Now more than ever are we striving to smash goals, blaze our own paths, and step outside of our comfort zones. Walk into any book store or open a magazine to find tales about the successful ones – you know, the ones who took a chance and it paid off. Entrepreneurialism continues to entice those who see how the world is now, and how they want to make it better.
Here at Remix, we take our hats off to the movers and shakers of this world, and eagerly anticipate a handful of them inspiring us to do the same at Semi Permanent, taking over Auckland’s Aotea Centre on August 11-12.
Now in its 14th year, Semi Permanent is a global creative and design thinking platform, that has since established a community of more than 400,000 people, and a network of more than 800 speakers and artists the world over.
But it doesn’t just stop at live events, Semi Permanent inspires the masses via print and digital platforms. Yes!
We spoke to three of the prominent speakers we’re excited to listen to at next month’s event. So, stay tuned, be inspired, and follow their lead – you won’t regret it.
HAYDEN COX, award-winning surfboard designer, entrepreneur and founder of Haydenshapes Surfboards
Did you imagine, at 15, that this venture would turn into a full-blown international company?
Not exactly, but shortly after I shaped my first board I kinda knew it was what I was going to do with my life – even at 15. That’s my stubborn nature I guess. I’d dedicated all of my school assignments to this manifested idea of a global surfboard company. Actually, I wrote my first and only Haydenshapes business plan for my year 11 business studies project. I started surfing at 4 years old and even then, the surfboard as an object just enthralled me. I found it equally as exciting if not more so than surfing.
When did that become a reality? How did your working attitude change after that?
I started expanding into international markets like Japan and US quite early on, but only at a very small degree. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when our global distribution kicked off in 2012 it started to hit me that the brands reach had gained some solid momentum… I always knew I had a great product. I just needed to get it out there and make it available to surfers beyond my local beach. Good surfboards drive ‘word of mouth’ and that is the best marketing/sales tool you can ever have. That is ultimately what grew my brand to what it is today. The popularity of the Hypto Krypto in particular was crazy and at one point we kept selling out in all key markets and simply couldn’t fulfill demand. We also won Surfboard of the Year twice in Australia and then in the US – a notoriously hard market to crack. For all of the highpoints there have been plenty of lows and challenges throughout the 20 years of running Haydenshapes that keep me humble and grounded. No job is ever beneath me in the business – if you have a shitty attitude and self-importance as an owner/director, it breeds a bad culture within your team of staff… I enjoy pretty much every part of the business, but that said, you do have to manage how you spend your time and delegate when needed. As a business grows, so does the pressure and challenges. Two decades in, I still feel like I'm getting started.
How does it feel to see people using your surfboards?
Whenever anyone asks me what my proudest moments are, my response is always the feeling of seeing surfers stoked out in the water enjoying my boards. I was in a remote part of Mexico a little while ago and met some surfers from Spain in the water riding my boards. That was a cool feeling. Or seeing photos of surfers on social media trudging through snow in Iceland hunting for waves with a Haydenshapes in tow. I still kinda find it nerve racking to be honest… There’s still that element of doubt in my head… “Could that one have been a little better? etc.” I'm my own worst critic, but I find that just drives me to keep learning and getting better at what I do. I’ve never once sat back and thought… Yep, I’ve made it. There is still so much to do yet.
You’ve worked with Alexander Wang and Quiksilver among others – what has been your most exciting collaboration?
When it comes to collaborations, for me it’s always about challenging myself as a designer. It’s a lot easier to make a board that looks unique/cool, but it is functional and true to the performance DNA of my brand? That is non-negotiable for me when it comes to creating a surfboard. For example, for the Wang project I spent 3 months developing a silk with a manufacturer that a) didn’t affect the weight of the board as to hinder performance and b) maintained the same level of flex and c) didn’t bleed ink as quickly when applying resin. I actually tested an early prototype with South African pro-surfer Travis Logie who rode it in a contest on WSL tour. That’s the highest level in terms of R & D. All of our projects have been great… Working on a campaign for Google a few year ago was cool. We’ve also done projects with Audi, Samsung and a string of different artists. More recently, I designed a fully functional chrome board (gold, silver, bronze) with a 99% mirror finish in collaboration with The Cool Hunter which hasn’t quite launched just yet. There is also a project in the pipeline with Aēsop and all I can say at this point is that it isn’t a surfboard. One project I am also quite proud of is my book New Wave Vision which came out last year. I had the co-founder of Google Maps, the founder of Oakley and RED, Tony Hawk and Karen Walker among others contribute their business stories. That was a fun project to pull together.
KELLY THOMPSON – artist, entrepreneur, founding director of Maker’s Mgmt
You are so multifaceted – it’s a huge sell for you! What is the aspect of business you have found the most challenging?
Thank you! There are a few things that I struggle with, I guess to some extent my generation is one of the first rounds of recognised "slashies" (People with broad job titles, breaking from the previous generations role of one job for life), which has many advantages, but also means that a lot of the journey is unchartered territory and I am constantly figuring it all out for myself. Sometimes I wish that there was someone just like me with ten years extra experience who's brain I could pick for advice! I am currently faced with how I grow past myself, and how I fund a small pile of business goals I have that will compliment and feed off my artist agency Maker's Mgmt . I guess these are the usual small business/big dream struggles, damn cash gets in the way sometimes! I've always chipped away on my own without outside help, but sometimes I can't help, but feel a little frustrated restriction (typical creative) and wish that some awesome business person with creative interests and some spare coin would just fire an email and say "hey Kelly, you put in good effort, I respect that I wanna be part of that" haha ...aaahhh the dreams!
Were you ever struggling to find work as a freelancer?
At the start yes, but everyone does. I pushed really really hard and busted ass in the first few years of freelancing which generated a lot of press, exhibitions and a good genuine International following. Luck has nothing to do with finding work, trust me! When I talk about building my following I'm talking engaged following, not Instagram followers, people in real life who do more than just "like". I feel lucky to have started my career before Instagram and the huge social media boom, I would hate to be starting out as young me again with current social media culture! My early career hustle grew my profile reasonably quickly and I haven't struggled with finding freelance work in the last eight years, so I'm happy to be past that initial struggle...now on to the next ones!
What are your tips for networking?
- Be a nice person is my number one, you'd be amazed how many people who I met over ten years ago have now become my clients or collaborators, you have to be open to people.
- Also remember to network IN REAL LIFE, not just through your screen, go out of your way to contact people. People respond to people and remember experiences, so you need to be in front of them sometimes.
3. It's important to see people as possibilities, not competition - this tall poppy crap needs to go in the bin. So many people hold everything so close to themselves, don't support their peers or community and chop each other down, I prefer the viewpoint that if I get stronger the people around me do too, and if we can all do a little bit better then that's a good thing, right? I love NZ so much, but sometimes when I head home I find it funny how closed off people are even to a "hello" at a social event, it's NZ, we all know who each other is, just say hi and get over it, who knows, we could have an incredible conversation and something great could come from it!
- Give a little bit back - I think it's also important to network with the younger generation following your path, be grateful for their support and give them nuggets of advice when you can because sometimes when you're alone up to your eyeballs they are more supportive and understanding than even your closest companions.
What is the most exciting part of collaborating with the massive brands you have worked with?
The possibilities! Bigger brands bring better budgets for all the little details that are often axed due to budget restraints with smaller clients. I've (surprisingly) also found that bigger brands place more trust in your skills, they come to you because they've seen you and they want what you do, your way. In my experience, they give you more creative freedom and trust in your ability and vision which is so satisfying, they seem more interested in you as a person and I think they have more respect for what you bring to the arrangement. ...well other than a couple of brands I refused to work with because they pulled that ol' "exposure" card.
What aspect of the creative industry would you next like to break into?
At the moment I feel like I'm brewing a bit. It feels like my past experiences are starting to slot into place and funnel into something. Very soon, maybe by the time this article is out I'm launching Maker's Mrkt over at makersmgmt.com. Maker's Mrkt is a site that will sell artwork and products from the artists I represent, but it will also sell products from people I've met along the way who I really respect as Makers in their own right, people making things sustainably and small run items, or small edits from collections of designers I love. I really want Maker's Mgmt to become a little creative community and am currently working through how to do that. I'm doing a fashion diploma as a "hobby", out of curiosity I guess. I've always been so involved with the fashion community behind the scenes and also as a general (over)enthusiast and I feel like there's something niggling at me in that area. With access to the artists I have and my past experience art directing, I'm playing with the idea of something of my own, something sustainable to supplement this brand that I guess I have, but like I said, I'm doing it as a "hobby" ...a hobby that just needs a startup investment!
NICHOLAS KAMUDA – Sensory Design Director – Windows Mixed Reality
What would be the biggest tech innovation that has influenced you since your career began?
As a designer, the biggest influences for me come from outside of the tech world! With Windows Mixed Reality, we’re making technology more natural, more personal, and more human. So I look outside of tech for anything that can change the way I think, or teach me something I could bring back to make technology work better for people.
Something I talk about a lot is the huge influence that food and cooking have had on the way I think about technology. Imagine cooking a meal for a dinner party. One of Mixed Reality’s key advantages is the ability to flow seamlessly between the physical and the digital, and getting rid of that annoying hiccup where people stop what they’re doing or stop paying attention to their friends just to look at their screens. So, as you’re cooking for this dinner party you’re switching between knives, spoons, your hands, raw ingredients, and fire, and suddenly you need to double check something on the recipe, or message to your friend, who doesn't know the way to your house. The crazy thing is that we have all of this dexterity with our hands to switch between using knives and using fire, but we don’t have that same flexibility with technology yet! Cooking and watching chefs made me realize we need to redesign technology to help us do things like that seamlessly, without putting down what we’re doing, and still end up with a great meal and house full of happy people.
What would be your dream innovation to achieve with augmented reality?
I think a lot of Augmented Reality right now is about content. As in, what digital thing would be cool to see in the real world? But content is just the tip of the iceberg. The truly wild innovations will come when AR is used to augment people’s perception. This is the other side of AR — AR gives people the ability to perceive reality in a way they couldn't before.
One thing I would personally love to achieve is to extend people's perception in ways that don’t seem possible today. Imagine being able to sense how your loved ones are doing, from anywhere in the world. Or being able to feel the location of things, or sense which direction to head. Imagine you’re an ecologist, and you can sense what’s happening across a huge swath of ocean. Or if you're a data analyst, and you can sense patterns in your data in different ways. People who have trouble seeing could hear and feel what’s around them. People who have trouble hearing could see or feel sounds.
Normal eyeglasses are a great example of this. People who wear glasses use them to perceive all kinds of visual information they couldn't without perceive without. In that sense, eyewear is like AR. And suddenly, people who couldn’t see well can read, work, and be creative in ways that would been difficult without glasses. Nowadays, eyeglasses are so common that we don’t even think about them. It sounds bizarre, but I’d like to think that AR that helps you perceive in totally new ways will be like that.
You've done some awesome work to support emerging designers! Did you receive similar support at the beginning of your career?
Thanks! I feel incredibly lucky in that I've met a lot of people who have been supportive of what I'm trying to do. I’ve been able to attend Artist Residencies and make experimental music out in the woods for 2 weeks. When I moved to Seattle, I met artists and designers of all kinds who all supported each other in off-beat, interdisciplinary projects. And in my first years at Microsoft, I remember being surprised at how supportive various leaders were of insane-sounding ideas, both at work and outside of work.
But the whole process also feels kind of random. So, I want to do what I can for people who haven’t had those chances. That’s been an important lesson in my work with the Seattle Design Foundation, which awards grants to emerging designers and connects people with mentors. It's also been a big inspiration for an upcoming Mixed Reality Artist Residency project that I'll be launching next year. I think the best designs are the designs that actually get out there in the world, so I try to do what I can to help that happen.
Technology is moving so quickly at the moment – do you ever struggle to keep up? How do you keep on top of the game?
I never ever feel on top of the game, and I never feel caught up — you can't! If I’m doing my job as a product designer right, then there will be more and more people using our platform, and similar platforms, in more and more ways. Which means more and more to try to keep with! Maybe it sounds counterintuitive, but I try to focus instead on things that are difficult or impossible to do with our technology, and think about ways that we could do them. It’s my way of looking ahead.
Head here for more, and to buy tickets.