More Gold Coast has identified the city’s designers, photographers and developers that are at the forefront of their industry and proving that the Gold Coast knows good design.
Halfnine is one Gold Coast design agency doing just that. We sat down with Chris Howell from Halfnine to talk about design, inspiration and living on the beautiful Gold Coast.
What made you want to become a designer?
Being able to create and solve problems is a great job. It’s kind of like being part artist, part engineer.
Where did you start your design career?
We studied design and photography in Sydney, at the time it was a very hands on, manual design process, with ink, brushes, steel rules, blades, film and darkroom development. It has been quite a journey in the development of products, process and innovation within our industry. However the main elements and principles of good design remain the same.
What inspires your design?
Simplicity and authenticity. If it’s simple people will comprehend the message quicker and if it is credible people will be more inclined to connect with it.
What has been the evolution of your studio?
Halfnine started in our lounge room. The internet meant we could design for clients in Sydney or Singapore while we established a reputation in Gold Coast/Brisbane. Quite early we were designing all of Queensland Events work, which lead to working with Queensland Police and Tourism Queensland. Our house style has evolved with the designers we’ve worked with but has always been focused on providing well-thought-out and well-executed design solutions that favoured simplicity, legibility and objectivity.
What type of projects does your studio specialise in?
Long documents and reports is something we have always specialised in. However, we have designed iPhone and iPad apps and thrive in digital solutions just as much. I believe a good designer can solve most problems if they listen and are invested in the solution.
Who are your clients and what work do you produce for them?
Our clients have primarily been government agencies and some corporate but we often enjoy helping small local business. There is something special in seeing your work make a difference in your community. We have done pro-bono work for non-profits such as Spinal Injuries Association. Our most well-known current clients are City of Gold Coast, Sunland Group and Adam Scott Golf.
What piece of work are you most proud of and why?
The ‘Wipe out Waste’ educational package for the City of Gold Coast is something that we are very proud of. The materials we designed educated schools kids on how to reduce, recycle and reuse. We are also proud that we helped the Gold Coast secure the 2018 Commonwealth Games with the ‘Get Behind, the Bid’ campaign.
What is your passion and how does this influence your work?
Our studio has many personal passions. I think the one thing we share is the value of honesty in our practice. Whether this be in how we conduct our business or how we position a new business brand. The work always has to be honest to be able to connect with people.
What are the biggest challenges of being a designer today?
Maybe, trying to be too good too quick. As a craft, designers should be realistic about expectations. But I don’t think there has been a better time to be a designer. Design now has a seat at the table and people understand it’s importance.
What are your three biggest rules with design?
Three rules are not enough. But if I had to choose I would say that good design should be honest, useful and understandable. For more take a look at ‘Dieter Rams: ten principles for good design’.
What is your favourite marketing/branding campaign and why?
The Apple rebranding. I’ve been working with Apple since 1992 and their brand has gone from a beige computer to almost a lifestyle product. In 1997 they changed from a rainbow Apple logo to a cleaner, modern and more sophisticated logo. The brand and it’s products have become iconic and embedded into our day-to-day lives.
What is the design industry on the Gold Coast like?
It’s grown enormously in the last 20 years. We are now lucky to have various design schools and a healthy industry with a talent pool of fledgling designers.
Why have you decided to base yourself on the Gold Coast?
Lifestyle. Where else can you live that has so much to offer?
What is one thing that people don’t know about you?
That our name is based on starting work at 9:30am. Living on the Gold Coast means we enjoy some of the best weather. It would be a shame to waste the beautiful morning getting to work any earlier than half-nine.
Where do you see yourself and your studio in 10 years?
Our aim has always been to be a reputable design studio on the Gold Coast, known for good work. In 2025 we hope we have met that goal.
What are your top five things to do on the Gold Coast?
Having a meal with friends or family at Fish House, Burleigh Heads.
Surf or swim at Burleigh or the other point breaks.
Stand-up paddle boarding with my dog and wife, Nicole at Currumbin.
Picnic at Burleigh Headland.
Whale spotting from a helicopter.