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Paul Kelly: Head of Experience Design at Mudbath

Join us as we speak with Paul Kelly, Head of Experience Design at Mudbath, about his journey from studying visual arts to leading design at a digital agency. Paul discusses pivoting to study design in university and getting his start at Bicycling Australia magazine. He then did freelance work before moving to Glasgow and learning coding. After returning to Sydney, Paul spent 8 years at a digital agency before joining the growing team at Mudbath. He talks about Mudbath’s expansion from 4 to 17 designers after merging with Endava and the variety of industries they work in. Paul reflects on the value of developing critical thinking skills in university despite the challenges. Tune in to hear Paul’s insightful experiences transitioning from visual arts to leading design!

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Please note: this transcript has been auto-generated and may contain some errors.

Thank you for joining us for another episode of Digitally Diverse, where we do a deep dive into the careers and journeys of Australia’s design leaders. Today, we are so happy to have Paul Kelly joining us, the head of Ux at Mudbath. Thank you so much.

Thank you so much for having me. It’s a real pleasure to be here and it’s so great to have a face to face interview and as someone who lives in Newcastle, it’s so great to have you in. Oh, great.

But, yeah, I’d love to hear a little bit more about your journey and a bit of background on you. So, yeah, give us a little spiel on your journey today. Gosh, where to start? It probably starts with two lines of people.

I did my degree at the University of Wollongong and when I went there, I was good at drawing when I was at school. And so when I got to the interview to get into the universities, going to lots of different universities at the time, there were two lines and I was in the visual arts line. I was in there to be a visual artist.

I wanted to take that further. I was looking at the line and there was a line on the other side of the hall and they were probably just a little bit more. Less disheveled, I might say.

I think there was someone in front of me with a piece of rope as a belt and I thought, these are the people I want to hang out with, but maybe I can make money creatively if I join that line. And I did, and I went in and I showed a visual art portfolio to try and get into a design degree. And I didn’t really know what that meant.

I’d read about the syllabus and what it was involving and so that started my sort of journey into design. So I did a bachelor and then a master’s of creative arts and what they called new media. So I was making animations in flash and things on cds and dvds.

And so that was really great exposure to lots of different types of creativity and design. And out of that, what did I do out of there? I started in my design career with Bicycling Australia magazine, so a sort of print publication. They did a bit of web, bit of branding, and that was really interesting.

And I also managed to land somehow some freelance work with a really interesting film production company that would go on to make shows like Bondi rescue and a lot of shows that were really popular. So I got to make like, the proposal work or flyer work. And I love the creative sort of piece that was involved in doing that work, and I had this really cushy experience.

I was living down the coast and at some one morning I just woke up and wanted to do something different. So I moved to the UK and I lived in Glasgow for six years and managed to land a job there. And that job took my design really into the digital world a lot, and I had to work as a developer as well, had to learn how to code to realize the designs, so it was quite a pinnacle moment.

And then from there, came back to Sydney, probably after about six years, had a long stint at a digital design agency or creative agency, marketing agency in Sydney, called with collective. And after that, sort of finished, I was about eight years there. And then after that, made a move up to sunny Newcastle and joined Mudbath, where I am today.

Amazing. Yeah. I’ve also had the experience of moving away and going to the UK, although I think what was the contrast, like from going from the coast to Glasgow? That’s like two complete opposites.

So my parents are scottish and so I think there was a draw that was just about. And they always had such a negative view of it. It rains all the time.

We left there for a reason, and it just like a child being told, you can’t have the chocolate over here or something, you just wanted even more. So I think I just had this real appeal and there was a mystery around it that I wanted to follow up with, but I loved that City of Glasgow, so it was very hard to get a job there, I have to admit, because it’s a small, you know, the draw of London is a typical place for a lot of Australians to go, and I really tried to resist that and make it work, and it turned out to be a really serendipitous move because it gave me exposure, in a career sense, to being, I guess, involved in tech from a front end perspective, I was a front end developer plus a designer. But in terms of contrast with the coast, when it rains there, it feels like the rain is coming up from the ground.

It can be really oppressively kind of cold and miserable. But then you’ve got that. You might have found it in your travels, what it’s like to then performatively, like, wear big layers of jumpers and jackets and go into a pub and have that experience and what it’s like.

And it’s no wonder there’s so much art and music that comes out of that city, because people just seem to like to drink a lot and get creative. Yeah, I think that’s so true. Like, when you are kind of stuck inside due to the weather all the time, just like, okay, well, let’s put something together.

Yeah, right, well, I guess now that you’re. How long have you been with mudbuff now for? So it must be over two years. Nearly three years.

Nice. And kind of fill us in with what you guys do for those who don’t know and what you do with them. Yeah, so I’m head of experience design there, and so when I started two or three years ago, there was a design team of about four.

I think we’re up to 17 now. So that’s been a fairly big growth trajectory there. And Mudbath make digital products, websites, apps, digital services, and I think something that’s really great about it is really at the intersection of tech, design and product.

So we can take briefs from an idea on a wall to full delivery and maintaining it and maximizing those projects. And it’s been a really great journey that I’ve had with them as we’ve been growing and just getting more and more ambitious, clients wanting to do more and more interesting things. And so that’s been a really great discovery to find in Newcastle and the caliber of work that’s possible in this really creative city too.

Yeah, that’s something that I think a lot of people don’t realize until they come here is how many creatives actually live in Newcastle the most per capita than anywhere else. Exactly. It’s a parallel to Glasgow in that way.

You’ve got this big industrial city know, still has know heavy industry profile, but it is changing. And that in Glasgow’s sense, that was a place where a lot of that industry did move away. So you had these big vacant spaces and they were relatively cheap and what they turned into was a lot know, creative spaces.

And you do get a real sense of vibrancy in culture and creativity in Newcastle, for sure. I think it’s a really special place, I think as well, there’s so much opportunity to play around with things and I guess it’s a little bit cheaper than some of the bigger, you know, lots of startups, lots of really cool, cutting edge stuff is happening. And Mudbath started in Newcastle.

Yeah, definitely branched out. Yeah. So the name apparently comes from the CEO, grew up in Mudgie and Bathurst, so mud bath and put that together.

But ultimately, yeah, it started in Newcastle, but now have presences in Sydney, Melbourne, and that’s just growing and growing stuff. That’s right. So recently, in the last three months or so, I think it was maybe back in May, there was a merger of mudbath with Endava.

So a big global group. And so that’s the next exciting chapter that’s on the horizon for that business, which is great, super exciting. Yeah.

So what new projects or what new things are on the roadmap for my bus in the next twelve months? Yeah, there’s always a lot to talk about. We do a lot. So we’re doing a lot in fintech, in retail, in ecommerce, headless ecommerce, heavy industry, and I guess across a lot of different business verticals and a lot of different projects, there’s a lot of digital transformation happening across those different verticals.

And so there’s always an opportunity for the digitization of processes or the more efficiency that can be handled. So what’s really exciting is when a client comes in, they’ve usually got a really strong idea about the thing that they need to drive value in their business. And we have a really transparent culture that often exposes business challenges, category challenges, societal challenges that then can feed into the work and the solutions.

So there’s some really exciting work across all of those spectrums, all of those industries. Yeah. Again, a lot of it will end up in some sort of web experience, sometimes app experience, but sometimes it might be everything from service, design and how to improve workflows and the role that digital can play in those, and sometimes in consumer or people facing digital products.

Yeah, awesome. And I guess you mentioned before that the design team’s over tripled since you’ve been there in the last two years. Can you tell us a little bit about the team and the culture? Yeah, it’s a great team.

So probably, I’m going to say six months ago, maybe a little bit more than that, we had Wes Fagan join us as a chief design officer. And that to me was really inspiring in that the business was investing in design at the highest level in the business, and that’s, know, setting the playground for design and product to really excel together with the tech teams. My job is leading the department is, I guess half of the role is being aware and thinking about how to solve problems for clients in the best ways.

And then the other half of my role is, or sometimes more, is how to make sure the opportunities that exist for people in the team are aligned to what they want to do in their career and with their ambition. And so I like the fact that we have a really transparent team culture, one that’s based on radical candor. I really encourage that that feedback can come from anywhere and embrace those sometimes difficult conversations to make sure that I’m learning alongside.

I want people to tell me where I could be better. The mistakes that I might be making, and a really healthy cultural transparency there, I think, is really good. People really care about the work that they’re doing, and they really take pride in the work that they are delivering.

And I think because the business started as our CEO, Josh, and our CFO, husband and wife, and I think there’s a sort of family element. There’s a certain level of care that’s always been part of the mudbath culture for one another. And that really means that people look out for each other.

And so there’s a really. I know people say about their businesses all the time, it’s the people, but the people really are quite special, and that makes a difference. Yeah.

And that’s really interesting that you say that. The two founders are married. I think a lot of companies are like, oh, we’re like a family.

And sometimes that can be like. I don’t want to say toxic, but it kind of sets up a bit of a. It’s an important point.

Yeah. I don’t think it’s healthy to have family as a value. I think that puts challenging expectations on people in their work to.

Personally, I don’t necessarily look at work and my life as two separate things. I like to think of it as a blended part of who I am. But I think a business asking people to put that experience on the level of family is a potentially risky one.

Definitely. That’s a fairly sacred thing to most people that I think this is one of the only times where I could be like, okay, yeah, literal family has built this business. So it actually does make sense to me.

Well, it does make sense, but I do take the point because it is something that the business recognized and focused on, and you can take the elements of what makes a feeling of family and extract those and focus on those. So looking out for each other can be values, and looking out. Being better together in that way is something that is a value of mudbath, but it can feel like family, I guess, at the same time.

Yeah, there’s that camaraderie. And everyone that, I mean, everyone that I speak to, that’s part of the team usually says within the first couple of sentences, like, why do you like working for Mudbath? It’s my team. That’s one of the main reasons why they love it so much there.

Yeah, love that. So you mentioned before that you chose between the two lines and have the gentleman with the rope belt to think from where you’re at at the moment. Can you tell us a little bit more about your higher education journey and what that looks like for you? Yeah, sure.

So I really enjoyed going to university. There were definitely practical parts to it. But I think the thing that at least that degree gave for me was a level of critical thinking.

The people that I went to uni with, both, I did a lot of visual art electives alongside my design degree. It’s really nice to see how I don’t like the idea that creativity feels exclusive to these sort of disciplines. You can be a creative accountant, you can be creative mother or father with your kids.

There are lots of ways you can see a challenge and find inventive ways to solve them. I don’t want to sort of sound like that, but there was a real appetite and excitement that that experience sort of instilled in me in what’s possible and exploring what’s possible creatively and thoughtfully and critically. So that was a really special time.

But I say all this knowing that I know the cost of living, the cost of education, it’s different now. And so I feel a bit disheartened about the prospect that maybe those opportunities aren’t available as much to people these days, because that was quite life changing for me. I had okay grades, I guess, but I could afford to rent.

Just I had to have some side hustle jobs. Nothing creative necessarily to get through, but I do recognize that’s a challenge. It seems to be a big challenge for people right now.

And so I guess why I mentioned that is because as someone who hires people, I guess there’s potentially a thought of how important is it to see a certificate on a cv? And I have to say I recognize the caliber of people who come from certain courses. But really, it’s not something that holds me back from giving someone an opportunity at all. It’s really about their attitude and their eye for creativity and critical thinking.

And I hope that people can still find ways because I feel quite blessed to have been able to do that through a university. But, yeah, sorry, what was the question again? I’d love to kind of ask a follow up question to like with your time in the like I recruited over in the UK, and what shocked me was a lot of the time some companies would request candidates to come from a certain university or have a certain degree or a certain grade, where here, that’s just not a thing. It seems to be a lot more.

You can come from any background, you can come from any school, and it not be a huge issue. Is that something that you kind of noticed as well. The thing I noticed most, that’s interesting and that’s disappointing, I think.

I think that. I agree. The thing that I found different, not necessarily with an ability to hire or get a job between the UK and Australia, was the expectation of the design in digital was not just about the ability to creatively design, it also required front end expectations to be able to code.

And so that was a real blessing to me that that expectation was there because it forced me to learn how to code. And I feel quite fortunate that. So I graduated my master’s in 2001 and I kind of grew up as a designer in my career.

And back then, designing for digital was done almost like a brochure, know Google existed, but it wasn’t smart, definitely weren’t smartphones, and it was a bit simpler. You were designing in tables, in boxes, and it wasn’t especially smart. Over the time and moving to the UK, there was then the move away from developing in tables into CSS, and then that was starting to make things to be able to be more flexible and responsive and paving the way for what was coming around the corner with the need to be responsive, mobile design friendly.

And so I feel like I had a real advantage in that way, in that I was able to grow my skills. It just happened to be in the UK, luckily, in this space, as the tech was sort of changing and just layering on top of the foundation of, say, quality design. Around the same time, this is between 2006 and 2012, there’s this term ux just starting to pop up.

And so that ability almost to step back and look at the pathways of user centricity and things like that were emerging. And so coming back to Sydney from the UK with the ability to design and develop put me really nicely in a spot that was appealing when the phrase ux, and thinking about how to execute experiences in digital, I felt really well versed in that. Yeah.

So I feel really fortunate that I was able to be in the UK at a time that was requiring me to be able to do front end development and design at the same time. That was very serendipitous, because six years later, coming back to Sydney, the appetite for people who could think in that space and understand how design was going to translate into digital spaces was really high. And so then it was much easier to then layer on the strategic UX thinking, the customer centricity, the human centered design that sort of would feed into it.

Yeah. Now fast forward ten or 15 years after it. Now we’re talking about system design as well.

So that’s really stretched the role of a designer over the time. Definitely, yeah. What I’m hearing is you really enjoyed the foundation work that what a university degree has given you, but then you’ve just picked up so many other layers along the way.

Going to Glasgow was almost like a bump in the road because it was hard to get a job for a while. And so I’d planned to just live over there for six months. About three months into it, I was thinking I’d like to stay here for a bit.

If I get a job, that would really help. And I had to work in a bar. I lived with my grandmother for a while.

I just wanted to make it work. I had to commit, had to hustle a bit. Yeah.

Had to grind a bit. Grind a bit. Really dedicate to it and just try and keep focused on realizing it.

I’m glad I did that because it did turn out to be a real benefit in landing something there. And what that ended up folding into. Into the future.

But, yeah, university was great for setting that foundation of critical thinking. Different, I guess, experiences in thinking about the role of and the history of art as well, and how that can inform principles that to take forward into the future. Definitely, yeah.

You have to know the rules to then break them. Yeah. Okay.

Yeah. So how does maybe visual art or the history in art sort of inform things? Like, one of the things I observed and I remember from art school was looking at some of the masters, like, daegar would be the painter, I don’t know if you know that used to paint pictures of ballet performances a lot. It was very heavy, dark sort of canvas.

And movement in these paintings was something of a focus. And I think Dagai used to paint, like, eleven of the same sort of scene and go, number three is the right one. That’s the one.

Whereas, like, a Picasso would just be, I’m a genius. Here’s my attempt at it. And this is the one I did.

One and that’s it. Yeah. One and done.

One and done. And I think that’s something that I find interesting when I observe with designers. I’m probably a little bit of a dagger.

I’ll sort of do a couple and want to see which one sort of resonates strongly. And I see that in the team as well, or in teams that I’ve worked with over the years. People seem to be either one or the other.

Sometimes they’ll move between those modes, but that’s a kind of interesting thing in a small, subtle way, that art history helps inform me about, oh, you’re that type of thinker. Sometimes I’ll need to push someone to be, do more or actually doing too much, be a bit more Picasso. Yeah, well, I think that’s really true.

For me, anyway. I feel like I’m kind of similar to you. I like to iterate a lot and bit of a perfectionist.

But with that being said, sometimes I think there’s some kind of pressure to not be like that, to just get it done right the first time and be a Picasso where it doesn’t work for everyone. That’s right. It’s hard to be aware of it in the moment, for sure.

That’s part of the role of being a manager, anyway, is sort of helping people sort of recognize that where did we win? Is the sort of phrase I might use. You love the passion and energy of people to really try and get something right in a short amount of time. Sometimes it’s okay.

An eight out of ten is okay, and a seven out of ten. Sometimes that’s okay, at least in their mind. Because often it’s a ten out of ten for the people that are looking at it.

Exactly. Because they can’t do what you do. Well, I guess I’d love to know, considering your journey, is that something that you would advise newbies or people who are thinking about getting into design to go down a similar route, or what would you recommend? Yeah.

Again, as I said before, I feel privileged that at least when I went through uni, it was tangible, wasn’t cheap, but it was affordable. It was doable. I am careful to say I would love that opportunity to be available for anyone who wanted to do it.

But if it’s not, I think what’s important is to have an idea of what you want to go after, and it will change, but just keep going after it. As a hiring manager, attitude always beats skill. You can teach skill.

There’s an eye for design or an eye for critical thinking that can be hard to instill in people, but skill can be taught. Attitude is harder to get across to people. And so I think that if there’s a pathway that is available to people that feels like it’s taking a step towards design or creativity, go for it.

Fully embrace that. Failure is an essential part of it. I wish I learned that sooner, or learn to be okay with it.

I do think some formal education is important in some form, whatever format that is. I actively employ people that know aspects of the spectrum of design way more than me. Surround yourself with people who are way smarter than you that and also just the breadth of what design can be these days is just so massive.

Yeah. It’s no longer just visual or advertising or new media. It’s a whole spectrum, man.

It’s been in my mind a lot over the last few years in that I mentioned earlier, it was very fortunate that my career sort of came up at the same time as the emergence of digital design was sort of taking hold. So I got to be adjacent to it the whole time. But now when we look at it, yeah, you could be a strategic ux researcher and very, very deep in that capability.

There are people that can do end. I probably consider myself have some ability end to end, but I do recognize that deep specialism across the board is really difficult. To me, the way that you get over that is by having a system, a team, to be able to achieve the best quality across from discovery and research, to analyzing that, to ideating on that, to creatively executing it, to taking the craft into a tool or tools, and now to systemize that so that it’s meeting dev pipelines and technology.

And then you layer on top of that the tech advancements, the digital trends, and then you layer on top of that the depth of knowledge that you might need in an industry, industry vertical or with a client. That’s a big amount of responsibility that a designer is meant to facilitate and bring together. And so, yeah, I think the role of the designer in these today is increasingly complex because the mediums is also so many and varied as well.

But the way that I think you can get around it is, as I say, trying to think of a team as a system. I don’t mean to speak coldly about that, but the exciting point is then trying to marry people’s ambition and experience with what is required by the system. And so they’re getting deep satisfaction clients, and the output is really quality and you have to be a bit humble and going, wow, that was a great bit of research.

I couldn’t have done that on my own, or that was a really clever insight that was unpacked. That’s a certain type of thinking. That’s a sort of science, definitely.

And a creative in the middle and then system thinking at the end. Yeah, there’s a lot of organization and ops finesse that needs to happen throughout the whole process. Is that something that you mentioned before, like 50 50 of your role is like the actual creative thinking and the strategy and then the people management.

Is that just kind of like marrying all of that together? Yeah, in a way, I definitely find that exciting to go, how do we solve a challenge for a client in a really value driven, interesting way? And then how are we structuring teams to achieve that that’s aligned to what’s important to them? The absolute sweet spot of being a manager is when you get to marry those two things together, that the work and the clients are getting output that they’re just thrilled with and that the people that are married to it in terms of their role is deeply meaningful to them and taking, improving their career and improving their sort of, I guess, connection to work. It has this little weird like, lock. It feels like a little puzzle piece that just clicks in.

And I really respect what mudbath do in that regard because they really try and focus on that. They look to the leaders in the departments to make sure the marrying of work is close to people’s ambition. Yeah, I think that’s something that a lot of other places can improve.

To be quite frank. I feel like me working in the recruitment side of things, there seems to be lots of like, oh, we need someone with this experience, get them in. But how do they actually fit within the whole puzzle? So, yeah, that’s great to hear that that’s a big priority for you folks.

It’s not easy. Yeah, it’s a juggling act. So it sounds like throughout your journey you’ve done a few different locations, a few different industries.

I’m curious if there’s any challenges or speed bumps that have really shaped your career in your journey to date. Probably the biggest speed bump was the one that I mentioned before about moving to Glasgow, moving to a small market and chasing after the ability to do a design, any design creative job. And there were parts where I thought, have I made a mistake? I’d left a lovely sunny part.

I lived in thrill, down the coast near Wollongong. I’d ride my bike to Bicycling Australia magazine. I only had to do sort of three days a week.

Plus I was doing a bunch of freelance work that carried right through for a long time. And it was safe, it was cozy, it was good, but I felt like I needed to be challenged. And I wondered, have I bitten off more than I can chew? I wondered if the pursuit of this was too narrow.

And in some ways I probably wasn’t thinking ahead enough to where is this potentially? What does this mean? Where is it going to take me? But sometimes you have to do that. I think you do and I do encourage people to. I was in my early twenty s, I guess, as well.

And then you think you know it all and you’re an adult, but you really don’t. I mean, I don’t know if you ever do, but I think that was a big speed bump for a number of months where I didn’t really know how to get out of it, but I just hustled until it happened. I can’t even remember how it happened exactly, but I remember I was in a hotel lobby where I was meeting someone who was starting, who had a sort of semi established business needed design, needed Dev.

And so I’d go and work and at night I would work out how to do the front end. Dev and I was reading physical magazines. Right? Yeah.

This is pre YouTube. Yeah, I think it was. I think it was.

I remember YouTube coming up when I was in Glasgow. So it must have just been around that time, like 2004 or five something. But it is a really important point, isn’t it? Like, the idea that the hardships and the challenges you face are probably.

Your places are the biggest amount of learning and every sort of challenge will eventually, like, challenges are an essential part of life and it’s sort of how you deal with them or don’t deal with them that can really shape you. So that was a big challenge, going after it, luckily landing it, and I don’t know, another one, which I think was. I don’t know if it was a speed bump, it was a welcome bump, like, I’ve seen it coming and it was really welcome, which was I took a redundancy at one point in my career.

I think there’s a fair amount of stigma around redundancies and I think it’s important for people to recognize it’s not the person that gets made redundant, it’s the role. I was fortunate in the position to have options about, do I want to take this or there are other options to progress, but you don’t see that on a bit of paper that might just look like a redundancy if ever it comes up. Yeah, I guess that was, I guess a speed bump and a choice.

It was convenient for me at a time when my first daughter was on the way, so I took it as a time to really re energize and focus on family and I could be home for that. Yeah, I guess that’s something that’s really topical at the moment, actually. I speak with a lot of people at the moment who have been made redundant and struggling with the just.

It’s an emotional thing to have happen to you. It’s really stressful. It is hard not to take it personally.

I think for the vast majority of people, some people look at it quite logically, but for the vast majority of people, it’s like, holy shit, what do I do now? I don’t have a job. It’s interesting that you kind of reflect after a few years on that and see it as a fresh slate for you to just refocus with family. I don’t think I would have been able to do that in my earlier years.

And the anxiety and tension and again, the cost of living these days is different to potentially what I might have experienced at a sort of earlier in my career. So I have a different lived experience. So I definitely don’t take that for granted.

But, yeah, you’ve seen that a lot in tech, and that can happen. And, yeah, the only thing I’d say is that the challenges that come up are, at least for me, have been my biggest source of learning and probably, on reflection, some of the biggest character defining moments in life and career that you can take pride in. Definitely.

And I guess that kind of gives me a good segue into my next question, which would be, is there anything that you do day to day that kind of keeps you productive and motivated and kind of fosters that sense of resilience? Yeah. There’s so much to say about mindset. This sounds a bit hippie and wishywashy.

If you look at a challenge, you look ahead at what’s coming up in the week, in the day, in the year, and you might say to yourself, this is going to be hard. It will be. If you can look at it and say, this is going to be hard, but bring it on.

Bring it on. The difference that it makes in you as a person and what you put out and how you feel, the mental chatter that might have been keeping you awake at night and tension around that, it goes away. Bring it on.

Yeah, I’ve got this right. It took me a while to learn that. If I could have found a way to learn that sooner, that would be really beneficial.

And I don’t know if only you can get to it after a certain amount of time, I don’t know, but I think there’s a small, small group of people who have that innately in them. But for the vast, vast, vast majority of us, it’s a learned thing. It is a learned thing.

And the ability to be able to step outside yourself and see that and recognize, I’m in this moment of challenge. I am mentally going around. There’s a lot of mental dialogue to recognize that and go, oh, wait, what’s going on? Okay, why and how you have to actively decide and recognize that and take time on that.

So to motivate and to get a sense of kind of energy, I do find that being able to recognize where your mental space is and take active choices about how to combat it positively is a really important thing. But also to recognize I haven’t got it right now. Like, the last thing I do when I’m struggling with a creative idea is if I’m really stuck on it, I’ll try and recognize I haven’t got it.

I’ve got to stop, and I’m going to do anything but that and let, like, the subconscious tick away at it. It’ll get you there. Yeah, it’ll happen.

There’s time pressures, there’s life pressures that maybe isn’t making that possible all the time, but that’s something I get motivation from, is anything but that. Sometimes procrastination is productive. Sometimes, yeah, sometimes.

But as long as that kind of procrastination is something that fills your cup and there’s definitely some destructive things that we can do. But, yeah, do you have any, do you run or paper journal or like, you know, I go and look at paint websites and look at the colors of names of colors. I love that.

If you ever got, like, have a look like the names of colors and you go, yeah, that is gentle marshmallow, whatever. Right? That’s a really therapeutic thing to do. I saw there’s a podcast.

Not maybe a podcast, a tv show, maybe on SBS or ABC. That’s just about unpacking the answer to things. And I think, yeah, there’s a new episode.

I think it’s like, what, the faq maybe something like that, right? And I think they’re going to talk to someone whose job is to name them. And I don’t want to watch. I don’t want them to demystify.

I don’t want to find out, oh, yeah, we just put in this machine or, yeah, I just randomly think of them. I’m hoping that there’s like some wisened old man in the basement somewhere being like, yes, this is gentle marshmallow. Yeah, but what.

That is what it is. You could be anything, right? I like gardening because I’ve got to be lucky to have a nice big garden up here. And I guess what it is is it’s almost like a sense of mindfulness, like being focused on this one thing and that one thing alone.

And I’ll be chopping some branches off a wild, invasive plant that I don’t want in the and I don’t realize until an hour later, whoa. I was just doing that, only there was nothing else going on. And that does give you this mental break from the challenges of being in a career or in a creative where you’ve got to come up with interesting solutions.

That mental break is important to find. So if that’s looking at colors or gardening or running, yeah, I think there’s something that’s so needed. I think, especially now when there’s always something to distract us, is finding your activity where there’s only like that one tab open in your brain and you can just focus on that.

And you’re not like doom scrolling or listening to things in the background. It’s just like that one focus point. Yeah, no, I love that.

I think everyone kind of needs that little activity. So with that being said, sidestep into what other content do you like to consume? Is there like podcasts or books or thought leaders or anything? There’s one podcast that I am a massive fan of, and that’s a podcast by someone called Blind Boy. Do you know who blind boy is? No, not for everyone.

But he delivers what he calls a podcast hug. There is soft paced music. It’s somewhat meditative.

He talks about mental health. He’s an artist, writer, musician. He’s had varying levels of challenges in terms of his own mental health, and can speak about things in really interesting ways.

And I love the way that he can tie a food with a conspiracy of the CIA or something that had happened in the past. It’s absolutely absurd, but makes total sense at the same time. Interesting.

And so he’s irish from Limerick, and so I bumped into that podcast probably just at the start of COVID lockdown, and I went back to the start, and he sometimes says, get familiar with what this podcast is and get back to the start. And I started way back, and I’m probably about ten episodes out. I became a patron of him after the first.

I stopped 30 minutes in, became a patron, and I absolutely adore his podcasts, and that’s a special one. And that’s something like really out of the ordinary as well. And shout out to all of the other small content creators who have a patron.

I’ve got like a list of people that I-2-5-A month. Yeah, I think it’s something that we can all get behind, because a lot of it’s just a labor of love for so many people. And they’re the best podcasts.

The ones that are independent, have a level of passion and freedom that allows them to go in places that we’ve seen it flooded with celebrity and big money, going away from traditional media and tv and going into the podcast space. And that pushes all those people down. And I think it is really important to try and surface that up.

The other sort of podcast. I love basketball, so I listen to the Ringer and Bill Simmons and all those podcasts I was waiting for you to bring up without talking about basketball. But I guess I do really find that the strategy of basketball, I find these.

I’ll pause it and be thinking about the team structure, the vision, the brand of a team, the brand of a team design is like this really interesting thing that complements the way I might think about my role. But interesting what the Ringer have done really, really well is sort of go, okay, here’s some content. A game of basketball, or they have another podcast called the Prestige, which is reviews of or discusses tv shows that have just occurred.

So it wasn’t unusual for me to watch, I don’t know, the episode of the Bear. I don’t know if you’ve seen the bear, but I love the bear. And then that’s a half an hour, 45, maybe sometimes a bit longer episode, but then I’ll listen to, like 3 hours of content about the show.

There’s almost like, more content about the content originally. Yeah. And I love that.

Different perspectives and unpacking it. So that’s certainly a podcast top of mind for me as well. And I guess one more is just at the moment, black matters, blak matters, and that’s a podcast that talks about indigenous matters.

And that’s something that I think is important to be thinking about, especially where Australia is at the moment with the referendum coming up. Amazing. Yeah.

I think there’s always, as I mentioned, on quite a few episodes, there’s usually people who consume a lot of design content outside of their work hours, or you’re in the complete opposite end where there’s nothing much at all. Neither is right or wrong. It’s just all about preference.

So it’s interesting that you seem like you’re in camp b. Yeah, probably. I mean, I loved 99% invisible and classic.

I guess just a lot of. There are a lot of great design podcasts, but I find that I’m absorbing all the design info that I want through work, through medium, through my reading and podcasts is me time. Yeah, we want to keep that separate, the balance.

And I like to finish the podcast off by asking everyone the question of if you were to give your younger self some career advice, what would that be such a good question, such a challenging one, because you go to, what are those mistakes that I made that I wish I knew to avoid? But at the same time, as I was maybe saying earlier, they’re such formative, important experiences that I wouldn’t want to take that away. I think the thing that I would be telling my younger self is the outcome. The deliverable awards.

That’s not what you’re chasing. The process and the people, that’s where the reward is. Recognizing you’re in the process.

This is the reward that’s really deeply satisfying and maximizing that, like, the idea of happiness isn’t sort of a destination. It’s over there. Once I’m there, it’s recognizing I can be happy now or I can be fulfilled or content with work now, with the way that I approach it.

Learning that sooner, I think, would have been something I’d love to go back and tap myself on the shoulder and remind myself of that. Having said that, we did just win two good design awards, which I’m like, that’s really nice. That’s just the cherry on top.

Recognition is really, really nice, but the reward is the prize is surrounding yourself with people and process that are meaningful to you. And, yeah, I think that’s a bit of advice I’d give a younger Paul. Yeah.

And that comes up quite a bit with conversations that I’ve been having, is people just wanting to enjoy the day to day and the process and the little things, rather than that big award or big accomplishment that you need to get. It’s like, no, you can just settle and be happy with what you’re doing in that moment. I think some of the best work I’ve ever made, never actually made it.

And some of the big, best work that did make it and was really successful and received, there’s a little bit of. Is that it, like, at the end, you can move on to the next thing now? And so, yeah, I’m glad I’m not alone in that thought then. Definitely not.

Well, on that note, thank you so much for joining us. I really enjoyed having a chat with you. I learned so much and, yeah, thank you.

Thank you so much. You. Thank you for having me.

It’s been a real pleasure. I love the chance to have this conversation.

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