Tom is the creative mind behind Pangea Maps, his designs are a unique insight into our beloved coastlines and waterways. When he isn’t building, creating or jet-setting to his second home in Vancouver he’s in Brisbane, where you can find him (hopefully) with his feet up looking out to the mountains with his lovely fiance՝ Bernadette.
Toms spends some time with us and we get to know more about his business, the creative process and his love of design.
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Tell us a little about yourself and your studies:
From a very young age, I was constantly building and creating things, using what was around the garage or any other materials I could get my hands on. In high school I enjoyed tech studies where I got to complete projects from concept to design and learned woodworking skills. This lead me to choose a Bachelor of Industrial Design at QUT. During my studies I developed an appreciation for art and other design disciplines (including architecture) and was exposed to a wide range of influences. After graduating I worked with small companies specialising in design and manufacturing. Whilst working I also completed my MBA.
What originally attracted you to Industrial Design and how have those skills equipped you for your transition into your role at Pangea?
At first I just enjoyed creating things but I then became intrigued by the process of actually building a product from idea to manufacture and then to market. I wanted to learn about the methodology behind product design. The level of thought and detailed processes that go into everyday products is incredible.
Having an appreciation for these processes is what helped me build Pangea. I have had to wear a lot of new hats in this role but I am able to apply the same problem-solving approach that I use in design to each task.
Where did your love of waterways and the passion to protect them come from?
Growing up in Queensland, I was never far from the water. Weekends and holidays were spent at the coast. As a teenager, I got my boat licence even before my driver’s licence. I saved up to buy a small ‘tinnie’ which I would take out at every opportunity on the Brisbane River. After spending much of my childhood near the water I gained a great understanding of how precious our waterways are. In starting my own business I wanted to find a way to contribute towards protecting it for future water lovers.
At what point did you muster up the courage to move away from your ‘day job’ and start your own business?
Working as an industrial designer full time I guess I was always wanting to one day launch my own idea. At first, I was making maps as a side project on my weekends playing around with designs but never thought it would actually be a business – more of a passion. Then my fiance՝ and I decided to travel so we both quit our jobs and started to really focus on Pangea Maps as a business.
What advice would you give other creatives to take the leap and follow their passions?
Start small and slow, learning as you go (often through mistakes). Recognise what is unique about your idea or endeavour and emphasise why it is better than anything else. Lastly, always concentrate on making the product/endeavour outstanding and making the customer experience “out of this world”. If you nail these things everything else will follow.
I noticed you have maps from Australia but also the US and Canada, do you have a connection to these two countries?
In the past year, I have travelled throughout the US and Canada to design maps of North America. This gave me the opportunity to appreciate North American coastlines, lakes and waterways. We have set up a small workshop in Canada to help us get into the North American market.
We love the option to build your own map, what made you decide to offer this?
From the day we launched people were requesting custom map locations. The feedback we received was that customers wanted to capture a piece of their hometown or favourite holiday spot to immortalise memories on their wall. Some customers have bought a series of maps showing a history of cities they’ve lived in or where they’re from.
Can you explain the design and creative process you take when creating the maps?
For each map design, I first look to compose a map with a good balance between land and sea. I then check out the bathymetric data to determine which zoom level would provide the most interesting water contour details. Next is sketching the contours with a graphics program and generating a projected image of what the map will look like. This is where I like to collaborate with customers to make any adjustments and also finalise the map’s legend. I like the unique inclusions people request for their custom maps, like special coordinates or a special name for a place. So with each custom map, it is truly a collaborative creative process with the customer.
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Do you have a favourite map and if so why?
This is a tough one to answer! Each map that I’ve made has it’s own unique characteristics that are interesting to discover. If I had to pick one it would be the Moreton Bay map…this was the first map I designed and made for my dad and I guess means the most to me as it is where I grew up.
Has social media helped build your brand, why/why not?
Yes, I really think so. Instagram, in particular, has been a great way to share what we do as it is a very visual product. It’s awesome to see customers posting pics too, showing us where their Pangea Map hang.
You have some star-studded customers – from surfers to musicians, all have a love of the water, is this something all your customers have in common?
We were stoked to be able to design and make a custom map for Jack Johnson this year. As a surfer, he appreciated the detailed contours around his local surf break in North Shore, Oahu. I love hearing people describe the places I’ve mapped from their own unique perspective.
One of our favourite water lovers is surfing legend Bob McTavish, he was awesome to work with. He was kind enough to share a few stories with us which you can watch on our website. His passion for surfing and the ocean is infectious.
Looking back, what’s your favourite moment from 2017 ? And what exciting things are you looking forward to from 2018?
My favourite moment has to be hitting launch on our new custom map builder. This is a platform on our website where anyone from around the world can create their own unique Pangea map design. I’m also looking forward to releasing a collaboration project with McTavish next month!
Are you after some holiday inspo? Check out our Pinterest pics, it’s full of beach escapes and dreamy interiors!