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So I think I love the joy of other people falling in love with design and I kind of feel that being able to communicate that to them and the storytelling for me is as important as the designing now

Episode 21

On telling logical design stories utilising whole brain thinking strategy, how to live the brand and the post covid workplace reality

Amanda Stanaway | Principal & Global Workplace Leader | Woods Bagot

Today’s episode features Amanda Stanaway. Amanda is the Global workplace leader & principal at Woods Bagot.

Amanda sits at the forefront of workplace design; currently working with a broad portfolio of corporate clients worldwide including NAB, CBA & Google.

Her role encompasses strategy and interior design across the commercial, lifestyle and public sectors and this mix of skills and diversity of knowledge provides a unique, comprehensive and innovative approach to projects for her clients.

Amanda has been instrumental in creating some of the most cutting edge workplaces in Australia – which have delivered real business advantage and positive change for the organisation.

In this episode Amanda explains how to tell logical design stories utilising whole brain thinking strategy, how to live the brand and what the post covid workplace reality looks like.

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Transcript

Anthony Denman:
Amanda, welcome to the Property Marketing Podcast.

Amanda Stanaway:
Thank you.

Anthony Denman:
I guess that given you’re the Global Workplace leader, you’re not really allowed to enjoy working from home, are you?

Amanda Stanaway:
No, it would be really against everything that I talk about. But I think more than anything, I’m a people person. So I believe that people come up with the best ideas when together. So I have to say that I take energy from other humans. So for me, not only is it my job, it’s my passion, and I really need other people to actually come up with ideas.

Anthony Denman:
Was there a moment, I guess, in your life that you kind of had this realization that you wanted to tell stories about habitable spaces and how people connect with them?

Amanda Stanaway:
I think really as a child, my dad is a valuer, and I spent a lot of time around houses and understanding them. So I started this idea that I was interested in design and physical space. And for me that built over time, I think really the storytelling piece came after realizing that designers often are not really great at telling stories and relating design to normal humans.

Amanda Stanaway:
And I say that really kindly in that we often talk in our own language and talk with our own words based on our own value system. And I think the key to being a great storyteller is actually being able to relate to your audience, understand what it is, and then actually make sure that you can actually transfer and get them engaged with the idea of design. So quite often we talk about designing, I don’t know, I think pretty un-relatable language. And for me, it’s really about if you’re the CEO, I sell to you in terms that make you relate to it, you don’t say that I want you to buy this chair because it’s beautiful. You ask the person to create a value judgment that’s going to actually provide value for his business and the role that he has.

Amanda Stanaway:
So I think for me, storytelling, I think you start when you get lots of great feedback about how honesty and your ability to tell a story can bring people joy and get people excited. So I think, I don’t know when I started, but certainly it built over time. And I think you get better as a storyteller as you spend more time delivering and telling people how to by design. I think it’s not something that you’re taught at university and I don’t think storytelling is a natural thing in Western culture. I think a lot of the indigenous culture is great at storytelling, but certainly we are not taught it particularly

Anthony Denman:
Given the context of what you just said around how you tell stories, because it’s not the first time that we’ve spoken, we talked about in one of our pre-chat chats, that you’re interested in certified, whole brain thinking. And I did a bit of research around that and there seems to be what they call a Herrmann Brain Dominance Instrument Assessment. How deep down that rabbit hole have you been?

Amanda Stanaway:
Herrmann Brain Theory is something that we use a lot as a business to actually kind of swot around clients to understand what their drivers are. And there’s kind of four quadrants to the brain, which are around logic, emotion and how we respond to stuff. So logically as a designer, most of us sell by emotion, but if your logic is money, time and something pretty rigorous, there’s no point in me trying to sell that way.

Amanda Stanaway:
So Hermann’s Brain Theory is a really interesting way to really take someone or any designer and actually make them think about a problem a completely different way and recognize that they have to change the way that they talk about design to really appeal to different audiences. And I think certainly design as a business, something like Herrmann Brain’s theory or any of the kind of psychological swot tools are really great.

Amanda Stanaway:
And I think they actually help you be a better designer because you actually think about, why would someone else do this rather than why I do it for myself. And I think it’s one thing that as a designer, I think it’s really important. You have to be able to design for your client. I think many of us design for ourself. And that I think doesn’t bring the best out in a design and I think your ability to respond to a client and their needs is actually fundamental to what we do.

Anthony Denman:
And what’s involved in kind of understanding all of that thinking? Is it something that you do on a regular basis? Is it a one-off course? I mean, how do you kind of stay updated around that? Because I would imagine there’s quite a bit to it.

Amanda Stanaway:
A bit of psych background is pretty helpful and I think we are really lucky to have a set of business coaches to help us through that. But I think what you’re really focusing on is this ability to actually 100% make sure that you understand and listen. And I think that is listen without prejudice is really fundamental to what we do.

Amanda Stanaway:
I think quite often we listen and don’t necessarily hear, we listen through our own lens and I think that’s actually a skill I believe that’s tuned over time. I’d like to say out loud that I’m good at listening. I think a lot of people sometimes think I’m not because I’m a great talker, they think that I don’t listen, but fundamental to actually being able to replay and respond to a client is the absolute ability to listen without bias.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, you’re right. It’s a tough thing to do. It certainly doesn’t come naturally, does it? To most people. I think it was Buddha that said, how can you be listening when your lips are still moving?

Amanda Stanaway:
And I think in design, it’s very hard to get yourself out of the equation when you’re designing something, because you design by how you want to experience quite a lot, instead of actually saying legitimately, how does the client want to live in this space? And I think that’s the skill of a really great designer to be able to hold what’s true to them, but also 100% morph to the needs and the desires of their client.

Anthony Denman:
And how often would you have that conversation with your team about, hang on a sec, who’s this? Who are we designing for here team? How often do you have to kind of remind them of that?

Amanda Stanaway:
I think it’s a lot easier in corporate design than it is in others, because there is never a kind of one singular person that drives the design or one single outcome because you’re actually trying to drive to value and vision from a business, which is normally a lot more in company. We have the conversation constantly. It’s part of our design process and it’s really key if we have that driver and that vision really clear, we can test design.

Amanda Stanaway:
Otherwise we’re talking about things with, you like white and I like pink or whatever it is. You’re talking about arbitrary things. If you can actually get the essence of what you’re doing and actually align it to business function or function, you get a much better design. And I think certainly for me, part of our design process and methodology is really very much putting the client or the user in the center and actually very much putting your mind to actually designing for them, not for yourself.

Anthony Denman:
Okay. So that’s really good, I mean, great. I mean, you have to have some criteria, which is kind of like what we do for when creating brands. I mean, if you get into that point, storytelling for your own kind of personal taste and without having that kind of defined strategy and a set criteria, a set of attributes and brand values that you kind of got to constantly check on and make sure that your storytelling is ticking those boxes.

Anthony Denman:
So I totally get that. What I’m really interested in though is this idea that the mindset, I guess, of a CEO or a COO and the difference between, I guess, from a residential perspective, selling design to an owner-occupier, for example, who just wants a really beautiful house that they’re going to feel magnificent in, versus selling to a CEO or a COO who doesn’t really give a flying fuck quite honestly what someone feels when they’re in a beautiful space. And then they’re more tuned in to a logical outcome.

Anthony Denman:
I guess my question is, and we’ll talk a lot more about post-COVID stuff later, but given that historically that’s the way CEOs and COOs have been thinking, are they now starting to see the value? Is there something trickling through in terms of understanding the value of how considered interior design can make their employees feel and therefore play a significant role in getting them back to work?

Amanda Stanaway:
Look, I think the value of the interior design is heightened more than ever at the moment as people question a lot about the office. And I think really importantly, the power of the employee has been amplified over the last 18 months. What anyone thinks and everybody’s opinion matters at this moment. And that’s really because we’re in a very strange place of lack of workforce across many, many sectors. And it’s really hard to find people, but to find good people and keep them is the fundamental of almost every business and every CEO.

Amanda Stanaway:
I think really for me, the work that we’ve been doing over the last couple of years, there’s this independent post-occupancy run by a company called Leesman, and they interview or do an online survey for almost everyone that lives in the building or in a fitter after we complete it.

Amanda Stanaway:
Two of our projects, one for BHP, which is in Adelaide, one in 2021, so this year. And it’s the highest performing workplace in the world. And another project for BHP in Manila won it in 2019, with CBA being the number four rated. And the reason why I hold that quite dearly, and I think it’s really important to talk about it, is that it’s independent. It’s not about design, it’s about performance, a building for people and outcome and business.

Amanda Stanaway:
And that might not sound sexy to some people, many people in our business would be really much happier with the design award. For me, the fact that something like CBA won a design award and then in the Leesman writing, it’s the fourth highest in the world, means that the people that use it, got what we were doing and why. And that has tremendous value and I think certainly being able to use independent review of that means that the CEO and all the people within the business that work in property, can see how it’s adding value.

Amanda Stanaway:
And I think that’s hard as a designer because most of the time we can’t see the value. We can’t prove it. We go, “Oh, it feels nice. It looks nice.” For me really trying to get value out of what we do so we can elevate fees, elevate what we do and that my dad doesn’t think that I tell people what color to paint their walls in their office for a living. Really, so I’m way more interesting at barbecues for my dad.

Anthony Denman:
But yeah, so what’s it called? The Leesman-

Amanda Stanaway:
Leesman Index.

Anthony Denman:
… Index. Can you give us an insight into what that looks like?

Amanda Stanaway:
It’s about 50 or so questions that actually range from the quality of space to the typology and diversity of space to the integration of technology, quality of light and how they feel it responds to acoustics and their ability to work. So it really covers everything from the physical, through to technology, and its ability to impact on their performance.

Amanda Stanaway:
So it’s a pretty comprehensive survey and it’s really well-respected the around the world. And I think we take great pride in that as a business, because we want to be able to prove that design does add value. And I think it’s fundamental to our industry. We all think it does, but it’s trying to prove it.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah. Totally. No, that’s really fascinating. So is it some value management tool that kind of puts a dollar value against the design outcomes that you’re implementing?

Amanda Stanaway:
It more puts an engagement value because we know that people that are engaged and comfortable performed the highest. So there’s no real… During COVID, a lot of people came out and said, “I perform better at home.” There’s no living proof. We couldn’t measure productivity prior to COVID nor can we now. But what we do know is that the more comfortable someone is, and the more engaged someone is, the better chance that it is that they’re going to perform. And so what really Leesman does is actually put a value around that engagement and performance characteristics, and really see how that adds value to the business.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, that’s really interesting to me. And I kind of know a few people that are working on or trying to kind of deliver some value matrix that can actually quantify a number, if you like, or a percentage on the value of what you do. I mean, that certainly would be a lot easier. Wouldn’t it be? I’ll put that in front of a COO.

Amanda Stanaway:
Absolutely. It might help us a lot with fees and lots of other things. And I think one of the great examples in that is something like the NAB Village, which we did as part of 700 Bourke Street quite some time ago. And NAB gave away about 500 square meters of space as a coworking space. And we did that at that point when coworking wasn’t big across the Australian market and they gave away space.

Amanda Stanaway:
And in the end, it ended up producing about $15 million with a revenue for the bank that they could link it to in the first year. And that was really kind of powerful as a design tool that we could see how physical space and an attitude of, “Hey, here’s some free space.” If young entrepreneurs and small business can use it and they partner with the NAB bankers, then actually we can get this symbiotic outcome for the business. So I think there’s lots of things around that. If only we could actually find a nice equation and therefore prove to everyone that what we do is invaluable to their businesses. And whether that’s a corporate business or a non-for-profit, or even when we’re doing work with schools and other organizations.

Anthony Denman:
Are you able to give me a definitive example of using logic to sell a creative thought?

Amanda Stanaway:
I have a really non-PC way of telling a story. One of my oldest clients is a gentleman called Alister, and I’m not going to say his surname, but he’s a very well-known Scottish man. And I had a really beautiful chair and it is well known, but he wasn’t in love with it. I kept telling him it was beautiful that he would love it, but he wouldn’t buy it.

Amanda Stanaway:
And so ultimately there was two things that got me to sell it to him, which was really that I believed and told him that it would not depreciate over time. It actually would hold its value by 10 years through the fit-out. And the other one that happened is, the product was called FK Bucket. And my storytelling came to its fore and said, “Look, this chair’s called FK Bucket. I can’t think of any other reason why I’d tell someone to sit in it every day. And he’s Scottish and he has a good sense of humor and is a great friend.” And he bought the chair. He’s still there.

Anthony Denman:
That’s a great one. FK Bucket. There you go.

Amanda Stanaway:
I actually looked up recently why it was called FK Bucket, because I was like, “Why would anyone call something that?” And it was just because the two designers, their surnames started with F and K, but I’m like, “Why didn’t they put it together the opposite way around?” And I’m like, “Probably because people like me wouldn’t have been able to sell it.”

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, no, that’s a good one. That is a good one. I fucking kicked the bucket, right? So something like that, just don’t have too many to tequilas maybe when you’re trying to sell that next time.

Amanda Stanaway:
Absolutely. I think he took great pride in telling people to go sit and wait in that chair, knowing that it was called that.

Anthony Denman:
Very good. Okay. So let’s take that good storytelling. And how does or how should a corporate brand manifest itself in a physical workplace environment?

Amanda Stanaway:
It’s tough because vision and values across many major corporates are really, really consistent. And they’ve all got care or authenticity and things in it that you kind of really struggle to actually authentically translate into space, but really in all corporates, you should be able to take the logo off the door and actually know by the sense of space, the attitude and the behaviours that it incapsulates, that it is that brand.

Amanda Stanaway:
And Google is quite good at it in terms of, it has an approach and an attitude to service all the way through their spaces and whether you like it or not, how that is aesthetic plays out. What I do take quite a lot of pride in is that I can take a photo from one of their campuses that we’ve done and people will know that it’s theirs. And that’s a really obvious one, but I think that being able to take the attitude of the business and translate that into physical space is the actual, I guess, sweet spot of a really great corporate designer.

Amanda Stanaway:
Now I think sometimes it’s really easy. So NAB was quite easy, and I say easy in terms of they have a tagline connection to customer and community. In almost all the buildings that we’ve created for them and fit outs we’ve created for them, there’s a big, giant, enormous hole in the building and the community can come in the bottom.

Amanda Stanaway:
I remember taking a man who was from a middle America, classic corporate banker from Manhattan. I took him into NAB and 700 Bourke Street and he said, “What? The CEO can walk across the middle and someone with a shotgun could shoot him?” And I’m like, “Yeah.” And he said, “Well, how can you be this open? A bank has to have a really hard front wall.” And I said, “Look, Australians, A, don’t trust banks, B, this was their way of living a brand.”

Amanda Stanaway:
And I think you can often get really sweet spots of translating brand and vision into physical space. And I think for me, when we get that right, and you can tell stories like that and say, “Look, this was the gesture.” The building is open. You can stand at the bottom and see the whole way through because the bank wanted to live their value of transparency and connection to community.

Amanda Stanaway:
So for me, that’s what a great workplace should do. And it should have a sensorial experience that is the essence of the brand. My favorite things are people like Macquarie or Goodman. They all have a scent for their workplace. And for me, that idea that you’re layering experience the same way as a hotel brand would into a corporate workplace, I think is heightening that experience. And I think it will get better over time as people start to really think about how to make special space for people to return to post-COVID.

Anthony Denman:
I’ve got a few questions. I think probably the first one is I’ve got a sense of when you started the answer to that question, it sounds like you do get quite a lot of the sameness in your briefs. So you just answered that question by saying yes, which is good, which is what I suspected. And then that kind of leads me to do you find that you get a better outcome and I think in some ways you’ve answered it, but do you find that you get a better outcome when the person, and as I understand it through our previous conversations, it’s best if you get briefed directly by the CEO.

Anthony Denman:
If that CEO is somewhat brand savvy and kind of understands the value of a unique positioning in the marketplace that needs to be translated, not only through obviously all of the kind of visual communications, but through its people and through its workforce?

Amanda Stanaway:
Yeah. I think a really great way to do that is if you’re linked to the CEO and you have the strongest and the most honest relationship with the person highest in the business. The one that I think of, when I think about innovation, and one of the most phenomenal clients that I’ve met is a gentleman called Danny Gilbert, who is the CEO of Gilbert + Tobin.

Amanda Stanaway:
And I think he just authentically understood what he wanted his business to be and where he wanted to be. And therefore used that as a mechanism to brief us. And then within that, he authentically lived the values of his business. So he is a massive supporter and really strongly linked to the indigenous community. He was part of a whole heap of very, very critical components that went towards the Uluru treaty and lots of different things.

Amanda Stanaway:
And he therefore had this really authentic way that he wanted to translate the brand into physical space. And I think when you get that, it’s easy, when you’re manufacturing that, it’s impossible. And I think he had a story that was real versus when someone says, we’re this or we’re that, and you’re like, “Well, you’re not really.” And I’m trying to make this space do that.

Amanda Stanaway:
So I think authenticity and a client’s ability to recognize how physical space lives their values. So if someone says we’re transparent and then they want to be holed up in the middle, at the top of the tower with three lines of security, you’re kind of going, “Well, yeah, sure.” That’s not living it. And so it’s really, you have to use these components to help drive design and the the best relationship with the CEO to be able to honestly say, “Look, I get you say this, but how do you do it?”

Amanda Stanaway:
And I think that’s kind of key to our role. Which means that I think a lot of the time, we’re a lot more than what people think I am. And I made the joke before that my dad thinks that I paint the colours on the walls. And I remember him one day saying to me, “Well, why do people fly you around the world to do that?” And I’m like, “Dad, I don’t spend time with CEOs because I’m talking about the colour. I’m talking about business.” And I think for me, the translation of business into design is the bit that I love the most, because I think you get to meet the most phenomenal people and try and bring something to life in a physical form, that not many people can do.

Anthony Denman:
Do brand managers get involved much in your process?

Amanda Stanaway:
Not as much as you would think. And I think really because a lot of them aren’t particularly attuned to creating physical space rather than putting brand on it. So I think if we get the opportunity and have brand managers from the beginning, we get a much stronger result than them coming in midway. So openly, not really, which I know that might disappoint you, but really for me, quite often we’ll get marketing, we get a little bit of brand, but we don’t get it as much as you would think.

Anthony Denman:
I think to me, it just sounds like you get the better the CEO, the more well-rounded the… I mean, a great CEO kind of gets every facet of the business, right? So they’re able to translate the brand and marketing facet of the business through to living the brand in a physical environment.

Amanda Stanaway:
Absolutely. And you have to believe in the fact that the strongest of brands and you could argue globally that the strongest of brands is probably Apple. If you work in an Apple store without the Apple on the back and/or any of the other bits of signage, we’d all know what it was because it actually feels like that space. And that’s a really easy and great example, but we have to have better. But not better ones, but we have to be able to create more of them because they’ve translated their idea of simplicity and legibility into a physical form.

Anthony Denman:
Can you give me example of how Google might create the happiest and most productive workplace in the world?

Amanda Stanaway:
Google’s a phenomenal business to work with because it has so many resources and it has probably something that lots of other people don’t have, which is obviously might as a global brand, but also quite a lot of ways that they can enhance their employee experience. One of the great things about it is obviously the employees get quite a lot of perks in terms of food, wellness and a real flexibility.

Amanda Stanaway:
And I think they’ll continue to talk about that as we move forward post-COVID. So I think I was about to say, if you get fed three times a day and you get a massage at the end of the week, you’d like to think that you’re happy. But I think it really very much, it’s such a workforce that is very much a driven workforce to create. And I think normally when people go there, they are that type A personality that definitely is there to make a difference and to come up with ideas.

Amanda Stanaway:
And I love coming across the people in a business that love ideas and some of the most phenomenal salespeople I’ve ever met in my life come from there. They’re beautiful storytellers because they’ve worked and developed a product and then learnt how to sell it. So, I don’t know, I think the idea of creating anything, an innovation at your core is always something that it’s really exciting. I think that’s why it has some of the happiest and engaged workforces. And I think it’s also a massive, massive workforce that you can’t actually really underestimate the might of connection in a whole heap of humans and what they can do together.

Anthony Denman:
So pre-COVID, everyone kind of went to work, went to a physical workplace and in fact spent more time there than they do at home, or they did at home. The question is, and I’ve been to a few buildings here and there, which just look amazing, they’re incredible to look at as you kind of drive across the bridge or as you kind of move towards the building, they look amazing from the outside. And then you get inside and it’s kind of like, “Oh, that’s a bit of a let down. I don’t feel like I’m getting the most out of this Harbourfront position or whatever it might be.” So the question is, why are a lot of pre-COVID, a lot of commercial buildings designed to look a certain way and not necessarily perform a certain way for the people that inhabit them?

Amanda Stanaway:
This is going to make me grossly unpopular, this answer. And even in my own organization, across the city. Look, architecture is a really complex piece, particularly in a city like Sydney. We’re driven by planning. We’re driven by design competitions, and most of them are very much judged on what a towel looks like from the skyline, from the ground plane, and not very much about what happens inside.

Amanda Stanaway:
And I think across the industry, there’s absolutely a broad recognition that that needs to change, but really openly, a lot of architecture, and I’ll get into so much trouble for saying this, it’s driven by people creating the ultimate… phallic piece on the skyline. And I get in trouble for talking about it all the time. But the shiny tower has always been the representation of all power. And I use the example, and it is the fact that you can have a tower in the center of Sydney and you’re paying $1,500 a square meter to look out at a view, yet the automatic blinds come down from 10:00 AM because it’s too hot for you to sit inside, and then you can’t see that view that you paid for, is really remiss of us as a design profession in this day and age.

Amanda Stanaway:
Yes, we need to design buildings with the right thermal comfort without actually blocking view. We know light’s important. And there are going to be times where that’s going to happen, but I think we have to design for the occupants inside. And I do think that architecture and interior design have to work together to make sure that the performance of a building plus the experience of it are integrated.

Amanda Stanaway:
Otherwise we will have shiny towers that actually don’t really address the needs of the people inside. And I think that those needs are changing rapidly. The mega tower might be something maybe that we won’t be as in love with post-COVID. But I think certainly the thing that we have to remind ourselves is that it’s really great that a tower is beautiful on a skyline, it’s important to the city. But I do think we have to build into the design competition components, a real focus on what that building is like and what the floor plate is. It’s always in a design competition, but I think it probably needs to have a little bit more weight in my mind as we grow to make better buildings for people.

Anthony Denman:
Is that why humanizing spaces is so important to you?

Amanda Stanaway:
Yeah, absolutely. I think, look, you have to recognize the fact that good space changes performance, and we have to believe in the fact that we should be creating the best office buildings in 2021, ’23, that we can rather than repeating mistakes of the past. And I think architecture often due to pressures of economics and others often doesn’t evolve enough, I don’t think. And so I think the human is central to what we were doing, but we still kind of design a little like we’ve got an industrialised workforce and that homogenous is actually the right way to go.

Anthony Denman:
Can you give me an example of humanizing your workforce?

Amanda Stanaway:
Look, I think not repetitive that people can actually end up augmenting and changing their space to be what they want. Even activity-based working allows diversity for me to choose the right type of space to what I need. I think the evolution of that is also recognizing that comfort is really different for you and I. As male and female, you need the space at 20 degrees and I needed it at 25 because I’m cold.

Amanda Stanaway:
We try and design to the mean and the main on anything doesn’t work very well. It’s like when you say one size fits all clothing, it doesn’t fit anyone very well. And so I think the trick in the future in humanising is kind of being able to find a way to make design a little bit more responsive, which may mean us giving up a little bit of control, I think.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah. I mean, I think they make beds now that you can kind of have one side heated to a certain level and the other side differently heated and a different level of hardness in the mattress and so on and so forth. So they’re kind of interactive.

Amanda Stanaway:
Yeah. One of my favorite stories of a building that we worked on for Macquarie called Shelley Street is that it was one of the first activity-based working environments. And the women used to congregate on the East in the morning and on the West in the afternoon. They’d use those spaces because they had the most sun on them and therefore were warmer. And the men kind of did the opposite. It was the workplace version of an Australian barbecue.

Anthony Denman:
Except on a Friday afternoon. Of course, then all the men are on the Western side as well.

Amanda Stanaway:
Yeah, for the sun.

Anthony Denman:
Just for the sun. Yes. Okay. So I’m interested in, and this can be a pre or post-COVID answer, entirely up to you, but what does your process of ideation look like and what is the perfect set of circumstances that allows you to create your very best work?

Amanda Stanaway:
Look, the process for ideation for us as a business, Woods Bagot particularly, we’re pretty data-driven as an organization. So actually having quite a lot of data and sometimes quite a lot of constraints actually is the best starting point. So we understand the site, the business, and kind of some of the constraints as the starting point. Really for me, ideation is really about bringing together the most diverse set of people and kind of mashing up those ideas and probably leaving a little frustrated because there’s so much going on.

Amanda Stanaway:
But really ultimately for us ideation and kind of innovating comes from actually bringing together those people and actually agitating and really re-inventing and asking why. And I think trying to make sure that we are constantly asked why. To be fair the conversation that we had earlier around client, I think a great client helps a great project.

Amanda Stanaway:
I think it’s pretty hard to do a great project without a great client. And so that collaborative partnership between all parties becomes the way that you come to great outcomes. And I use a client that I have had for about a decade and her boss recently asked me why it was that projects I did with her were exceptional. And it was really because she never thinks it’s good enough. And that’s how we constantly kind of come together.

Amanda Stanaway:
And it’s a love and a hate relationship in some ways, but symbiotically, we come together and we constantly question whether it’s good enough or what we could do better and how it can further evolve something. So for me, ideation is definitely something that brings lots of people together.

Amanda Stanaway:
I think probably for us at the moment, I would say that it’s harder, because energy of lots of people is what comes up with ideas for me. Traveling is where I come up for ideas. That diversity of thought and actually walking a street in Manila and seeing some crazy person do something on the edge of the road and then going, “Well, actually that thing that he’s using is actually how we’re going to solve this problem.”

Amanda Stanaway:
So I think innovation for me comes from so many different places, but I do feel like that right at the moment, it feels a little hard to actually kind of draw on some of those really big experiences to impact that. So we’re using that a lot less than when trying to ideate really differently. And I think that will come up with really different outcomes and they’ll just be different. They just won’t be how we used to come up with ideas before or how we made our ideas better previously.

Anthony Denman:
Okay, let’s go there then. Let’s go post let’s go post-COVID. And you’re going to love this question. I know you get it a lot. What is everyone else doing at the moment?

Amanda Stanaway:
Everyone’s sitting on their hands because no one knows what to do. No, I think, look, there’s kind of two schools of thought and my favorite, because it’s what I do is the ones that are backing, that if they create a great place, that people will come. And there’s a project we did for Goodman that launched it January 2021. And it was the re-invigoration of four kind of industrial assets into a really kind of casual, but really unique workplace, and the fact that it de corporatised the office.

Amanda Stanaway:
It has this illusion of space. It really takes a whole layer level to incorporating smell and wellness. And it just feels like a nice place to be by having lots of access to light, lots of trees inside. So really it took some of the fears that people have about going to an office. And I say that commuting on public transport, getting in a lift, being in a mass building with lots and lots of people, and kind of in some ways, exploited that. It’s in a suburban outlet, Greg Goodman pays an incentive for them to get an electric car and other things and find other ways to work.

Amanda Stanaway:
There’s lots of space. They went from 10 square meters per person to about 14. So there’s more space. And what happened pre-COVID or pre us going into lockdown again is they had 70% of people come back in. And for me that tells me if you create great space with great attitude and great leadership, people will come back in. So that’s one kind of side of the coin of the post-COVID is that people are backing quality. That we’re going to have office spaces in the future. They may be smaller, but they will need to be better.

Anthony Denman:
When you say they may be smaller. What do you mean?

Amanda Stanaway:
I think a lot of corporate portfolios are saying, look, if people are going to work from home, then how do we make savings, in terms we don’t need the quantum of space that we have in our portfolio because people are at home 50% of the time. I mean, the general feedback across almost all of corporate Australia at the moment is about people would like to be in the office three days or less, which is pretty frightening if you see what the pre-COVID kind of occupancy was.

Amanda Stanaway:
Well, it was reported by their property council to be just around 90 something percent. If you’re only having people there for about 50% of that, it’s going to change the way that our cities are and all the spaces and all the things that go around it a lot. And I think that means that a lot of corporate Australia are questioning how much space they need.

Anthony Denman:
Do you think that that’s going to be the way forward forever?

Amanda Stanaway:
I think everyone’s in love with the idea of flexibility. It is now become the right. It’s almost like in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, flexibility is given, right? And people feel really troubled to challenge that. And I think most large employers had a flexible policy before. But really how that’s going to roll out is really going to challenge that. I would like to think that people will actually go back to the workplace.

Amanda Stanaway:
And when I say go back, I think we want to say go forward, in terms of, we want it to be different. I would love it to be different because I think there’s so many improvements that we can make to the office experience from making it less corporatised and so much more humanised. But I have to believe in the fact that people want to be part of society and groups.

Amanda Stanaway:
And we’ve always been part of, I don’t know, we’ve always congregated, in old civilizations, we went to the market, we had the church, we centered ourselves around it. And most of Australia lack knowing that there’s a lack of faith and a lack of general community in lots and lots of places. Actually the workplace is one of those big places that they’re congregating. And so I’m really hopeful that what will translate from this time is that workplace will be better. It will be better and people understand the power of it for social and cultural connection. And they’ll feel really wedded to how the workplace expresses that and facilitates that.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah. I mean, I was just Googling Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, because I forgot what it was actually. I thought it was something like food and shelter and stuff. But there it is, transcendence, self-actualization, authentic needs, cognitive needs, esteem needs, belonging and love needs, safety needs, psychology needs. So authentic needs, right? So yeah, I mean, in pre-COVID, if you didn’t turn up to work, you wouldn’t get paid, right?

Amanda Stanaway:
And yeah, it’s a massive change in mindset. And I think going back to our very earlier conversation around performance is that in many ways, place was linked. The places that were created and the workplaces we created were linked to performance. Most people now think that performance is not linked to place. And therefore I guess we’re trying to figure out what place is.

Amanda Stanaway:
And I think there’s a lot of evidence and a lot of talk around the places that we’re creating about being a place of belonging and connection. And that is really important for every one of us. So I have to be really honest. I do lots of workshops and really struggle with the people in the workshops that say, “I don’t want to go back to work because I actually can’t get my head around it, because I can’t get my head around, no matter how nice our houses are, why I’d to stay at home five days a week. Because I need the stimulation of going into the city and seeing people, and I don’t know, seeing something strange on the way.” And that becomes part of the layering of the storytelling, because what else have you got to tell if you don’t leave a box? Well, we’re all going to be in a box for a long time, but anyway.

Anthony Denman:
Is that what you say to them?

Amanda Stanaway:
No, I’m not allowed to. I have to very much be much more balanced about that. But I think as an employer, I probably am not allowed to say this out loud, but I really would like to think that someone wants to contribute to that culture and that anything, you get as much as you give. And so you do want your employees to want to be part of that.

Amanda Stanaway:
If someone said to me, “I don’t want to come in at all.” I think I would want to know what they want from us as an employer. Because I would like to think that it’s an equal pace that people want to contribute to a community. And for me, the people that work with me are part of my community. That’s really important to my energy and how we work with other people. So I think it’s also pretty hard to say I design workspaces and don’t want to live in it. I want to live in my house. So I don’t really have a choice, really.

Anthony Denman:
No, that was the very first question, I guess. Is that lever now that if you don’t come into work, you won’t have a job. Is that lever gone now forever, has it?

Amanda Stanaway:
I think it’s pretty much gone. I think flexibility is universally accepted certainly in Australian workplace. I absolutely think it is. I think it is more challenging in businesses where all people can’t get equal choice. So our business is equal to us versus I don’t know, if you’re working for BHP, you’ve got the miners or people who are FIFO, who fly in and fly out and have to go to the mines regardless. Their flexibility is probably quite different to their office worker.

Amanda Stanaway:
So flexibility, I think has been outlined as a right and I haven’t seen many clients post-COVID kind of shut that down. There’s been a few employers, I think JPMorgan, I think Apple at one point came out and had a return to work policy and then flipped a couple of days later. And so if we go back to our previous point, the power of the employee is key at the moment, will it be forever? I don’t know.

Amanda Stanaway:
So I think the answer to you is that where we’re at right now is quite unique in that we have labor market shortages across the world because, I’m not going to say it was a bust, but if we say following the pandemic, we kind of have seen already in Sydney and other places, there was kind of this boom at the end of last year and early this year. And I think around most markets in the world, we’re experiencing that.

Amanda Stanaway:
So people were just kind of scrambling and really scrambling to find talent. So they’re allowing and kind of being as flexible as they can to attract the right people. And I think, any business we’re working with, the CEO, the CFO and the head of HR often have slightly different priorities. CFO obviously wants to save money and seize an asset like an office that’s not being fully utilized and wants to understand how he can maximize that.

Amanda Stanaway:
And I think a CEO generally in lots of cases really would love his workforce back to work in the physical office and head of HR saying, “Look, you can’t.” So I think we’re in a really unique space and that really sweet point for everybody that we work with is really to say, “We can totally remap this and make it something fabulous.” I mean, yeah, for me, I’m just trying to search for that magical client that is brave enough to just say, “I don’t care what anyone else is doing. I’m going to get on and do what’s right for me and I’m going to back it and it’s going to be great.” They’re pretty hard to find.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah. I was just going to ask you, is COVID the biggest kind of most disruptive change that you’ve encountered in your career?

Amanda Stanaway:
It’s hard to say because we’re probably not far enough away from it. I think certainly for me the biggest disruptor was one Shelley Street for Macquarie back in 2006, and it got launched in 2009. And then that was the first activity-based working building in Australia. And the reason I tell that story is for me, that was the most disruptive because it was the first time anyone, any corporate in Australia shared and everyone didn’t have their desk. That experience of working through that and getting into lifts and people saying to you, “Oh, you’re the woman that’s taking away my desk.” I was like, “No, I’m not.” But I’m not really that powerful.

Amanda Stanaway:
But it’s a strategy that’s been endorsed by the leadership. And so I think that was a pretty major disruptor, which is about a decade ago. Absolutely, this will be the disruptor that will redefine what we do for a living right now. I just am not completely convinced how people are going to make the most of it.

Anthony Denman:
Let’s look at another disruptor, which is online shopping and how that changed the retail environment. I guess all of a sudden retailers didn’t necessarily have to kind of have rows and rows of garments or shoes or whatever it was they’re selling because people could actually just come to the retail shop for an experience and then go home and buy it online. It doesn’t really matter, they still make the sale. But they were able to change the way in which their retail real estate, if you like, was being used, okay? And it’s still being used. So I look at that as an example of, I guess, disruption to a category and the category overcoming that disruption.

Amanda Stanaway:
I think, yeah, multichannel. So I would call that multi-channel so that there’s a physical presence and there’s an online presence. Or multimodal design I think is fundamental moving forward. And probably the point of hybrid working. There’s so much been written about it. It’s used commonly on the TV every day. They talk about all workers in the future will be hybrid and to think it’s kind of funny because no one really, “You know what? I’m going to be half man, half woman. I don’t really know.”

Amanda Stanaway:
But if you think about that in the same context of what you talked about in terms of the retail space, the opportunity again is to design what it is that the office is great for and which most organizations have really worked through the idea of collaboration. But I think that you have to be really careful around that, in terms of what is good collaboration and what is real collaboration, and what’s a meeting and actually how do we design spaces for hybrid?

Amanda Stanaway:
And the one I talk about quite a lot with our clients is, presenting at the moment when everyone is on video and everyone’s in a small Brady Bunch screen, a nice, nine of us on the call like Brady Bunch, that’s kind of easy. It’s really difficult if I’m online and eight people are in the room or if I’m in the room and three people I’m presenting to are in the room and three are online.

Amanda Stanaway:
And most of us are not really good at multimodal. I can’t win both sets of people, no way. Because actually it’s really difficult to present both to the people in the room and right to the people on the screen. It doesn’t mean that we won’t be able to do that in the future, but I think we’ve not designed rooms or interactive experiences for that to happen, so that if I’m not in the room, how do I have a video that looks at the whole room, the person that’s speaking and the thing I’m speaking about at the same time?

Amanda Stanaway:
What happens right now is you’re blind to half of those things and what you get cues of as a great presenter or as someone who is a really a great people person that can read energy, which I like to think that I am, is that I watch you poke someone while I’m presenting, I can tell you don’t like it. I can tell by the frown, I can tell by the fact that you moved back in your chair and kind of totally disengaged from it, that I lost you.

Amanda Stanaway:
And I think we’ve yet to figure out how are we going to redesign work and the parts that are going to sit in a physical space to help us be better. Because I think lots of us, and I certainly would say this on myself, a lot of the things that make me great as a practitioner in real life, I’m definitely not as good as in a virtual world because I can’t use the humanism and the really good people reading that I have when I’m physically present in the virtual world.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah. The good old fashioned salesmanship, right? I mean, how’s Zoom, right? You can’t even see anyone if you go full screen view, which you kind of need to. Well, I need to. What I like about it is I can really get lost in the story. And I feel like my storytelling ability is really honed because there’s no distractions, right? I see that as a positive, but yeah. So I totally get it. If you’re not in a room and a guy… You don’t know. He jumps on his phone, obviously he’s not interested or not listening. And it might be a really important point that you need to get across.

Anthony Denman:
And what I would do in that circumstances if he’s on his phone is stop. Right? And wait until he’s finished checking the weather or whatever the fuck he’s doing on his phone that is more important than all the work and passionate effort that we’re putting into this presentation. So that’s gone. I agree that’s out the window.

Amanda Stanaway:
Yeah. To believe in human energy. And that’s a thing that I think about that example is that when you’re in a room, you feed off that energy and sometimes that’s positive and negative energy. Absolutely, no doubt. But I have to believe for humanity that we are better together, that I will… Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
Okay. So the idea then is that, well, the office might become more like a place where employees can connect, where they can learn, whether it be from the people in the office or the guy doing the puppet show on the sidewalk as you go into the office. I’ve learnt some great stuff from puppeteers, let me tell you. Brainstorming, right? But not task-orientated work.

Amanda Stanaway:
I think the only thing I would say to that is that you can’t believe that that’s what all anyone wants to do. I would say that I’ve got a lot of our workforce as an example, our mothers, and that working from home actually makes the disconnect between home and work more complicated, I think, because when they’re in the house. So I think there’s no absolutes in it. I think it’s a bias towards those things.

Amanda Stanaway:
But really openly the fact that someone actually might want to get up and move into another persona and go to work to actually do task-focused work, I think we can’t dismiss. I think just its bias will be the idea of white fields of sadness, as I told you about before. That our office instead of white desks in a row, I think should be exploded because the task-based quantum of work will, I think, reduce. And what we’ll be seeking is something slightly more diverse than that.

Anthony Denman:
I would have thought, and I liked this idea we talked about off air, which was earning the commute. Is that still a thing?

Amanda Stanaway:
Yep. Absolutely. Well, not at the moment, but yes.

Anthony Denman:
Well, you can’t commute. Can you at the moment?

Amanda Stanaway:
No.

Anthony Denman:
But so only the commute is still a thing. I would’ve thought this would be a bonanza for you. Finally you’ve got some leverage where you can actually create the ultimate workspace, right? That earns the commute. But it doesn’t feel like people are kind of bowing to your will in that regard. Why are they not bowing to your will? Or did I misinterpret that?

Amanda Stanaway:
No, I don’t think you did. I think people are really scared, I think, and not really clear yet what they want to do. And I think, you asked me before, what is everyone doing? And a lot of people are sitting on their hands because they just really don’t know how this is playing out. So I think those opportunities will come and like all things, they favour the brave.

Amanda Stanaway:
But I think bravery in business and in design is actually quite rare. You have to recognize that it’s not an everyday occurrence that you get a client that says, “Hey, I totally trust you. These are the parameters. Go ahead and create me this.” And I think you get those kinds of projects once, maybe a decade, once every five years, if you’re lucky. And so in this moment, I think it will take a little while to build that bravery.

Amanda Stanaway:
And I think we probably would have got there in the middle of this year had we not gone back into lockdown, I think. Because people had come out, emerged, seen some trends and were ready to back themselves. And I think we’ve kind of lost that momentum and I think it will come in time, but I think we’ll also change our view with the more data that we have.

Amanda Stanaway:
And so certainly we were talking globally to all of our colleagues in the UK and the US, we were talking about what it felt like in Sydney, because we were largely as a studio back to work for nearly a year before we went back into lockdown. And so we could see how things played out for us and what were the value of spaces. So I’d like to think we’re going to find someone really super brave and maybe they’ll, I don’t know, do something really magnificent. And I think it’s the time.

Anthony Denman:
But isn’t necessity the mother of all invention?

Amanda Stanaway:
Yeah. But I think most people haven’t figured out what that necessity is yet. So a lot of people at the moment are talking about the fact we survived and we worked from home for a year. And I think my really simple thing is we survived, we didn’t thrive. And I think looking at the innovation pathways across lots of businesses we work with, were there any great innovations in 2020 and ’21? I would probably argue maybe not. And probably not as many as…

Amanda Stanaway:
Yes, we made a vaccine, but across other industries, did we actually progress dramatically? And I think, yeah, I think we need to make sure that we are aiming to create spaces for people to thrive, not survive. And I would largely say a lot of people can work from home, but it doesn’t mean that they thrive.

Anthony Denman:
What does the Woods Bagot office look like? And are you going to be brave enough to make some significant changes moving forward?

Amanda Stanaway:
Yeah. I think, look, globally, our workplaces have a fairly large level of consistency, which are built out of a brand guideline and a really clear vision from the CEO, which are pretty, I guess, raw in their baseline and lots of kind of studio-based ideas in terms that we’re a culture of pin-up, we’re a culture of mess, which no one would like me saying out loud, but design is not super neat.

Amanda Stanaway:
It’s got model building and physical things at its presence. So I think really one of the things that has been really interesting in our evolution of our own workspace is that the tactile things are still the things that we put at the heart of what we do. So despite the fact we all draw in a computer all day and the revit model is kind of king, the model maker and the model room is still kind of the sexy part or the part that we hold onto and that office is based around it.

Amanda Stanaway:
And I think even though we do online reviews and others, that the review culture is still around very much pin-up and scribbling and all of those kinds of things that are really tactile in humans. So are we going to make change? A little, I think certainly, but I think we have absolutely confirmed to ourselves that we’re a studio culture, as in that creativity comes when we come together and that we need some of those kinds of tools to do that.

Amanda Stanaway:
And until we get really good at being super sophisticated in the way that we collaborate online, I think we will always do that. And I think we’re a relationship-based business and you need to make that tactile human connection to really kind of understand someone and be able to design. And I think certainly for me, I would say not many people won to work for a client they didn’t know during COVID.

Amanda Stanaway:
We’re a trust-based business. And so I could win work from someone who I knew, who trusted me, but it’s fairly hard for me just to meet some random person and I go, “All right, I’m going to do a great job.” They generally choose someone they knew or trusted. So I think we are really clear that we’re going to make change, but I don’t think it will be as significant as some people think.

Anthony Denman:
I wanted to say that it’s a really good point because you addressed through COVID the majority of our definitely business was returned and clients who knew us. We’ve got some stuff that we’ve done work for these people. I just haven’t been able to build a relationship with them. In fact, if they walked down my driveway, I probably wouldn’t even recognize them. So I think that’s another thing that we didn’t talk about earlier around the challenges of video presenting and working generally online. That was the meaningfulness, I guess. And the relationships you create isn’t there, is it?

Amanda Stanaway:
No. And I think the back channel of any kind of creative process normally happens outside of the room. Even if we have a review of something, what will happen, the spark will happen three minutes after we walked out of the room, not normally in the room. And I think it takes a little while for things to germinate. So I think in all relationships and all kind of even creative review, you need a little time.

Amanda Stanaway:
And actually it’s the in-between collusion conversations that usually come up with the brilliance just by you and I talking about something random and then I’ll go, “Actually, the real solution is this. That’s what we should have solved.” And I think we are all missing that a lot. And I don’t hold back from talking about every CEO’s… Most of the businesses we work with will come out and say they’re as productive. I kind of just go, but our way is good.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah. Great point. Does the Woods Bagot brand add value to the decision-making process of the key stakeholders. And does it add value to the end user? The people that are actually using the space?

Amanda Stanaway:
I think I have to answer that as yes otherwise we wouldn’t get up and do what we do, but I think one of the things about what we do. But I think one of the things about what we do, I believe that every time I walk in a room, I have to earn their respect. We, as a team, have to earn the respect and the trust of anyone. So the brand is really important in getting us through the door, but every time we have to create that relationship, build that trust and deliver on that.

Amanda Stanaway:
And so it adds value because there’s great insight, but it’s not a fait accompli because it’s Woods Bagot. I walk in a room and someone bows down to me. And I think it’s really funny. I talk about this with our team all the time is that every time you have a new client, you have to build that respect and that, yes, I get a little more because I’ve been working for 25 years, but I still have to earn it every time.

Amanda Stanaway:
And I think that’s the same with a brand. The brand constantly comes with an expectation and it comes with an expectation of quality and intelligence and magic. And I think the very important part for us is we talk about rigorous curiosity is one of our core values. And I think we have to try every time to add value by curiously questioning the why.

Amanda Stanaway:
And I think people often are challenged by their questioning because they have a really clear brief in their mind. But I think if you can curiously ask why and really start to get to the essence of what someone’s asking you, you will get more than often to a much better result. And so to answer your question, how do we add value? By being curious and actually questioning and actually trying always to drive commercial value into the work that we do and the proof points as we talked about earlier, are for me, one of the challenges of being a designer is that, it’s judged by very different people, very different ways.

Amanda Stanaway:
And almost any work that we do, someone will walk in and go, “Oh, I don’t like that. Oh.” And you got to get pretty good as a designer being pretty robust. Because you won’t always appeal to everybody. And quite often you’re not designing for your own personal taste. And I think I’ll use the example of you starting to work for Google.

Amanda Stanaway:
It’s primary colours and palette. That’s not how I was taught how to design. I was a minimalist. I like five finishes maximum and most of them would be white. And so to actually put yourself in those shoes and have to design for them, not for me, is really challenging because it’s not how I innately want to do it. But I think the great skill in that and the great skill in any great business like Woods Bagot, is that your ability to take on that persona and do that well.

Anthony Denman:
The whole brain thinking. Not just left and right, my friends, we’re talking the whole shebang, the whole shooting match. Okay. I think that’s a really good framework though. The whole brain thinking. Not that I know much more about it than 15 minutes of research on the world wide web.

Amanda Stanaway:
You’ll use it. I tell you, you’ll use it.

Anthony Denman:
Oh mate, I’m certain I would. Absolutely. I think it’s sounds really valuable. Especially when you put it in that context. I want to talk about placemaking, which is a little bit misunderstood and no one… Well, there’s a couple of people putting their hand up for it. My good friend and a competitor, a nemesis. No longer my nemesis, he’s more of a good friend. Andrew Hoyne put out an amazing book, beautiful book, by the way, beautifully designed. You can get your hands on it. He’s done two now. I think he’s working on the third.

Amanda Stanaway:
We’re in it], I have one.

Anthony Denman:
Ah, there you go. Yeah.

Amanda Stanaway:
There’s a number of our projects in it.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah. And he talks about or it’s referred to in the book as being, and this is my favorite one, being referred to as theater production. That is the art of choreography where the built form and the areas around the built form is the stage and the end users are the actors. So I thought that was a really good way of explaining it. Do you have much to do with placemaking in the commercial world? In your world?

Amanda Stanaway:
Absolutely. I think when we’re working at any scale, probably less when we’re working in corporate fit out, but went more when I’m working with our architectural teams on developments with developers. And with people like Andy, I think I’ve worked with him a lot. But really for us, it goes out to that massive scale or place, and what is that place in that storytelling that comes authentically from site? And then the buildup of what actually is needed in terms of responding and/or triggering activation of a precinct and on lots of different projects.

Amanda Stanaway:
That place-making becomes really imperative to the internal narrative. And the example I can give is the work that we have recently completed with Mirvac out at Eveleigh. So Eveleigh’s obviously on their site near Redfern Station, a whole precinct. CBA ended up putting about 100,000 square meters of space on their two buildings. They reinvigorated the railway sheds. And I think that despite the fact that we were working for a tenant, we actually worked a lot on the placemaking components in terms of what is outside, what is inside? Can we blend? How do we make sure that this is 24/7 and activated and therefore a place that is a destination to allow people to constantly feel like that they’re not going to an office park?

Amanda Stanaway:
And the placemaking became fundamental of that. Over time that is built, there’s an indigenous garden that re-engineered and really reintroduced a number of species from indigenous planting that had been not used. They’ve kind of used that. Kylie Kwong uses that for her restaurant out there. So it becomes about giving a place meaning. For me, I loved the placemaking component. I love the energy of people like Andy, who will think about it, I think in my words, fast and slow.

Amanda Stanaway:
So what’s there that is there all the time? And then what do you stage on top of it so it can go fast? So how does it go for great event and how does it go on every day? And Eveleigh is a really nice example of that. They got Chris Fox to do some of the public art. There’s a community garden. The whole activation is at the moment, probably what I would consider at the start of its evolution, because you have to recognize also that place-making, you don’t turn it on and snap, it’s going to build over time. And there’s not very much placemaking that we’ve done that immediately kind of changes, probably Ivy being maybe the only one. Is the lanes around Ivy almost immediately changed that precinct.

Amanda Stanaway:
And I would think that that as a business, that’s probably one of our most successful placemaking. But I think it’s quite often misused as a word, and I think we’ll get better at it over time as we really drive across all sectors on this mixed use community piece. And I’d like to think that a lot of this stuff that’s happened over the last 18 months and we’ll continue to evolve through the end of this year and into the near future.

Amanda Stanaway:
We will actually question and really drive a need for community. And I think placemaking will again become a really important part. And I always talk about the fact that, you think about, I grew up in the ’70s in Brisbane in the suburbs and there was a strip shop, and then we ended up with consolidated big Westfield’s, no offense to Westfield and Scentre Group, but we ended up with consolidated and now we’re kind of going back to strip shops and that idea of community. So I think placemaking, we all want a place to center ourselves around and I think it will play a bigger role in cities, in making sure that we go to places, but also in all suburban kind of components as we see a lot more decentralization of kind of the city idea.

Anthony Denman:
Fast and slow. Yeah, I like that too. It’s a nice analogy. Mentors, you have any mentors that you can readily recall?

Amanda Stanaway:
I’ve had a number of mentors over time, and I think they’re quite varied. Most of the time for me, I’ve taken business mentors. And when I say business mentors, people that are really strong in the parts that I probably consider myself to not be that great at. Being business savvy and learning from them has helped me to be, I guess, a more rounded practitioner.

Amanda Stanaway:
I think design firms, most people think the same. We’re largely designers and there’s nothing wrong with how we think, but it doesn’t necessarily, probably set me out to be a holistic, great business woman. And I’d like to think that my mentor really helped me to build those business skills and that critical thinking around putting a commercial brain on, rather than, “Hey, I’m going to work forever to make it beautiful.” I think they’re both there, they’re just there in parallel.

Amanda Stanaway:
I have been really lucky to also be in lots of groups where there are some really amazing women that have worked in design. And quite often I really underestimate that I’ve worked 25 years in an industry that is largely male and that most people would consider that challenging. I guess that for me, it’s just all I’ve known. And so I’ve learned to thrive in that environment. And actually, I don’t know, I’m going to say build a persona that people know that I’m fearless and that I’ll get on and protect and do that with honesty and integrity. So my peers are really important as those mentors. I think there’s so many of them that they’re really hard to name.

Anthony Denman:
What do you remember most about your grandmother’s house?

Amanda Stanaway:
I remember that it was really small. I think that the floorboards creaked and that I can not only visually map that house, which I probably only went into because she died when I was about three, is where my great-grandmother actually is. I remember the light and how it came through the windows and it was up high in that really kind of beautiful way that I guess you often see in a painting.

Amanda Stanaway:
So I kind of remember that the floor boards squeaked at different points. And then if you were trying to sneak around, you couldn’t go that way. And a classic Queensland, which was central corridor and everything hung off that central corridor. I probably still plan that way now. Central corridor spine and everything hangs off it. That’s probably what I remember.

Anthony Denman:
That’s a really nice story. Is that what you say is your purpose in what you do on a day-to-day basis? Storytelling and recalling those stories and telling those stories in such a compelling way?

Amanda Stanaway:
Yeah, I think probably the last two years, particularly over this time, being at home and not designing as much in unison, I realized that my purpose is really very much storytelling and helping us to elevate the idea around design and helping people that don’t often understand its value to see how it’s going to convert to business value as well as personal value.

Amanda Stanaway:
And I think getting people to believe in the value of it, I always tell a story that my sister never really quite understood why I was a designer. And the first time, she was 20 and I took her to The Guggenheim in New York, and she stood in the bottom of it and she looked up and her words were, “I now understand why you love this shit.” And I thought, how funny. I’ve been a designer for about five years and it took her a really long while for her to get it.

Amanda Stanaway:
So I think I love the joy of other people falling in love with design and I kind of feel that being able to communicate that to them and the storytelling for me is as important as the designing now. And I don’t know, that has really changed the way that I look at design. And I probably know now that trying to get someone into your head space to sell the story of design is as important as the design itself. And I think it’s something that we don’t teach enough of in design education and will continue to probably… You need to, because design is an art form, but it actually is a business. And we need to actually think that way as we educate people.

Anthony Denman:
Well, Amanda, I definitely now know why you love this shit so much. And so too will our audience, I’m sure. It’s been fantastic. I really appreciate your insights there, especially on such a hot topic. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this, to have this conversation with me. I really appreciate it.

Amanda Stanaway:
My absolute pleasure.

Anthony Denman:
Yeah, thank you. If they want to reach out and make contact with you, what’s the best way for them to do that?

Amanda Stanaway:
They can do that either on my LinkedIn or on my email address, which is my name @woodsbagot.com.

Anthony Denman:
So amandastanaway-

Amanda Stanaway:
.stanaway. Yeah.

Anthony Denman:
.stanaway.

Amanda Stanaway:
There’s a dot in between the first name and second name.

Anthony Denman:
amanda.stanaway@woodsbagot.com.au. Awesome. Thank you again so much. And hopefully I’ll get to meet you face-to-face one day.

Amanda Stanaway:
Well, hopefully we’ll get to have, yeah, our in-person chat, an energy-filled chat.

Anthony Denman:
I’ll bring the Gatorade.

Amanda Stanaway:
Excellent. No. Can you bring something better?

Anthony Denman:
What about a chai latte or something?

Amanda Stanaway:
That sounds fine.

Anthony Denman:
Okay. Thanks again. Thanks a lot.

Amanda Stanaway:
My absolute pleasure. Thanks, Anthony.

About Us

The Property Marketing Podcast is an original podcast hosted by Anthony Denman, co-founder of Our Agency. In each episode Anthony talks to Australia’s most experienced property professionals, unearthing their tips and providing insights on how to create the most successful place, property, corporate & personal brands possible.

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