Exploring creativity at Semi Permanent 2018

Exploring creativity at Semi Permanent 2018

Semi Permanent May 24-26, 2018 

Held in Carriageworks in Sydney this design conference has been going since 2003. It covers new design ideas, presentations of great media and advertising agency work and artists recalling their own journeys developing their work and careers. The presenters include directors, photographers, typographers and illustrators. It includes big names in the design industry – past conferences have hosted Pixar, Banksy, Weta digital, Oliver Stone and VICE media.


Semi permanent break at Carriageworks

Some of the speakers that stood out to me at this year’s conference

Danielle Krettek – Founder of Google Empathy Lab, San Francisco
Godfrey Dadich – Media agency, New York and San Francisco
Elizabeth Newman and Lisha Tan – The Mill an animation agency in Los Angeles
Rapha Vasconcellos – Head of Creative Shop at Facebook, APAC
Tinker Hatfield – Nike shoe designer & VP of Creative concepts, Portland
Ajaz Ahmed – CEO of AKQA, London
David Campbell – Senior designer at Mona, Hobart
Alex Schleifer – Vice president of Design at Airbnb, San Francisco

A look at a couple of the presentations

Here I summarise a talk by Danielle Krettek which was really enjoyable and talks about our fascination and relationship with technology and connecting to the unknown.

I also cover a few parts of another presentation I liked listening to – Rapha Vasconcellos who spoke about pushing creativity forward with our ability to create and share content with the world so easily right now.

Danielle Krettek talks about empathy

Danielle Krettek – the founder of Google Empathy Lab in San Francisco

The aim of the Empathy Lab at Google is to create more human relationships between users and AI and to develop a framework for human empathy.


User Experience (UX) – reliability, speed, accuracy.
Human Experience (HX) – inference, emotion, trust, dependability, recall, attunement.
Products listed – Voice, google assistant, agents/chatbots, ML/AI.


We’re interacting a lot with technology

In a day the “average soccer mom” interacts with their phone 75 times a day along with 2500 touches a day. A year of thumb scrolling is the distance it would take to drive the coast from Big Sur to San Francisco. That’s like a drive down great ocean road.


Not only is that a lot of ks, it would also take 49 hours to walk.

Danielle discussed the idea of creating more human-like relationships between users and AI. But how do we make our relationships with robots more human? How can you build a warm relationship between humans and AI? It turns out you can build a framework for creating close relationships. A few examples of formulas to a successful relationship

This ratio:

5:1 good experiences = a good relationship
20:1 good experiences = a great relationship

36 questions to make you fall in love:

The 36 questions task designed to accelerate intimacy which resulted in relationships and marriages for some.


Sheldon taking the 36 questions test with Penny. Not successful.

Creating closer relationships between computers and humans

A test was done using a computer and some user testers. The human characteristic used in this test was that if you show vulnerability to another they will mirror that and open up too.

For the test users were asked to go into a room and talk to a computer. The computer was scripted to ask for anything the human felt ashamed of and none of the users answered. But when they did the second test and had the computer show vulnerability they had different results. For the second test the computer was scripted to say “Sometimes I shut down or crash for no reason, sometimes with no explanation”. The participant would then completely open up about their vulnerability and share what they were ashamed of.

Connecting with the unknown

Danielle spoke of the fascination we have with learning about the unknown and creating a relationship with it. For example, The Steven Spielberg movie ET has been popular since its release in 1982. This movie is still in the top ten on iTunes. We see the main character doing everything he can to hide ET, keep him quiet from his mum in order to finally get a chance to interact with this alien.

She also spoke about the Golden Record sent out into outer space with the Voyager 1 spacecraft launched in 1977. It is a record of human life, culture, language and love which we hope will be received and understood by aliens.

We have this drive to make connections with each other as well as the unknown.

Applying learnings to our AI relationships

Aside from being afraid of AI, we just need to have a conversation. Start a relationship.

Danielle brought up the idea that people have been afraid of emerging AI, but we just need to start a relationship and continue to develop AI out of this discovery phase. You can use these insights we have about what it means to connect as a human and apply it to our AI. Human biology is consistent over a long period – so lets mimic some of those basic cues such as blushing and yawning, and our vulnerabilities. Let’s create AI that feels like a co pilot – sort of like a dog, somewhere along side you.

Rapha Vasconcellos talks about pushing creative marketing with messenger

Rapha Vasconcellos from Head of creative shop at Facebook, APAC

Rapha talked about the fear of change and fear of the new we have with emerging technologies such as AI. He says to use this new technology as a chance to discover – we should use it much more and think of new ways of using this technology to take risks with our creative messages.

IMG_4266 (2)

Rapha talking about AB testing at Netflix

Nike marketing

An example of a creative project which pushed the envelope was the Nike shoe marketing campaign which used Messenger and AR.

The problem for customers was that it had become difficult to buy something unique and different. By using Messenger and Augmented reality an experience was created for shoe fans to address this.

The experience used AR and location inside of messenger allowing customers to unlock sneakers specific to their area. They had access to limited edition sneakers by going to specific places, providing a chance to make an in app purchase of a shoe which is unique and different.

The customer journey was:

In the real world locations with AR inside the Messenger app on their device.

Unlocking a limited edition shoe by visiting the area and discovering the shoe at the specific location.

Posting about their exclusive find with friends.


Nikes Kyrie 4 Red Carpet in Facebook messenger using location based AR.
This image shows what happens when the user locates the shoe and unlocks an exclusive chance to purchase.


New music marketing using messenger

We were shown another example of risk taking creative used by the band The Academic who released their single Bear Claw with messenger live streaming. They advertised the song release and did 5 minutes of live video. They used the loop created in Live video streams inside messenger. Every 30 seconds a new loop was created and added to the video. It was risky, creative and authentic and worth a watch. Canvas was used to give details about the band and linked users back to Spotify.


The Academic’s looped Bear claw


Narrative VR

Pushing boundaries is the narrative VR experience of the children’s storybook Wolves in the Walls.

Wolves in the Walls creates a new form of storytelling within a VR headset. The character is created to interact and engage with the viewer and provides an example of using VR for a meaningful experience. 

The first 3 episodes are on their way to the Oculus Rift headset released by Fable Studio soon.

Use creativity to push these platforms forward

Rapha makes an interesting point, using creativity in bold ways within these new platforms creates new questions. The most exciting question to answer for creatives is what do we want to show in this new platform? What do we want to experience?

Reasons to get involved and attend Semi Permanent 

It’s fascinating to see a variety of design work and different paths inside the design field. For example:

  • A body of work from an individual’s career such as Paula Scher, with her graphic type design – starting out designing posters and then eventually putting type design onto 3D spaces including Bloomingdales, Planned Parenthood and Philadelphia design school.
  • The presentation of a successful redesign of National Geographic magazine done by Godfrey Dadich. This showed their methodologies and journey taken. The redesign included designing new typefaces and naming one after explorer Sylvia Earle.
  • Ironic and playful advertising done by AKQA to Brazilians in order to get an audience of broadcasted tv watchers to sign up to Netflix for the release of Stranger Things. Stranger Things became the most watched tv series in 2017 in Brazil.

If you’re thinking of going

Semi Permanent is held yearly in May at the same time as Sydney’s light festival, Vivid. Another Semi Permanent conference is also coming up in August and is held in Auckland.



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