Richie Hartness has recently joined Voice Brand Agency in Auckland as a Design Director. Before this move, he worked in roles at Geyser Creative, another local agency, and Scenario in Wellington. We recently spoke with Richie to find out more:
Hi Richie, for those that don’t know you, can you tell us a little bit about your background, who you are and what you do.
Well, I’m a pom, though a Yorkshireman to be precise, a Middlesbrough fan, a husband, father of two, tea and coffee drinker, a record label owner/DJ and a bit of a typography fan-boy. I moved to NZ back in 2008. My background in the UK was working for a branding agency in Edinburgh and then Leeds before joining Scenario.
Tell us about your recent move from Wellington to Auckland and how this came about.
Leaving Wellington was a huge decision for my family. I was looking for a role that would further my experience of higher level strategic work, but still allowed me plenty of creative time. That didn’t work out as planned and so I spent some time freelancing, meeting lots of people and having some really interesting conversations. Things move very slowly in NZ at a senior level and I was keen to get back to working alongside people that were intent on doing things right. I’d worked with the guys at Voice on a freelance project and things clicked — so here I am. It took a year and a bit of being in Auckland but Voice has the perfect blend for me — strong strategic thinking and a specialism in branding. Jonno and Sean get things sorted on a strategic level, and then there’s a good amount of space and time given over for the design team to create and refine projects with their guidance and support. It’s a pretty unique blend in my experience and the end results prove it.
What are you most looking forward to in your new role?
To be honest, getting back to pure branding — it’s what I love doing, creating a brand, building it and rolling it out in print and digital. After learning some interesting things about internal comms, and being part of some great projects for the likes of Southern Cross, Contact Energy, IAG and Transpower, it’s been energising to be back talking about design and branding, discussing paper stocks, production techniques, crafting typography, and working on cool brands. It’s early days, but I’m looking forward to working with the Voice team to push our design craft and taking on such a diverse range of clients and projects. I’d admired Voice’s work for a while and, with Sean onboard, it’s an exciting time to be here. We’ve got a great team to deliver award-winning work, and we have a laugh along the way, that’s really important to me, you’ve got to be able to enjoy your day.
What project, personal or professional, are you most proud of and why?
That’s a tough one. I think you always have favourites, but usually the last thing you did is the one you have most invested in. Working on Tottenham Hotspur FC was a dream job — although I’m not a Spurs fan. We had a great team on it and to be totally absorbed in a branding job for 9 months or more was amazing — we lived and breathed it. My work with Miller Homes is up there too. I loved working with the likes of Jack Hodder QC, CentrePort and Westpac — mainly because the clients were great fun and were up for doing something interesting. Since joining Voice it’s been all go. We worked on the launch of MEO’s Karen Walker’s range, the launch of Travel&Co’s new brand, the new Frucor Suntory brand, a property developer’s brand, the new Voice website, helicopters, cheese — and more I can’t talk about… It’s just quality, meaty branding work that you can really get excited about.
Tell us a little bit about what you do outside of work and if and how this benefits or supports your professional practice.
Outside of the office I’m kept pretty busy with two small kids and my other life as a deep house record label owner / DJ (of sorts). UM Records has been my ‘hobby’ since the early 90’s and I’ve just released the 67th EP of the label with a New Zealand based producer. The two radio shows I do have me listening to lots of music which fills my daily commute. Running a label is similar to the design process — there’s an audience, a creative (the producer), a final product that needs shaping along the way, then marketing across channels and selling — it’s a good testing ground for things sometimes, especially in the social/digital space. I find music really immersive and always useful when I’m trying to get into a particular mood to design something — so maybe it all connects weirdly? But it does give me things to design for myself, t-shirts, sleeves, websites and there’s a buzz when you hear someone playing a release, just like when you see a brand you’ve been designing in the wild.
Where do you go to find inspiration?
That’s so varied these days. The web is such a good resource for inspiration but it seems to mean you see the same style cropping up more and more in NZ design. I’m finding I’m collecting reference from Instagram more and more for finishes, fonts, formats and colours — it’s a hell of a lot easier than when I used to photocopy Creative Review and keep scrap books of things I liked.
I’ve always been a fan of design annuals and I hoard printed samples of things and dig them out when you need to explain a technique etc. I’ve recently been reading Dave Trott’s ‘1+1=3’ book and everything I can find on Erik Spiekermann. I saw him speak way back when I was in college and have been a fan ever since — he seems to be having a renaissance of late with his letterpresses fonts. Likewise I seem to go through periods of inspiration for particular people; Farrow, SEA, Build, Frost, Fantasy Interactive and some of the smaller agencies here in Auckland too.
Where can we see more from you?
I have the obligatory folio website and I’m on Twitter but it’s mainly music ramblings and me chuckling at all the spoof accounts I follow. Obviously the music stuff is all out there too but from now on you’ll see what I’m up to on the new Voice website.
Thanks for your time Richie, and all the best with Voice.