ByD+ Matt Lawson
Australia ByDesign Innovations Series 5 is well underway. This series has uncovered more outstanding design, from electric motorbikes to ‘Optimal Reality’ we have had another exciting journey around the country, featuring Australian innovation.
One company stood out. Deloitte. Or more specifically, Deloitte Digital.
Did you know Deloitte Digital just won Australian and Asia Pacific Agency of the year? Or that Deloitte has the largest Climate Sustainability team in Australia? In asking the question of what Deloitte Digital does, we realised the question really was, ‘what doesn’t Deloitte Digital do?’ They are at the forefront of a design renaissance, led by some of Australia’s best creative minds.
One of those minds is Matt Lawson, APAC Chief Creative Officer at Deloitte Digital.
Matt spoke to ByD+ from Melbourne, Australia about watercolours, dog radio and life after creating Australia's favourite commercial, the ‘Telstra rabbits ad.’ He describes himself as ‘exquisitely verbose.’ Also known as, the perfect interviewee.
Matt Lawson: I grew up in Black Rock, a picturesque bayside suburb 30 mins south east of Melbourne’s Central Business District. One my first influences, that I can link with my present day creative pursuits, was my art teacher, Margaret Metcalf. Margaret was a watercolourist and through her I developed a passion for watercolour painting, I feel like I saw watercolours through Margaret’s eyes. I will never forget Margaret Metcalf’s name, I thank her for my early fascination with art.
There was a strange dichotomy. I loved water colours, but at the same time I was listening to Metallica. I had a fascination with ‘Pushead,’ also known as Brian Schroder, who was responsible for creating Metallica’s iconic album art. This was my introduction to graphic design and the style harmonized with my burgeoning fascination with late 80’s and early 90’s, skateboarding culture. So, I suppose watercolour was some welcome dissonance!
In the ideation phase of creation I believe - the more disparate your influences the more interesting the outcome. Upon reflection, perhaps this is because of the disparate nature of my childhood interests.
ML: While I was in school, my brother was studying advertising, for which he suggested I might have a natural ability. At that time I thought I wanted to be an inventor -even at that young age I already had a fascination with the intersection of science, art and design. I didn’t know advertising could be an adult job! Quickly I saw advertising as almost a facilitation of invention and I realised advertising was more than television and radio. Advertising was showing something, to someone, in a way they had never seen before. Advertising showed me the power of ordinary scenes, elevated through the romance of a medium.
Within a very short time as a professional I created ‘that rabbits advertisement’ for Telstra. I am proud of my success in those early advertising days, but I felt the need to do something new, so I travelled.
‘Sell me this….stick?’
ML: I was traveling in Argentina and selling random products in a market, I like to say I was doing my very own ‘market’ research! I learned, in a very real way, that to sell anything, you must give the product a narrative. I sold a ‘super collectable bottle cap to a tourist - they knew it was just a bottle cap, but I created a narrative. It was something they could take home and it would remind them of the time they bought a ‘super collectable bottle cap’ in that market in Argentina! I took a stick and thought to myself, ‘can I sell this?’ I attached a cape to the stick, stood the stick on an angle, wrote some words below it and called the stick ‘Super Palo.’ I sold the stick because, it’s about the narrative. Souvenirs are just stories. The stick is the thing that you see stuck to your fridge that reminds you of that story. As a real world example, that even applies on a grander scale with Tesla. When you buy a Tesla, you buy an experience.
There are so many rabbits…Why Deloitte Digital?
ML: I came to DeloitteDigital to tick three boxes. Creativity, technology and enterprise. You tick those boxes and you will have progress. People are starting to realise; Deloitte Digital is an innovative and pioneering business, a mature tech innovation company. I want to be at Deloitte Digital because I believe society is ready for a renaissance. Deloitte Digital has the scale and depth to find the answers. To discover what a new future could look like. We are finding those answers. I am also encouraged by the ethos of Deloitte as a whole. A Deloitte Partner said to me recently, ‘we don’t have specific sustainability projects - every project is a sustainability project.’ I believe if we designed our way into this mess by the means of the industrial revolution, then we can design our way out of this mess. We just need to point our creativity in the right direction.
Renaissance has always been defined by the cornerstones of art, engineering and business. These cornerstones guide me in my job, and I truly believe I am in the company that might kick off a renaissance! We are working with an idea of, ‘The new' at Deloitte Digital at the moment. Learning to embrace the new as an old friend.
‘The new’ inventor
ML: Luckily, at various stages of my life I have had time to invent some things of my own. My inventions definitely speak to my love of disparate influences! I invented a bio-fuel created from beer waste, a radio station for dogs (named K9 FM) and harking back to my roots – a skateboard, where the deck art emerges through a resin as you grind, instead of deck art that is destroyed the first time you do a rail slide on a rough surface.
ML: My day-to-daywork falls into three buckets.
The first is my favourite - ideation time, at the end of meetings when you have enough time to dream big and ask important questions, surrounded by brilliant and innovative people. When ideas become real, they become big.
The second bucket is team steering - Leading a group of people united by one common and golden creative thread, bringing everything together.
The third bucket is maintenance - As partners, we all must think like small business owners. Working toward verticals, while focusing on horizontals.
ML: Something with Ricky Gervais, Refik Anadol and Neri Oxman. Ricky Gervais is a comedian who needs no introduction. Refik Anadol is a Turkish-American new media artist and designer. His projects consist of data-driven machine learning algorithms that create abstract, dream-like environments. Neri Oxman leads a design practice, working at the intersection of biological materiality, art and design - art elevates their design practice and nature elevates both design and art.
What is good design to you?
ML: Novelty that works, it must be new, to push things forward.
Why is it important?
ML: What I said earlier about design getting us into this mess and using design to get out of this mess! Climate Change is the most important problem of our generation, we must channel our creative energies in that direction.
Thank you Matt for your time.
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