Attending Pause Fest 2020

I was incredibly lucky to head over to Melbourne in the first week of February to attend PauseFest 2020. As it says on their website, PauseFest is “the world’s leading festival for business and creativity.”

I was incredibly lucky to head over to Melbourne in the first week of February to attend PauseFest 2020. As it says on their website, PauseFest is “the world’s leading festival for business and creativity.”

It was a chance to meet with a number of similar-minded creative and tech heads to discuss how we saw the industry evolving in the coming years. It was very cool. And of course the big draw card was the sheer quantity and calibre of the speakers and presenters.

With such a huge number of speakers, it was impossible to see everything. I decided to pick out a couple of the talks to share below. These are the talks –that after a week of reflection – had the most lasting impact on me. Not in any particular order…


Dom Price, Work Futurist, Atlassian

This was the very first talk I attended on day one, and it was the perfect way to kick off a conference of this nature. Dom shared the ten trends that he predicts will have the biggest impact on the future of work. Side-note, how cool is the job title ‘Work Futurist’ !!.

There were a number of talking points he discussed. The most interesting for me is beginning to consider the mentality shift it will take for more organisations to adopt a working model that isn’t linked to the traditional 9–5 hourly grind. “I should be able to choose the hours that I am the most productive.” With all the tools we now have at our disposal, our workers should be given more freedom to identify the ways that they will help them be more productive. Whether that is location, working hours, or tools. Obviously this is a lot easier to consider for workers in the tech industry – I’m not sure how my barber will be able to adopt similar approaches – yet.


Kate Freebairn, Director of Design, Google Nest

San Francisco-based Kate Freebairn is an Aussie Designer who heads up the Google Home/Nest design team. She spoke about her experiences of designing products and services for homes – and how we are transitioning from the age of mobile computing to the age of ambient computing. This really speaks to what we saw at PaperKite’s recent trip to CES: Voice is everywhere!

My take from this is that as we move more and more into having communal devices in the home, we have to consider that we are no longer designing experiences for just one person. A mobile device is incredibly personal, and as Designers we have been able to tailor 1:1 experiences for that particular individual. But with more communal devices that are shared amongst a range of users, then we can no longer assume the we are dealing with just one consistent end-user, and we will need to consider a 1:Many relationship for experiences with this tech. And that all starts with devices in the home.


Devin Mancuso, Design Strategist, Google

My mind was also opened to VTubers (Virtual Youtubers) – real people who are using digital characters to represent themselves on Youtube. Another part of the internet that is hugely growing in popularity due to the entertainment these creators are providing for their audiences.

The last takeaway point for me was the conversation about ‘autonomous virtual beings’. Also known as ‘digital humans’, Virtual Beings are characters that you know aren’t real but with whom you can still build a 2-wayrelationship with. The interesting/scary future of these beings is endless. When it comes to the publication of media, these AI beings have the potential to really produce hyper-personalised content just made for you. Rather than content creators making videos for many people to watch, these beings may begin to produce content only made based on your likes and preferences. Every consumer could have unique experiences tailored just for them. Now that is an interesting thought!


Haraldur Thorleifsson, Founder & CEO, Ueno

I’m not going to lie, a big big part of me wanting to go to Pausefest was to hear from Halli. He’s the founder of an awesome design agency called Ueno — and I’ve admired him from afar for many years. His talk was supposed to be about how building a digital-first brand is key. But he instead chose to go broader and simply tackle the question: what is branding?

Halli didn’t go the traditional route of storytelling. He didn’t use buzzwords. He used his personal story to help the audience connect. I’m not going to share his story. But what I will say is that it tapped into some real emotions and feels. He questioned how society is really being affected by technology. We live in a world where we can push a button to get anything we want — but it doesn’t make us happy. We are in a world that should be more connected, and yet so many of us feel more and more isolated.

The key to Ueno and Halli’s success has been their brand. Brand is not just about colours, posters, and instagram posts. A brand is a feeling. And built over time, feelings can bypass the logical parts of your brain. They create emotional connections. And that’s certainly how I felt about this talk. There were a few tears in my eyes. Halli was well worth the standing ovation he received, as well as the ticket price to PauseFest alone!

A few other highlights from Pausefest

One of the best discussions of the event was the Kickass Women in Business Panel. And while Jodie Auster (GM of Uber Eats ANZ) and Audrey Khaing-Jones (Co-Founder & COO, Glam Corner) were both impressive, it was Sally Capp (Lord Mayor of the City of Melbourne) who truly stole the show. Melbourne I am very envious that you have such a strong leader as mayor! 💪

Another talk that was quite impactful was the “TURN THE SH#T INTO A SUPERPOWER” panel. All three speakers reflected on the challenges they had with their own mental wellbeing, and how they managed to get out of rock bottom to find more joy and happiness in their lives. The best bit was the entire room ended up dancing to Beyonce as the talk concluded 👯‍♀️

And finally — how could I not mention the fact that Miles Orkin of Google Cloud decided to break out into a full on UX rap, to help remind us that we can bring more creativity into the way we work 🎤

Naturally I would highly recommend people to attend Pausefest in years to come. I was really refreshed by the amount of focus on wellbeing and inclusion. It was more than just a design or UX conference like I had attended in the past and I’d be very humbled to get the chance to go again in the future if I got the opportunity.

If you want to hear more, then let me know!

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