Designing Pause Fest: Discover the journey

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Published:  December 18, 2015
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WORDS BY MICHELLE KEOMANY
IMAGES BY BAYLEY MOORE & OLI SANSOM

Six years ago, Pause Fest’s founder George Hedon saw an opportunity to start bringing together a new breed of thinkers and doers. As the festival relaunches with a massive offering for 2016, we look back on what’s shaped it – and forward to what’s in store.


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Since the festival’s launch in 2011, Australia’s digital landscape has become almost unrecognisable. Everywhere you look the influence of technology is permanently changing consumer behaviour, how businesses operate and what skills are developed. We’re no longer watching from the sidelines as the US and Europe dominate. Within the last three years alone digital media behemoths Buzzfeed, The Guardian and Huffington Post have all launched here, local start-ups are thriving and virtual reality gaming is reality. This makes an event like Pause Fest more relevant than ever, as it reflects the environment while also staying ahead.

From 200 attendants in 2011 to over 12,000 five years later, how did founder George Hedon know that there would be such an appetite for this type of content?

“Actually, I didn’t,” he says. “My strategy is to constantly test the market and then if it feels right do it again and expand on it in an organic way.” Hedon elaborates on why he started the festival. “Everything is always about the people… the only reason I started Pause was to be able to collaborate with super talented and like-minded people on the projects you can’t Google, and then showcase them at the festival. Pause is all about discovering those passionate souls,” he explains.

00000_1_DT Pause Images_580px3You can’t help but get swept up in Hedon’s energy and drive when you talk to him. It’s easy to see why the festival is so strongly supported by the creative and tech community. Sander van Dijk, mographer (motion graphics designer) at Buck in New York, was involved in the first Pause Fest. “I needed a break from work… It provided me with a platform where I could meet like-minded people in a different place.”

Over the years the conference has become a catalyst for businesses and individuals alike. “The animation that I did for Pause Fest is one of my most appreciated works. I often have clients specifically refer to it. Unknowingly, that has set me up for more great projects,” says van Dijk.

00000_1_DT Pause Images_580px2Brad Hammond, tech creative at XY01, set up an interactive installation at Pause. “It was one of my first proper interactive installations outside of music festivals.” Hammond has seen firsthand how Pause has grown over the last six years “from humble beginnings focusing mostly on screen-based media, to now really encompassing digital culture and all that surrounds it.”

Hammond adds, “I really like that the festival tackles not only the shiny tech and creative aspects of digital culture, but digs into the political, ethical, social impacts and abilities of contemporary and future digital culture.”

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Photo: www.olisansom.comPause aims to be the space where you can meet, learn and do. Attending for her first time in February 2016, final year advertising student Kim Handley says, “Pause Fest was the first time I felt immersed in the industry that I wanted to be a part of. It made me realise that I could forge my own path and still be fine.”

It’s Hedon’s belief in what can happen when you create this space for people from all industries to converge, share their passion and find purpose, which sets Pause apart from other conferences.

Photo: www.olisansom.comSo why does a conference have to be the same every year? For the sixth festival, Pause continues to reinvent and reengineer itself, presenting a brand new start-up format and a theme of ‘discovering your future self’. Hedon says, “A start-up needs three people to run it successfully – a creative, a tech and a businessperson. Pause has been exploring these three areas in the last few years and it’s a logical progression for us.” Each topic has a full day dedicated to immersing you in everything it has to offer and the specially curated, free nightly events are a chance to mingle with the festival community.

Pause_D2_BaylyMoore_48For 2016 Hedon has steered Pause to new heights with an impressive range of keynote speakers from here and overseas. The core conference line-up boasts a hands-on design session with Crumpler, an insight into the creative process of tech designers Teenage Engineering (Sweden), the new wave of ‘femvertising’ and with Vice, discussing the near future of tube travel with Hyperloop (US), looking at the intersection of design and technology with Google, collaboration and design processes with DT and so many more. Hedon says, “Pause enables people to develop their own private voice through creative experimentation, away from the multiple level of approvals, and be heard.” So here’s to celebrating another year of what happens when you take the opportunity to pause.


This article first appeared in the desktop-Pause special.

For more information on Pause Fest, click here. Get your early bird tickets now.

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