New Territory To Conquer: A Conversation With Paul Phanoulas

Paul as a 3D scan.

Paul as a 3D scan.

A man who likes to stay incognito is Paul Phanoulas, he runs the Auckland based studio 'New Territory' where they specialise in areas of web design, 3-D animation, videography and more. Paul can be easily described as a jack of all trades, the guy literally knows everything... and if he doesn't he'll figure it out faster than you can order your coffee at your favourite café.

Paul has personally been a close friend for a few years now, we've worked on some amazing projects together and he has contributed to Newspread: through the mixes and Ideas series. I sat down recently with Paul and wanted to share his story in a more light-hearted conversation as a 20-something, doing his own thing by his own rules in the jungle that is business, design and self-awareness.

Where did the name New Territory originate from? Did it spark in your head one day or was it more of a longer soul-searching journey?

My original partner and I just wanted to do experimental work using 3D scanners/printers, digital installations, Xbox Kinect's, you know just like cool tech stuff. Nothing too serious but stuff that wasn't really done in New Zealand at that point.  

We spent ages trying to come up with a name for what we were doing but couldn't settle on anything we really liked. One day we bumped into one of our friends on the street and they just said something along the lines of "you guys are entering into new uncharted territory" and it kinda stuck.

We simplified it down but it's got that vibe about it.

New Territory's design of  Checks Downtown's  website.

New Territory's design of Checks Downtown's website.

You’re in your early twenties, running a design studio, killing it in Auckland. What do people need to know about you?

What do people need to know about me? Fuck I don't know. I like cars, motorbikes and video-games? 

I guess in relation to what I actually do it just comes down to the fact I just really like doing my thing. I left uni with good grades and a good portfolio blah blah. I was looking to apply at various studios around town but I really just wanted to do work that I was personally into. 

I think there is now a resurgence post-Facebook and Instagram where people see through bullshit, like how many likes you have and how idyllic your life looks and they just crave real shit. People doing things because they want to and it really drives them. Of course, you always have to do some work that is kinda meh to pay the bills but that is just part of treating it like a business.

Of course and I think you're one of those people that just get shit done vs. pontificating the ideals. Now is there a dream client you'd like to have?

Hmm not specifically, but a dream client would probably be a company like Mercedes-Benz or Audi or something. They have the potential for really good storytelling while incorporating the technology and new-media stuff I'm into.

New Territory's design of  Nico's  website.

New Territory's design of Nico's website.

How much sleep do you get a night?

Haha, I'm actually pretty good about it. My girl is always in bed by 10 so I feel like a bit of a knob if I stay up much later than that. That changes when I'm on crunch time of course, but I try to project manage myself so I keep some time to myself. 

What's one piece of advice for the kid who’s weighing up taking a studio job vs. going all in and doing what you did.

Keep adaptable. It's really not easy sometimes. In fact, its fucking hard sometimes. Whether its due to financials or getting overwhelmed with clients or anything unexpected happens. It really helps to be able to think on your feet and adapt to circumstances. 

Goals for 2018, name three:

  • Finish our portfolio website (Done)
  • Get more cool clients
  • Make some cool side projects, graffiti robot 2? 

When are we going to do a Newspread: x New Territory collab?

Now. Let's do it. 

Haha ok ok, let's get at it. What’s the creative community like in Auckland? Is it collaborative? Is it cliquey? 

I wouldn't say its cliquey at all. There is always going to be competitiveness and that's definitely prevalent in the larger, more established studios but I think on the whole it really is a community and it is quite friendly. I found even when I was still just a student that people that were fairly high up on the ladders at places like Alt Group and Studio South were still into what you were doing and always into having a chat. That's really helped by organisations like the Designers Institute and Design Assembly

New Territory's video for  Courtney Pellow .

New Territory's video for Courtney Pellow.

Do you think the benefits are of being in New Zealand vs. going elsewhere?

As much as we think New Zealand is established, I personally think its still developing and there is more potential to grow alongside your clients rather than just working for them. I think we are, mostly, a country of good taste and this is shown by work from New Zealand frequently popping up on aggregators like SiteInspire and klikkenthéke as well as having internationally recognised awards. I also think that there is this deep-rooted mentality of bravery and not being shy of being on the edge that probably stems with being this island in the middle of nowhere. 

What do you think your niché is compared to other studios?

I think our main things is that we are always willing to experiment with new media and technology, even if it's not understood or used in a design context. 

I also think our value, as far as our clients are concerned, is that we always delve fully into their projects and really like to work alongside them and get into their methods and mentalities. Whether it's a furniture company or a cafe or whatever, we get into it to try to be a part of them and really amplify what they are trying to achieve.

Keep adaptable. It’s really not easy sometimes. In fact, its fucking hard sometimes.
— Paul Phanoulas

What's the biggest achievement for you to date.

I'm most proud of keeping it going day to day and having that momentum rather than one specific thing. It's good to be able to keep going. 

Who are some people to look out for on the come up in design in New Zealand?

Haha, this is probably more of a testament to who my friends are than anything else. Joshua Briones-Yap is the MVP in my mind. He's really got it down and he's really helped us a lot in terms of learning from someone established and seeing how to really game the hustle. I also think that Jeremy Hooper is someone that's going to be big in the future. He's definitely heading places.

Thank you to Paul for taking the time out to answer a few questions. Check out the New Territory website and Instagram to see what amazing work they've done.

Forward: Zayyar Win Thein
Photos: Supplied