Now in its eighth year, Urban Walkabout publishes a well-known series of free, contemporary lifestyle guides to urban fashion, food and design destinations. We talk to Victoria about Urban Walkabout and how important design is to the Urban Walkabout user.
Can you please explain what Urban Walkabout is for those who aren’t familiar with it? What is its purpose or mission?
Urban Walkabout publishes digital content and curated city guides in print across urban centres in Australia and the UK. Our guides celebrate and promote the creative local businesses in each area – spanning food, fashion and design. Our mission is twofold: to provide our readers with engaging content that will give them the chance to experience a city through the eyes of an in-the-know local; and to provide local, creative, independent businesses with a trusted platform to promote what they do to a discerning audience.
Can you please tell us what pushed you to start Urban Walkabout?
I started Urban Walkabout in 2006, three years after I arrived in Sydney. I think what inspired me to start Urban Walkabout at the time was the recognition that there was so much entrepreneurial local talent that was not being celebrated in Sydney. At the time, Sydney paid attention mainly to big players and international success stories. I wanted to bring the focus back to the local communities; to the creative entrepreneurs helping build the character of neighbourhoods. I lived in Paddington at the time, and as a local I had the chance to meet some very talented business owners in the local community, but when speaking with other Sydneysiders there was very little awareness about them. So I came up with the idea of creating a collaborative model through the local guides to promote these great local businesses across fashion, design, food and art– I believed that the collection of all those creative stories in the one guide would be a powerful way to spread the word about them. Urban Walkabout has grown and expanded into almost every capital city in Australia.
Can you tell us what you attribute to this success?
I think we have tapped into a growing sense of awareness about the search for ‘meaningful consumption’ – that is, finding meaning behind our every day actions, lifestyle and consumption habits. And I think Urban Walkabout has become a trusted source of information for a new type of consumer, one that is looking for more than just a purchase- they are looking for affinity with the businesses they buy from. The choice of where they get their coffee, what food they eat, what furniture they buy needs to resonate with who they are. They want a personal connection with the brand beyond the purchase. And they trust Urban Walkabout as a source to find these type of businesses that are passionate, creative, and with a strong sense of responsibility about what they do and how they do it.
Congratulations on your expansion to London. Do you have any plans to keep expanding your reach and scaling the product to other international cities?
We opened our London office last year, which was a huge milestone for us! We’ve got plans to expand our presence in key urban areas across the UK… and of course we have dreams of going global! Watch this space.
Design is a huge part of the guide’s focus. Can you explain why you choose to include this section in your guide?
I’ve always been interested in design – and I think that definitely shows in our guides, from our covers (illustrated by up and coming local artists), to the high volume of design-focused businesses we promote. We are particularly passionate about furniture designers, makers, crafters, textile designers, ceramicists…. the list goes on and on. There are so many niche businesses doing incredible things in design that infuse many aspects of our lives, from where we shop, to what we wear and what we choose to surround ourselves with at home..
What perspective on design are you trying to give? Do you think more and more travellers or locals are interested in learning about these design destinations?
We are constantly on the pulse of what is up and coming in each city; as we are so connected to what is happening right now at street level. I think travellers and locals alike are drawn to unique spaces and creative concepts. Today, we expect design to be the contextual framework around any brand or business. We are all becoming visually driven and more aware of expecting well-designed interiors, products, websites and branding. Design has become the context that we are expecting from any brand story.
What does a typical Urban Walkabout user look like? Is design important to them?
The typical Urban Walkabout user is in their thirties and very much in the know when it comes to culture and lifestyle. Design is a huge part of their life – from where she chooses to shop to where she meets with friends and how she puts together her office and home spaces.
Have you seen any changes in the way people use printed guides and search for information over the years?
With the explosion in digital, we have a large audience using our directory online to discover great businesses. But we’ve also found that our print guides are as strong as ever – we printed 4 million local guides last year! There’s strong demand for both – and while digital offers immediate access to information, our print guides give people a slower, more exploratory way to engage with information. Where do you search for inspiration? Everywhere! Instagram is a great source of inspiration for our whole team – we’re basically addicts! I also find inspiration in my visits to London. London is filled with inspiring new concepts in retail and hospitality – there’s nothing like hitting the London streets and stumbling over interesting entrepreneurial spaces.