What to Do When You Don’t Have an XR Designer

Careful design is an essential element of any XR product or experience. Here, Innovation Manager Harry Conway shares his advice on applying certain design principles and methods of thinking to your future XR project.

Extended Reality technologies, including virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and mixed reality, offer exciting possibilities for businesses to reach new audiences, tell compelling stories, and engage customers in unique and captivating ways. However, if you’ve never ventured into the XR realm before, it can seem like uncharted territory. So, where should you begin?

When considering XR technologies for your project, it’s crucial to recognize the extraordinary advantages they bring to the table. XR should never feel like a mere bolt-on but should seamlessly enhance your messaging and storytelling in a way that no other technology can replicate. The goal is to create an experience that is brimming with joy, wonder, and that indescribable “wow” factor.

Think in terms of scale, space, and sound. For instance, in XR, you can craft a sculpture the size of a building and allow users to explore it from any angle they desire. There are few platforms or technologies that offer such limitless possibilities, making XR a powerful tool for creating unforgettable, immersive experiences that leave a lasting impact.


Why Content Design Matters in XR

If you’ve ever witnessed a user struggling with a new XR product or service, you’d likely find that the confusion often lies in the content or the interface. This is where content designers come to the rescue. Their job is to understand user needs and create concise, straightforward content that helps users achieve their goals while providing the wow factor. Clarity in content becomes paramount, especially when you’re dealing with new technologies and novel hardware.

But what if you don’t have a dedicated content designer? Don’t worry; you can still apply the principles to make your XR project successful.


If you’re new to commissioning an XR experience, you may want to consider the following points:

  1. Ensure Clear Messaging and User Guidance: XR interface design plays a crucial role in guiding users through immersive environments. Think of it as designing a video game where users explore a garden with boundaries that are seamlessly integrated into the experience. Clarity of messaging and user guidance is paramount in helping users navigate and interact within the XR space.


  1. Keep It Text Light: XR is all about visceral sensory experiences; this is your language and your medium. Embrace the power of visuals, sounds, and interactions to convey information. Minimize text to create a more immersive and engaging XR experience.


  1. Embrace Multi-Platform Functionality: XR technologies often span multiple platforms and devices. It’s crucial not to exclude audiences from the start. Ensure your design is adaptable and inclusive, catering to various XR hardware and software setups. A seamless, consistent experience across platforms is key to engaging a broader audience.


  1. Set Realistic Expectations: XR projects can get expensive, especially when dealing with animation and character rigging. Consider how to tell your story efficiently and cleverly within your budget constraints. Sometimes, less can be more, and innovative approaches can yield fantastic results without breaking the bank.


  1. Explore Varied XR Experiences: Immerse yourself in as many diverse XR experiences as possible to understand the full scope of what’s possible and where certain experiences may have fallen short. The more you explore, the better equipped you’ll be to design your own XR projects, drawing from the wealth of experiences to create something truly exceptional.

The good news is that you don’t need an extravagant budget to achieve these goals. Often, it’s about collaborating with the right experts in XR interface design, streamlining complex content, and ensuring accessibility for all users, making your XR project a success.


Be Open to the Right Solution

It’s essential for businesses exploring XR technologies to remain open to the idea that XR might not always be the best fit for their goals. The worst mistake one can make is attempting to shoehorn technology into a solution that doesn’t exist. Sometimes, traditional methods or other digital solutions may better serve your purpose. So, when embarking on your XR journey, always ensure that the technology aligns seamlessly with your objectives and doesn’t force a square peg into a round hole. Flexibility and adaptability are key as you navigate this exciting realm of innovation.

In the XR space, your content and storytelling can make or break the user experience. By focusing on user needs, clarity, and accessibility, you can create XR products and experiences that captivate and engage your audience. Don’t let inexperience hold you back; embrace the XR journey with the power of content and design on your side.


Ready to Dive into the XR World? Contact STEAMhouse Today!

If you’re eager to explore the art of the possible in the XR space and embark on the journey of commissioning your own XR experience, look no further than STEAMhouse. We’re here to guide you through the immersive world of Extended Reality, helping you unlock new opportunities to captivate, engage, and amaze your audience.

Our experts are ready to collaborate with you, providing insights and support to turn your XR ideas into reality. Don’t hesitate to reach out and take that first step into the future of digital storytelling and engagement.


Email: steamhouse@bcu.ac.uk

Argentine Creative Bootcamp – Co-Curated by STEAMhouse



Argentine Exponential Design. Creative Bootcamp  is an intensive training program co-produced by the British Council and Bunge y Born Foundation, developed for the first time in Argentina to enhance the skills of local companies and entrepreneurs in the creative industries. The program was delivered in partnership with STEAMhouse, an Innovation Centre powered by Birmingham City University to curate the contents from the UK, and curators Florencia Lovera and Wustavo Quiroga designing the contents from Latin America.


In its first edition, 15 companies were selected from over 100 applicants, coming from areas such as industrial and product design, research and development of differentiated materials, fashion and textiles, contemporary crafts and interior design. The companies are Casa Capital, Mantara, Lola y Chango, Espina Corona, Bambuniverso, Blackñandú, Hifas biocreaciones, Mansha, ADN Sustentable, Sadaels, Claudia Santanera, Dacal, Velasco, Mutan and Oda Biovajilla.


During 6 months they received intensive training and mentoring sessions from British and Argentinean professionals. The results were presented at the closing event on the 3rd and 4th  October in at the ArtLab Buenos Aires, in a pitching format before a jury of investors, representatives of accelerators and universities, from which 3 companies were selected to receive seed funding from the programme. The investment will be used to strengthen the positive impact at a social and environmental level, and the implementation of new technologies. The final day was open to the public with presentations on global impact experiences delivered by British professionals Lucy Hardcastle and Patrick Stevenson, leaders of experimental and digital design.

Brew Digital and STEAMhouse: Working together to expand their business

Just over a year ago, Brew Digital joined our STEAMhouse Incubator. But before then, they were already involved with us by recruiting recent Birmingham City University graduates – three to be exact.

These grads form integral parts of Brew’s team, across their account team and design work. We caught up with them – Beatrice, Jim and Natalie, to find out how this happened, and why working in STEAMhouse is the place to be!


Q: Thanks for joining me today! To start with, tell us a little more about what do you do at Brew?

Beatrice: I’m an Account Manager working primarily within social media across various clients, running client briefs from start to finish making sure that all the elements come together and are delivered on time.

Jim: I’m a Designer working on anything design-related from social media assets to web design projects.

Natalie: I’m an Account Executive assisting our Account Directors on several different clients across the agency. I work on a variety of projects but currently, I’m helping get some of the newest clients on our new website platform as well as working on the initial stages of SEO projects.


Q: So for those who don’t know, what is Brew Digital?

Jim: Brew is a website and digital marketing agency who have spent over 14 years becoming experts in our fields. Working with a wide range of clients from pubs and restaurants to universities and motor factors we collaborate on digital marketing strategies and campaigns that drive action and help clients be their digital best.


Q: That’s great! So after graduating from Birmingham City University, how did you end up at Brew?

Beatrice: I first came across Brew while I was still studying at BCU. I received an email from one of my lecturers about an opportunity with a local agency that needed some support with an upcoming event. I applied straight away and had an interview with Client Service Director Matt, that week.

I was lucky enough to get the role and began working as a digital marketing intern shortly after. I assisted with various tasks over the next two years whilst I completed my degree. Once I completed my degree, I was offered a job as an Account Executive at Brew.

Jim: When I graduated, I decided to continue working in my hospitality job, but after a few months I decided that it wasn’t for me, and I wanted to get back into the creative design industry. I contacted the careers office at the university and started to receive weekly job advertisements.

Through those job ads, I noticed an opportunity for a ‘Junior Digital Designer’ which was a new role at Brew. I applied, had an interview, and got the job! I’ve now been here for three years.

Natalie: I first connected with Brew in 2018 when it was still called Connecting Element. I volunteered to be part of the university’s marketing agency called ‘The Link’, a BCU initiative placing marketing students on live projects for businesses around the Midlands.

My team was tasked with thinking of innovative ideas to help Connecting Element promote itself as it became Brew.  After completing the project for Brew, I continued my studies at university with a year’s placement at a national train company before graduating in 2021. After a bit of a bumpy road out of university, I’m happy to say I’ve found my place here at Brew as an Account Executive.


Q: That’s fascinating! You’ve all been with Brew for a few years now – how did Brew end up in STEAMhouse?

Beatrice: At Brew Digital, they’ve always had a hybrid work environment – some working from home, some working from the office. Our Client Services Director Matt told us that it seemed quite novel 13 years ago when they started.

Now it’s far closer to the norm and after a hiatus where everybody had to work from home during lockdown, we’ve now landed back on a hybrid setup between home working and here at the STEAMhouse.


Q: And what’s your experience been like working in the space?

Natalie: We have really enjoyed working in the STEAMhouse. For us three it’s our first job where most of our working week is from home so it’s nice to get out of the house and see other people!

Jim: With COVID having a big effect on our education and initial working years it’s been beneficial for us to have STEAMhouse to socialise and network as we begin our careers…and the fact it’s right next to the University community we knew so well is also a bonus!


Q: That’s so nice to hear! Overall, do you reckon you would you recommend STEAMhouse to other businesses, and if you would – why?

Beatrice: We’d definitely recommend STEAMhouse to other businesses. Everyone is so lovely and supportive, and it’s been the perfect place to fit into our ways of working as an agency. We’ve also enjoyed getting to know the other businesses around us and learning off each other as we settle into life at STEAMhouse. We can’t wait to see what the next year brings!


You can find out more about Brew Digital and their work here, or if you’re interested in becoming an Incubator member, see what we can offer you here.

STEAM Conference 2022

Birmingham City University’s third International STEAM Conference took place between the 18th and 20th of October 2022 in its dazzling newly-opened STEAMhouse building.

The event was an overwhelming success.



This year the Conference was extended across three days, allowing more opportunities for presenters and delegates to interactively explore how the ‘STEAM Approach’ is deployed within a wide range of applications, specialisms and organisations to develop strategy and foster innovation.

The first day of Conference featured a glittering array of guest speakers and international STEAM experts who presented the day’s core topic, STEAM in its International Context.

Delegates were able to listen to, ask questions of and meet in person renowned STEAM luminaries from around the world including Stanford’s Seamus Yu Harte, University of Ottawa’s Chantal Rodier and Ars Electronica’s Andrew Newman. As an additional treat, dialling in from Australia to give his presentation was Art Thinking CEO Kristefan Minski.

Fittingly, the whole day’s content was live streamed around the world, so viewers across different continents were able to watch and interact.



The second day of this year’s Conference was firmly hands-on, with its theme of STEAM applied to Innovation and Business reflected throughout.

Delegates were given a unique opportunity to take part in an all-morning Stanford University d.school workshop session, facilitated by our keynote US speaker Seamus Yu Harte. Few people this side of the Atlantic will have experienced such a session and the audience was visibly enthused and inspired.

During the afternoon, Elham Del Zendeh presented a compelling history of the Story Futures project, which combined storytelling with immersive technology to create a gamified VR testing range for best-practice energy usage and which won many plaudits at the New European Bauhaus expo this year.

Delegates were also able to tour and view an extensive demo showcase of art and technology presented by STEAMhouse members.

The third day of STEAM Conference 22 was focused on STEAM in Academia and Research. It was opened by Berlin-based artist and RSA fellow Kat Austen, who gave a warmly-received talk. Her mesmerising art, passionate environmental consciousness and application of interdisciplinary practice were an utterly compelling mix for delegates.

The remainder of the day was devoted to presentations of multiple academic research papers, which reflected a variety of STEAM-associated subject areas. The sessions were all recorded and are now available individually to view on the STEAMhouse YouTube channel.

We offer our thanks to all who presented and attended International STEAM Conference 2022.

See you next year!


If you would like to find out more about STEAMhouse, click here to discover how you can become a member!

Gain insight from leading US academic and business leader

Birmingham City University (BCU)’s newly-opened STEAMhouse facility is offering you the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to learn new ways of thinking to invigorate and inspire your company, from a globally successful business leader and senior academic at one of the top three universities in the world.



Liaise and engage with global professionals

Seamus Yu Harte, Head of Learning Experience Design at the prestigious Stanford University in the USA, will be giving an insightful and eye-opening talk as part of STEAMhouse’s third annual International STEAM Conference.

The Conference takes place from 18 – 20 October and brings together global businesses, creatives, researchers, entrepreneurs and makers to discuss new ways of thinking, developing exciting new products, forming collaborations and inspiring fresh, interdisciplinary ideas.

Taking place in the recently launched STEAMhouse innovation centre – a breath-taking, five-storey building comprising of state-of-the-art technology and facilities, meeting rooms, office space and more – the Conference will feature speakers from the UK, USA, Canada, Australia, Germany and Austria.

Learn new tools and methods from world-leading business expert

The Conference presents you with the chance to hear from Seamus, a leading light in new ways of thinking and learning who has educated audiences as diverse as business executives, artists, musicians, students and many more across the globe.

Seamus serves as Head of the Elective Program at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design, part of Stanford University and better known as the renowned Stanford d.school.

A world-leading facility designed to help people develop their own creative potential, the Stanford d.school is a hub for innovation, collaboration and creativity. Its mission is for people to become “everyday innovators, everywhere.”

Seamus has hosted regular sessions, events and seminars on helping businesses to shift their mindsets and adopt new methods and processes in their day-to-day operations.

A creative director with a surprising and varied career path behind him – singer Yoko Ono and television producer David Kelley have classed him as an employee – Seamus believes in introducing and pushing for new approaches, systems and ways of working.

Alongside his Stanford commitments, Seamus is also the Founder of Only People, a design studio based in California. The company offers training and support to help businesses break from the mould and “remix how their world works”.

Engage with present and future talent

Seamus will be speaking on day one and running a workshop on day two of the STEAM Conference, bringing a real Stanford University workshop that will explore, among other things, the importance of working with people across multiple disciplines.

Don’t miss out on your opportunity to hear from Seamus at the International STEAM Conference 2022 on Tuesday 18th October!