Kate Owen: Designing Tasmania into the future
From humble beginnings, Tasmanian design studio 'Futago' takes on the world
Tasmanian born and bred, Kate Owen always knew her future would be in design. She just took a few turns along the way before getting there.
“It was a discovery process for me to find the area of work I was naturally drawn to. I first studied environmental design, then a postgraduate degree in architecture in 2002. It opened my eyes to the possibilities of what design could achieve.”
Full of optimism, Futago was started as a part-time hobby with her twin sister straight out of uni. A few years on, Kate’s current business partner Daniel Zika came on board, and together, they have transformed a small idea into a substantial design studio winning global awards.
“We identified a market opportunity that as an up-and-coming design studio we were able to fill because the industry mostly consisted of one-man-bands and freelancers. Tasmania’s size and intimacy also meant that we were able to leverage our networks and grow our clients based on word-of-mouth and referrals.
“Finding an interesting studio space while we were a young business for a very affordable rent was another big bonus!” she said.
Futago is now a diverse creative agency with a team of 10 and an award-winning track record. Their services now span web development, digital and social marketing, public art installations and largescale wayfinding and interpretation projects.
“We now work across a broad range of industries from primary producers to whisky distilleries through to government clients and not-for-profit organisations.”
Tasmania is recognised nationally and internationally for its cultural and creative industries, with more than 9 000 people directly employed in the cultural and creative industries or in cultural and creative occupations.
Among its own talent pool, Futago now boasts a variety of creatives from across the globe – offering their expertise and experience and calling Tasmania home.
“We’ve employed a New Zealander, a Russian, a couple of Brits and a Scotsman. They say they decided to move to Tasmania for our wonderful lifestyle, and for the weather.
“They love it. Hobart is so appealing in terms of access to different activities such as bushwalking, kayaking, the arts scene and the quality of our produce. The friendliness of the locals and sense of community is another bonus.”
Kate says the interest from both clients and prospective employees from abroad is proof the local design industry is growing, and she forecasts a bright future ahead for the design and creative industries in Tasmania.
“I think that design has become more visible and understood as a business tool and is now an integral part of everyday language.
“Tasmania’s brand is growing, it really expanded after the creation of the Museum of Old and New Art (MONA) in 2011.
“The marketplace for everything is crowded, and it often comes down to the quality of design – be it architecture, packaging or a website – that makes the difference between an ordinary offering and an exceptional one standing out. Now that our industry is recognised as adding value to projects, products, services and ideas, I believe it will keep expanding and innovating.”
Are you interested in making a move? Make it Tasmania.
Find out more about Futago.
For information on starting a business in Tasmania, take a look through our stories or visit Business Tasmania.