button-less, a joy for the eyes. But what if you can't see all that? As technology progresses and designs become more minimal, one fundamental aspect of accessibility starts...

Posted by: Creativepool Editorial


In memory of Murphy Chou, bright star of Leo Burnett Taiwan

“Hope this is helpful.” Few words can condense Murphy Chou’s spirit more efficiently than these, pulled straight from one of our email exchanges with Leo Burnett Taiwan's former chief creative officer. As the industry gathers to...

Posted by: Creativepool Editorial