2016 has been a year so far filled with endless calamity, disaster and death. The range of speakers and issues covered at Semi Permanent seemed to reflect the transitory nature of life and the work people create to fill it with, as we are constantly in the process of understanding ourselves and the world around us. From using doubt as a prompt to drive enquiry, personal setbacks as fuel to bigger endeavours and embracing friction as a means to self-discovery, we certainly came away creatively shaken. Now that we have had time to digest the weekend, we took a little time to review our favourite speakers.

Adrian — Tea Uglow, Creative Director at Google’s Creative Lab Sydney

Tea’s presentation about using doubt to fuel creativity was a pretty deep intellectual dive for 10am on a Friday morning. Clearly well-read and broad-minded, Tea drew from a wealth of philosophical quotes and references to persuade the audience that doubt needn’t be something to avoid but rather something to channel and utilise in feeding our curiosity. Letting go of everything you think you know isn’t entirely easy or comfortable but Tea assures us that in doing so, suddenly nothing is impossible, which is a rather liberating thought.

Many of her projects are collaborations with community organisations and technology groups. One example she shared was an immersive theatre performance in which the audience wore sheets like ghosts and mingled on set amongst the actors. Individual dialogue channels were fed directly to each member of the audience through hidden technology, giving the audience the impression of being invisible and able to read minds — the impossible made possible through creativity.

Tea shares her perspectives on her own website including her popular TEDx Sydney talk and the book she accidentally published with Penguin.


Caitlin – Paul Stafford, Co-founder of Design Studio

Paul Stafford rightly named his presentation ‘Working with the World Watching’ and gave a detailed presentation on rebranding the Premier League and Airbnb. Both of these rebranding projects received a lot of backlash from passionate members of the public and media who didn’t have the full story which resulted in a great deal of attention on the end result of their design. Instead of letting this affect their process they openly discussed the backlash with their client and decided on both accounts to embrace it as a PR exercise – acknowledge the backlash and confidently own and trust their strategy and process.

The Premier League rebrand was particularly interesting as the strategy was flipped on its head by identifying the need to celebrate everyone that makes the Premier League what is it not just the stars of the show. The new brand has evolved the iconic lion and has developed the brand’s visual style with a refreshing colour palette and bold graphic treatment of secondary brand devices.

See more of the branding here.


Fleur – Mimi Gilmour, Restaurateur & Businesswoman

Mimi Gilmour’s talk really struck a chord with me. How could someone so young have achieved so much?! Mimi’s long (and growing) list of achievements seemed mind boggling and impressive. It was great to hear about how she’d started out and how this impacted on the things she went on to do later. It seemed like a winning combination of passion, hard work, long hours and lots of networking.

Hearing how she’s gone on to manage successful businesses was inspiring, and so was hearing about some of her failures and how these led to the hugely successful Burger Burger franchise. This reminded me that life’s not always easy but that hard work and failure makes us all stronger.

I found her inspiring, down to earth and humble.  I loved hearing about her positive influence on the hospitality industry and using that to help inspire young people about hospitality as a career choice, not just a stepping stone.


Jay – Steve Selzer, Experience Design Manager at Airbnb

Steven Selzer’s talk resounded with me as an Airbnb user, with his take-home message of designing friction back into the user experience. My first experience with Airbnb was while I was an exchange student in Europe – it seemed to offer everything I sought after on my travels; hospitality with a local, neighbourhood living and the possibility for serendipitous interactions. While Airbnb delivered on all of those expectations (perhaps a little too much on the serendipitous interactions, but those are long stories), I wondered how much of the service actually enables the potential for friction by skill-building, self-reflection, collision, confrontation, or whether it was in the act of travel itself. Perhaps Airbnb can only do so much as a service that relies on making sure the customer receives a satisfactory experience, or rather, just the right amount of friction.

Read on here for an article version of Selzer’s talk.


Joel – Wesley Grubbs, Founding Director of Pitch Interactive

I don’t think there’s any doubt that Wesley Grubbs is an incredibly talented data-visualiser, but what I really got from his talk was the importance of perspective. He had an interesting way of looking at his life and work and really emphasised the importance of finding that balance and challenging yourself creatively with passion projects.

His talk reminded me to take two steps back and look at information differently and inspired me do more personal projects outside of work to improve my skill set.


Megan – Dean Poole, Director at Alt Group

I enjoyed Dean’s yarn mostly because of how laid back he was on stage. This was a guy who has received a Black Pin at Best, and stands up there as eccentric as ever in front of an audience of weirdos (us) projecting his ‘Thinking about Thinking’ chat.  

Objective and subjective ideas, intersection, suggestion. Thinking and ideas are a massive part of the creative process, and when deadlines loom the easy option always seems tempting. It’s up to us as designers to keep a clear head and look for more and this talk gave me a nudge that I should be taking the time to think things through a bit more, and pull different ways of thinking into the mix, even under deadlines.

I particularly enjoyed the odd swear word to escape his mouth, going over all the types of thinking we are capable of and need to challenge ourselves more on, and the trial ‘Mickey Hickey’ available in small towns near us. 



Nichola – Maria Scileppi, Founding Director of 72U

Maria Scileppi’s presentation started off with her “stress-induced bald spot” and her decision for a fresh start. Leaving her friends and family to move to Chicago, Maria found that she didn’t have many friends, which then sparked the “A Friend a Day Project”. She spent one year of her life making one friend a day and catalogued her experiences. She presented her findings and talked about the importance of human connection.

She set herself three simple rules; it had to be a significant social exchange, she had to feel a connection and she couldn’t go home until she had made a friend . She explained it took around 30 minutes to 12 hours each day. Although she had a full-time job she managed to make 412 friends in 365 days. I thought about how much of her life she gave to this project, along with working and completing other passion projects she was doing. It made me think about how there is always enough time to do something if you really put your mind into it.

See more about Maria and her projects.



Although we agreed Semi Permanent 2016 was a mixed bag, we welcomed the opportunity to spend two days to challenge our thinking and integrate new persepctives to our own practice. Bring on #SPAKL2017!

Team Transformer

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