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The Creative Issue – News for Creatives | April 7, 2020

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The Director of the Analogue-Digital Conference; Matthew Haynes

The Director of the Analogue-Digital Conference; Matthew Haynes

| On 06, Jul 2015

The Analogue/Digital Design Conference for 2015 has only recently wrapped up at the Brisbane Powerhouse. The Creative Issue had an opportunity to meet with its brainchild and director, Matthew Haynes during the aftermath of this year’s conference.
Known for avoiding long-winded lectures, and producing engaging presentations, followed by group Q&As, with great social events in the evening, Analogue/Digital did not disappoint. With a friendly but informative atmosphere, this year had a strong focal point on street and mural artists (Madsteez and Digital Does being prime examples). There was a modern look into the world of Advertising with keynotes from Matt Faulk and also For the People, along with the casual but informative panel event, Under the Influence; a frank discussion of whether all traditional advertising paradigms were indeed dead! There was such a broad range of other material, that if you are interested you should familiarise yourself with the program before it disappears (www.analoguedigital.com.au/conferences/brisbane-2015). Haynes prides himself on inviting speakers that discuss topics and case studies relevant to the future of creative industries within Australia, and to that end he did a great job.

TCI: Matthew, can I ask about your professional background and what this has involved?

Matthew Haynes: My professional background is made up of multiple experiences, but started with being a professional baseball player.  Handling the daily grind of professional baseball (150 games+) in another country, pre smartphones, pre Wi-Fi on buses, pre Facebook (Myspace was around, but Australians weren’t really on it) and without funds to make international phone calls was a real wake up call, and ultimately a life lesson in sacrifice and dedication.  It was my shot at living my dream and even though I had been signed as a professional, I still required a tonne of faith that I was going to make the Major Leagues. The dream was compelling too, it had all the upsides most people would want but it came at such a cost. How many people get to gamble their youth for the opportunity to make millions playing a sport they love? Not many right? I felt compelled to give it everything I had. I owed it to myself and everyone who supported me through my childhood. Still it was a lot to take in and understand, especially at the ages of 18 to 22.  When the going got tough, my internal voice was like, “Man up! You can do it!” I had to accept the fact that I was owned by a baseball company and that my passion had become a profession and that I was in never ending competition with my personal best to become a Major League Baseball player. Pretty mental, right?

After baseball I took this level of dedication into a university career in which I wanted to be an architect. Problem was, I didn’t get the high school results to qualify for those degrees (because I was playing so much sport) so on a guidance councillor’s recommendation, I did a year of graphic design with the aim of bridging into architecture. By the end of first year University, I fell in love with the power of design and I’ve just followed this career in communication and problem solving ever since. As an example I just did a talk at the Sunshine Coast University (before this interview).

To summarise what I’m all about, is being able to fall on your face, completely fail and walk away knowing you gave it your all. Trusting your gut and learning from your failures is what we as designers do. How else are you meant to learn how to make a new business?  How do you invest?  When do you have kids?  How do you achieve a work life balance?  How do you build partnerships?  How do you give opportunity away?  How do you give your time and your finances away when you yourself are living month to month?  Everything in my life to date has been a stepping stone, one after the other, a small problem that created a better insight to taking on a bigger problem. For much of my educated life my approach has seen many great opportunities come my way. As a result, I have continued to apply this philosophy to design a life for myself which I love and can be proud of.

Although the next step in my life (and career) seems somewhat apparent, I have no idea what I will be doing two steps ahead of where I am today, it could be anything. I’ve no idea what’s going to happen.  One thing I do know however, It’s going to involve having fun and it’s going to be hard work. Going forward I anticipate my life and career will be more of what I am doing today but on a greater scale and involve more people who are also achieving something they deeply desire.  Everything I hold close to me is the derivative of giving my all. That is my message to the world.

 

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TCI: You’re not the first person that’s coming from a professional sporting background and venturing into creative land. The discipline of doing professional sport day to day is obviously a key ingredient.  Is there another one that you would consider to be a really important translation coming from professional sport to creative professional?

Matthew Haynes: Yeah, absolutely. It’s doing something not for money. When you’re an amateur athlete, your career costs a tonne of money and time. Say good buy to parties, travel and holidays. Your motivation has to be derived from a deep passion to succeed. Sure baseball can lure you with money but I loved it as a 10 year old and my competitive spirit kept me in the game. Not once did I get paid until I signed pro. If you make your decisions all based on a financial outcome, I think you’re setting yourself up for unrecoverable failure. Money doesn’t make you happy. In life, you have to give your all, and if you can’t find a deep passion or inspiration to keep going when all the others quit or fall by the way side, you too will become a statistic of failure.

I’ve taken my ‘Don’t do it for money’ mantra into Analogue Digital, into my own businesses and then helping others. I’ve coached a baseball team. I’ve coached other people all for nothing. All for my own time because I was thankful that people like Bob Nilsson and Gary Nilsson and even David Nilsson, the world famous baseball players from Queensland who played in the Major Leagues in the States. They gave time to me, so I felt I owed it to the next generations to invest in them and yeah, you just don’t follow money. With baseball, I bought a house with my money. I was very lucky, but saying that my monthly pay started at $850. The team gave me enough to eat fruit and veg, and not get into trouble. They were very smart like that.

TCI: Yeah, train all day, go home and eat, go and sleep and that’s all we are going to let you do?

Matthew Haynes: Yeah, train all day, play all night and we’ll give you an incentive to move up fast if you’re talented.  The minimum payout these days is a million $AUD…that’s where you start if you make the highest grade – the Major Leagues.  I saw one guy go from a $1,000,000 minimum contract, to negotiating with the New York Yankees; he’s now one of the highest paid players in the league. He’s making  F**k you money.  Where everyone wants you so bad they will do anything and break any rule to work with you or have you endorse their product. Thinking about it though, having that much money and fame would be a curse. I’d rather my freedom and be able to walk past the paparazzi and be of no interest to them.

TCI: Did you ever regret not persisting for longer?

Matthew Haynes: Not at all. When I walked away I was completely ready. I had personal goals and when they weren’t achieved, it meant that I could not achieve the ultimate goal of making the Major Leagues, so I was happy to walk away. That’s how I set goals for all personal achievements – if The Design Conference (Analogue Digital Creative Conference) didn’t achieve it’s goals this year, I would have packed it up. By applying everything we have learnt from the previous nine events, we were able to make critical decisions about the event in order to attract a huge audience and deliver an experience which surpassed the audience’s expectations. This sounds relatively easy but I assure you it is not. This year’s event was such a success that I am already planning Brisbane 2016. We’ve got some amazing ideas at play!

TCI: That’s a cool attitude.  So next question; personally can you provide some examples of what turns you on creatively.

Matthew Haynes: Essentially for me it’s all about problem solving. I’ve always enjoyed using design or applied critical thinking to make better an idea, service or product. Recently I had the opportunity to work with Grace Dewar on her side project: First Coat Arts and Music Festival in Toowoomba. By setting business goals based on an understanding of arts culture, tourism and the local business, we decided to build an online platform which invited the people of Toowoomba and South East Queensland to participate in First Coat regardless of their budget or location. We literally built a “Choose your own adventure” portal. What we didn’t anticipate was how well the tourists and business would respond. To get paid for this type of work while making an impact in our local communities — this is my life’s calling.

TCI: That’s a good mix of values. Who and what inspires you to do what you do?

Matthew Haynes: A long time ago, I went on a trip around the world and got to meet some amazing people; all my favourite creatives. I guess what inspires me is the fact that people can do a job that they love and get paid a substantial amount of money. It makes digging holes or a nine to five job just seem like a redundant idea. I just couldn’t possibly imagine myself working under a salary. To me it’s trading the ability to live for a life or work. I’m completely inspired by not knowing where I’m going to be tomorrow, not knowing what clients I’m going to have next week, not knowing who’s going to come to the projects I’m running, or Analogue Digital or working with First Coat, or just making my life an adventure.
I want to have kids, and when I do, I would like to take a three or four year hiatus from the industry. I’ll be happy being an average Joe because I know that being with my family will give me a freedom that I don’t yet understand. I want to raise my children to be good people and when I return to the industry I’ll pick up mentoring and working with people who do great things.

TCI: Do you ever personally find a conflict within yourself (about money)?  It’s common with a lot of creative people, to feel that in order to keep a key project, that you have to sell your artistic soul to make the cash. Do you always feel like you’ve got a good balance on that and have the ability to keep it in check?

Matthew Haynes: I learned that lesson early. I began working in commercial projects by the end of second year university; not very successfully, but I was learning how to do business. With experience in sales (from working in a surf shop) I knew I would have to sell my skills. What I wasn’t prepared for however was having to negotiate my fee. By the end of 2013 I had to let a tonne of clients go due the bad precedence I had set with them either financially or creatively. I found myself saying “No, I’m sorry. I don’t do that anymore” or “I’m sorry that’s not feasible on your proposed budget”…or “I’m sorry you’re taking the f**king piss”. If a client requires my skills, knowledge and understanding, I need to be paid properly and in a fair time period. How else was I to grow emotionally, mentally and as a business person? By the end of 2013 I was working for 6 or so clients and spending half my week preparing Analogue Digital events. It was when I began working on Analogue Digital that I created my own opportunity to try, test and research my own personal style of graphic design. I literally set goals to try something new and adventurous, so I could grow. Working on my own project gave me a huge insight into the importance of communication over design. I truly believe communication is more important than graphic design. Those who can master communication with elegance and understanding are the real masters though. I’m not saying I am a master of graphic design BUT I don’t think I would be half the graphic designer I am today if I never did Analogue Digital. The lack of empathy and understanding I would have missed out on is unmeasurable.

TCI: Interesting in that you mention goals.  Looking back now to 2009, what got Analogue Digital off the ground?

Matthew: Like I was saying, I went on a trip around the world meeting my mentors. I learnt as much on my six week tour as I did doing University for three years but doing both was super important. From a philosophical standpoint I wanted to impress upon my peer group the importance of meeting amazing creative people and finding an inspirational mentor. During the study of my university degree I would travel to Brisbane and participate in events held by the Australian Graphic Design Association (AGDA) and the BADC advertising committees. I was always looking for the edge over my classmates who only sometimes came with me.
Of my close friends and colleagues at university (there were about six of us), most would never put themselves out there. They would find an excuse not to do some extracurricular activities with these amazing organizations. I couldn’t help but see their impending doom within the industry. Come graduation the best designers became average and the average designers we’re f**ked. Meanwhile I felt like I had dreamt my reality into life. I’d been around the world. I’ve been influenced by some amazing creatives and I believed I could also make an impact and that’s why I started Analogue Digital. It’s like design church. I know how corny that sounds and I’m not a big Christian or anything like that, but when you get to hear someone like Matt Faulk talk about revolutionizing the e-commerce experience or get to hear Andy (Wright) and Jason (Little) talk about how business philosophies are being held back just because people with 80% of the world’s money, need to protect their trillion dollar investments, which might include things like oil and other things that risk the sustainability of the planet. All of a sudden you see the reasoning in being more sustainable. These influential people help you want to be better. I believe people need to buy smaller cars, we need to invest in hydro-powered engines, and (like every time I book a flight) offset our carbon footprints. Why isn’t it f**king mandatory (like my 1.2 litre Volkswagen)? I think petrol should be so expensive that people are forced to buy smaller cars. Unfortunately issues like the carbon tax have been railroaded by political agendas in Australia. We had a carbon tax that everyone signed up for, then a negative political message got in the way, and that caused many people to (ignorantly) explain how shit their lives are with more tax. What about the future, your family’s future and your friend’s families? Are we more important then them? I don’t think so. Really, it’s about dealing with greed. What is up with that? It’s ridiculous. Rant over.

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TCI: I enjoyed the rant! I’m not sure now whether this question relates to the one I just asked, but because we’re talking about the Gold Coast not Sunshine Coast, did you see something in the Gold Coast for those early Analogue Digital Conferences or was it just a convenient location at that moment?

Matthew Haynes: Semi-Permanent had a strangle hold on Brisbane and for a good reason, they did a great job for the most part. They inspired me! However for people on the Gold Coast there was an opportunity to offer something more convenient (in comparison to travelling 100kms, and finding accommodation). My biggest barrier in those early days was finding a price point that attendees would consider to be reasonable and comparable value to semi-permanent. It was difficult to get the balance right, but in the end I just made the decision; Let’s take the event to the people and see if they respond.
At that point of the event, it was me trying to figure out how to run an event. It wasn’t just trying to deliver an experience that just encourages people to go out, become a graphic designer, become a problem solver. I was trying to create an experience that would have you sit next to a stranger and give you the confidence that that stranger would be a person who is into the same shit you!
This is important to me because I met a programmer at Semi-Permanent, and now the two of us have done over a 100k of worth business together. If I hadn’t have gone to Semi-Permanent, I wouldn’t have met that programmer which could have set me off on an entirely different course through different choices. Including the choice to work for myself.
Anyhow I just wanted to bring Analogue Digital to the people and I thought that the Gold Coast was a big enough area and a low enough risk where I didn’t have to flag people. If I could drive there and the symptoms were fit for an event, I was game to give it a red hot go.

TCI: What has been your philosophy in attracting supportive sponsors, partners, mentors and anyone else of real great importance in getting Analogue Digital to where it is now?

Matthew Haynes: A great man once told me, “You got to give more than you take.” It didn’t make sense at all until I had more than I needed. When you’ve got more than you need, you can give away so much and make such an impact. With partnerships, I start all negotiation with in-kind support first. Upon delivering a Return On (in-kind) Investment they often upgrade their sponsorship to a paid option, which allows me and my team to do more. I’ve never looked at other events or sourced out what other people charge for sponsorship. If I did, what would make me and Analogue Digital different?
On a personal note, my philosophy is to partner upward, never partner down.  Partner with people who have a company mission or a philosophy that’s similar to your own and in order to achieve that, you have to have your own mission statement, and stand up for something that you believe in. I believe in design and that it can change our countries over time to be better, better in education, in food, in politics, in everything.  Every major problem can be fixed through design, one way or another and it’s just like, it needs a nation of people to believe in it and it needs to start early

TCI: I wasn’t there, but I have read that the earlier Analogue Digital events were very lo-fi?

Matthew Haynes: Absolutely.

TCI: There must have been something though that grabbed a hold of your audience that came and got them to tell their friends, and then turn up again.  Can you describe the element of the Analogue Digital festival that did that?  The cultural X factor of the event if you like?

Matthew Haynes: At the core of Analogue Digital or what I would like to refer to from here end, the design conference by Analogue Digital.  The core value of the design conference is its transparency; its brutal honesty. All my sponsors know how much money we make. I have a transparency level that is uncommon in business and if people don’t like it, I don’t want to work with you. If you’re jealous, if anyone in your organization is jealous of a profit level, or a profit margin, I can’t help you. We all have to contribute and we all have to give and take accordingly. If I’m making a million dollars, which we’ve never done mind you, but if I make a million dollars and when I do, I guarantee you’ll know what I’m going to do with it. I have always had a philosophy that you need to know what you’re going to do with your earnings before you get it.

Lo-fi Analogue Digital was based around delivering what I considered the mandatories; which were, a big screen, world class audio, a comfortable chair and the best possible speakers that would risk their reputations by giving someone like me a curatorial opportunity of put them on stage. It started off with me literally holding two iPhones, one in each hand. On one iPhone was Claudio Kirac, on the other was Vaughan Blakey. They literally had a conversation together on loud speaker. Claudio said: “I’ll do it if you do it.” To which Vaughn replied, “OK let’s do it.” and the rest is history.

TCI: That’s an awesome story.

Matthew Haynes: It’s just great.  Transparency is uncommon.  It’s the greed; it’s just inbuilt in us. You’ve got to ask yourself, ‘how much do you really need?’  How much money do you really need? People are like; “I want a million dollars.” I ask, what for? Hookers and blow? That sort of pay-off can only be so much fun for so long and then you’re broke and broken.

TCI: What are you going to do with it?

Matthew Haynes: Everyone that wins the bloody lotto goes broke (more often than not).  It’s because it’s an unsustainable way of living.  What happened to just growing your own fruit and veggies, or growing your herbs, or supporting your local brand as opposed to buying something because it’s cheap?  You can spend a little bit more and support a local farmer.  There’s just so much that we can do and I can jibber jabber about it all day. We’re caught up with keeping up with the ‘Joneses’ focused on having what everyone else has got. I wish we simply focused on what we want more. I wish people focused on what they really wanted and not what they were sold or persuaded to buy. It all begins with believe in something greater than yourself.

TCI: What makes you different?

Matthew Haynes: What’s important in life for me is good friends, close family, eating good food and travelling.  You do those things and you’ll be bloody happy when you die.  You’ll be happy to die because you’ll be so bloody worn out because you’ve seen everything.

TCI:  I know you’ve mentioned in other interviews that the positive progression of the design conference has taken a big personal toll at times.  In hindsight do you think it’s possible to achieve some balance in the midst of building such a big project like this?

Matthew Haynes: On the back of what was said by Jason Little and Andy Wright (Managing Director and Creative Director of For the People), there is no handbook for this. You’re consistently working within an environment of uncertainty. The difference between me and most people is I thrive for it. There is no point going into business if your not willing to back yourself. My fiancée is so supportive too. She doesn’t get in my face. You need to believe in what you’re doing. You have got to dive in and you’ve got to give it your best shot and if you fail, write it off as an experience.  If successful, good on you, you’re an asset-rich bastard! Donate some money!

TCI:  I’ve read that you’ve got plans to expand the design conference of Analogue Digital internationally. Is this because the Queensland and Australian ponds are too small, or have you got other motivations that are driving this?

Matthew Haynes: Yes, I’d love to Analogue Digital internationally because the experience would enrich our lives on many levels. We’ve been thinking about the various ways in which we could run an international event and while we’ve had some great ideas and made some huge in-roads, one thing that is critical is to have someone on the ground in that city who can help manage the project locally when needed. We’ve discussed how nice it would be to establish the event in America and the UK, however I’m not going to force it. We will do it when the time is right. At some point we’ll definitely go overseas, but my primary goal right now is to re-solidify the creative industry in Brisbane and South East Queensland.  After it was all said and done, we took a proactive approach to give the people what they wanted. I’m very fortunate that I share my passion with so many people.

TCI: It’s an exciting progression (the already proven trajectory of Analogue Digital)!

Matthew Haynes: It’s crazy. This past design conference was massive…four times bigger than any ever before. I’m really proud of that!

TCI: You have already mentioned a couple of things. However, given the success of this conference, that’s just been on at the Brisbane Powerhouse, do you have any other immediate goals with Analogue Digital?  Aside from solidifying this Brisbane creative community and getting them inspired by what’s going on in the world of design and actually linking them up with the people that are leading the way?

Matthew Haynes: Right now, I want to see Brisbane’s Design community come together. To me it feels really fragmented and sub par when compared to Sydney and Melbourne. There is just so much more going on. Personally I think it’s a government and education issue but I am doing what I can to inspire the next wave of creatives. Lets see what happens!

TCI: Given that, if you had all the choice in the world.  Who would be your dream keynote speaker at Analogue Digital 2016?

Matthew Haynes: From an arts background, it would Piet Parra. He goes by the name of Parra or P-A-R-R-A (byparra.com).  He is a Dutch artist.  He is one of the first artists that just resonated with me.  I have a little bit of his art.  That’s his vase over there (points to a vase in the studio). I have a deep love for what he does. It just speaks to me. It’s very bold style usually painted in mono tone or red, white and blue. It’s beautiful. He’s also got a skateboarding background, which I admire a lot and he seems to be killing it. From a business perspective, I would have Jonathan Ive, the senior product designer from Apple.  And for a creative director, I would love to have Bob Greenberg, CEO from R/GA.

TCI: Yeah, he’d be awesome.

Matthew Haynes:  From Australia, Steve Coll.  We had him for the last event, but shit hit the fan and he had too much going on… he’s a big dog and everyone at his company was looking at him for leadership on the same day as our conference, and we just couldn’t take their leader away when the chips were on the table, so to speak. This kind of occurrence has happened at every one of our events; we’ve had one person pull out at the last minute. We just deal with it. We had back up speakers so we used them!
TCI: To be honest I was there and I didn’t notice that on the afternoon.  My final question; at The Creative Issue, we see collaboration being a massive factor in achieving success especially for creative people from places like South East Queensland.  Would you ever collaborate with someone in the future to grow Analogue/Digital?  If so, can you provide examples of the people, of the organisations that would meet your criteria?

Matthew Haynes: Going forward, I hope to have many of my sponsors become a tangible part of the event. This year we produced a range of master classes which we gave to the audience for free on behalf of Ironlak (which is an aerosol company based here in Brisbane) and Wacom (who produce graphic interfaces that use a pen). Between us we launched 6 x one hour master classes in which Analogue Digital attendees could partake free of charge. Why did I do this? Because I believe that an experience driven opportunity is going to allow the attendees of our event to understand the products and cultures of our sponsors 100 times more then a printed or motion advert. I don’t want to sell something to someone because the think they need it. I want to persuade someone to buy something because it will make a genuine impact in their life and career. It’s pretty straight forward.

From a philosophical point of view, I don’t think Analogue Digital has become what it could be yet. We’ve been looking at partnering with another company internationally. Should this go ahead the opportunities will be endless. Who knows, Analogue Digital could split into business and creativity conferences. However, it’s all about what the people want. We plan on growing the event with the people and not the other way round. At the end of the day we want to make a contribution towards Australian Economic Development while encouraging people to do smarted business for themselves and the community. I would like to think that the CEO of QCA believes our event is essential for his staff and faculty. Although that’s not the truth yet, we’re well on our way. It’s all about an experience and being original. There are two types of businesses in this world A) the business we want and B) the business the people need. The key is finding the business that will satisfy both criteria. That my friend, equals happiness.

End.