“Be thoughtful about what you create and where it goes”
New York, June 21st, 2018
A design and technology firm, Beyond helps companies to create market value with design and tech-based products and strategies.
The agency uncovers opportunities for its clients, guiding product creation across the lifecycle and via continuous delivery.
One of the key players at Beyond is Matthew Iliffe, who became Founding Partner in 2010 and since then, has head up creative and technology across Beyond’s London, New York, San Francisco, Mountain View and Austin offices.
In an interview with TIA, Iliffe describes his professional path and current role, while describing the agency’s daily processes.
Can you describe your agency in a few words?
We are a design and technology ideas company. We help deliver new value by using digital technology.
How did you get started in the industry?
I graduated design school in 1995, and started working at a small design consultancy in London, which was dabbling in “New Media” or CD-ROMS. It was a fun time, I loved to design and code. In 1996 I picked up a book on HTML, and that started my love affair with the web. I realized that many of the companies out there claiming to build websites were either technology based – they understood the tech, but the experience and usability was poor – or design based, where they had no experience for designing for the screen, managing limited bandwidth, and had a poor understanding of technology.
After a few web jobs under my belt, I went to the bank, got a graduate loan, bought a Mac and set up my own company, Type3. The goal was to be a hybrid agency, combining the best of design and technology. I ran Type3 for 12 years, expanding to San Francisco. Later, Type3 would become part of Beyond, the company that I help run today.
Give us the ingredients to create a successful digital campaign.
Don’t contribute towards the digital landfill. Don’t think in campaigns, think in experiences. What adds the most value to your audience? Be thoughtful about what you create and where it goes. Use data where you can. Build better informed experiences.
How much time do you spend with customers?
Lots. In fact, as much time as I can. The one bit of advice I’d give anybody starting a new business or managing an account is that so much is about the relationship, building trust, and solid delivery. Spending time with your client builds empathy and a broader understanding of their needs. We are also big advocates for design thinking and co-creating with our clients. We find being open about the design process leads to better work and stronger connections with the client.
What is your communication style with your team?
We’ve built a flat structure at Beyond because we believe that unlocks the most potential. I enjoy people being friendly, open, honest, and able to take feedback, so I take that approach as well. I like to empower my team and leverage their potential and ideas.
Could you describe your hiring process?
The folks we hire have lots of options, and it’s important that our hiring process is on point. We have an internal team that supports with managing sourcing or outreach. Once we have candidates, we want to make sure that they are a good fit creatively and technically, and share the same values as us.
Typically candidates are interviewed by a diverse group of employees and their feedback is mapped to our values and the specific needs of the role. Successful candidates at Beyond are typically self-starters – with a cross section of knowledge across creative technology – and have a deep expertise in a discipline. We look for people that are ambitious and are looking for that step up to the next level.
Name a challenge your team is currently facing.
We just opened a new studio in Austin. As a small studio with limited staff, we have to learn to be more collaborative with colleagues in other studios. Our key challenge is building a new studio in a new market, which is unlike any market we’ve worked in. We’re meeting new people, pitching new business, hiring new experts, and managing a new studio on a shoestring budget. As I say to my team, ‘this is a studio we get to make together!’
What do you like doing in your free time?
An important question. I love my job. In full transparency, it used to be my job and hobby, but I’ve been doing it now for 22 years, and having something outside of work is so important to me. It keeps me fresh and excited to go to work each day.
Outside of work, I race Karts with my kids. We started off in California and now we are racing regionally in Texas. In August, we have our first national race, and in November, we are racing at our first international race in Vegas. There’s lots there to keep me busy!
Which cities outside where you live interest you creatively?
It used to be Austin, but I live there now, and it lives up to the expectations. In the U.S., I’d say Portland. There is a creative seam and a maker streak running through that city. People think outside of the box. I love places like that.
What piece of advice would you give a recent grad looking to work in digital?
It’s an exciting time to start in digital. There are lots of new technologies and mindsets. My advice would be don’t do it for the paycheck and focus on the experience and build a solid book of work. Also, get a good mentor who you can learn from and go to events and meet people (we hire grads that way).