Idealog goes to Semi-Permanent Wellington 2015

Bushy beards, curly mustachios, black-rimmed spectacles and the conspicuous wearing of flannel congregated at Embassy theatre. Had I stumbled upon an underground meeting of Wellington’s hipster set?

Actually no, this is Semi-Permanent – an annual meeting of creative minds in the design field to discus the latest trends and ideas, showcase their work and, of course, network with potential future collaborators.

Semi-Permanent is a creative event, started in 2003, which aims to spread art and design inspiration around the globe. It’s consists of a conference and side events that celebrate everything design: graphic design, film, art, illustration, web design, photography, visual effects, animation, and more.

Tickets to the event, which featured speakers from as far afield as Seoul, Paris and New York City, started at $190 for the full day event. For those of you who couldn’t make it to the Wellington event on Tuesday, here are a few highlights from the day’s speakers.

Brands

Tim Buesing is excited. Specifically, he’s excited about the new opportunities being presented to businesses to engage with their customers in radical new ways.

Buesing, who is currently executive creative director of Reactive, part of Accenture Interactive, says that only around 18% of companies consciously use branding in their customer experience. This, he says, represents a real opportunity for business to powerfully engage with their customers, provided they’re willing to embrace the digital world.


Image: Tim Buesing, executive creative director of Reactive

Buesing says that companies like Uber, which provides an instant (or at least real-time) service to customers all over the world, are now setting a new benchmark for customer experience.

This, he says, is leading consumers to ask the question: “What is my customer experience really like?”

This is a question Living Services, a concept developed by Accenture’s research wing Fjord, tries to address. Living Services, he says, is using the internet-of-things to push the boundaries of customer engagement and experience, creating technology that responds to customer preferences in real time.

Customers, he says, now have “liquid expectations” when they consume the services of brands in their everyday life. Put another way, no two customer expectations are the same. 

Buesing says that the large amount of data collected now helps shape an ‘all-of-product experience’ – an experience unique to each user and their specific preferences. 

This phenomenon is most accurately illustrated by tools such as Google Now which can provide key information about weather, traffic, which modes of transport a commuter should use, nearby events and app data relevant to the specific user.

Such individualised functionality has its downsides however. Buesing says that the ubiquitous use of such tailored content can lead to uneasiness in the user. While the typical privacy concerns are likely overblown he suggests, brands still need to take such concerns seriously.

“We believe that part of our branding must be about transparency,” he says.

Buesing says companies should therefore work harder to engage users and allay their data privacy concerns.

It's not what business's T&Cs are, he says, “It’s the way you write them that matters”. 

Buesing explains that rather than outsourcing all such 'technical' work to the legal team, creatives at Accenture Interactive have been involved in writing terms and conditions as a way to earn user buy-in.

Buesing says that, as users’ expectations change, businesses need to be responding, adjusting the user experience to meet those expectations.

The key, he says, is therefore to be “always learning”.


Learning forever

Constant learning, albeit by humans rather than data, was also a theme for unconventional design speakers Tin and Ed, who run their namesake graphic design studio from the artistic hub of Melbourne.

The pair apply the mantra of “learning forever” to the eclectic range of works they complete.

“Every situation that we are in," explains Ed, “there is always something to learn.”

“[We] learn by picking things up on commercial projects”, adds Tin.

Tin and Ed’s portfolio ranges from the ‘go’ campaign for Visa, where they hung together computer hardware with fishing wire to form the word “go”, to a rope installation for tourism Victoria promotion of Melbourne’s arts festival.


Image: Creative duo, Tin and Ed

A complementary aspect to their mantra of “learning forever” is also trying to see things with “fresh eyes and a new angle” which led to their rather strange advert for global music icon, Pharrell Williams' recently released Adidas shoe.

It is a willingness to experiment and learn which helps Tin and Ed deliver their best work, as Tin explains.

“That’s how we get the work that we want to be doing right now.”

Other high profile speakers from the event included artist and designer Beatrice Lartigue, Motherbird’s creative director Jack Mussett, and data visualiser and founder of Pitch Interactive, Wes Grubbs