Wes FaganChief Design Officer
A commitment to being open to new ideas, challenging the status quo and leading evolution within its space, has seen Mudbath become a local powerhouse in digital product development in just a decade. Joining the ranks in 2022, Chief Design Officer, Wes Fagan, embodies this philosophy, combining a passion for true creativity, with strategic thinking and analysis, to lead Mudbath’s design solutions into a new era.
From the very first word in conversation with Wes Fagan, to the last, his passion for all things design is obvious.
With a thick Irish accent and rapid pace, the energy with which he clearly conveys the deep thought, beauty and opportunity he sees in all good design, is both captivating and contagious.
The strategic considerations he recognises in anything from a digital product to food packaging or an album cover – qualities few of us can identify, yet subconsciously enjoy – are eye-opening, and a rare insight into his craft.
Born in Ireland, spending time growing up between Dublin and Chicago, and now calling Mudbath Australia home, Wes is dedicated to bringing clients quality solutions, they won’t see anywhere else.
A passion for true creativity
Moving from Dublin at just six years old, to Chicago – a city overflowing with formal and informal artforms – Wes was exposed, from a young age, and across two continents, to a vast array of different creative approaches and methods of expression.
Developing a love of traditional art, modern design and street graffiti, he was inspired to start thinking more inventively – getting outside the box – and by the time he returned to Ireland and began art school at Ballyfermot College, he was already on a path to embrace and even lead innovation.
During his tertiary education and well before the UX trend of this decade, Wes studied Human Computer Interaction (HCI), which bridges the gap between how our brains think and how we engage with digital devices. He complimented this with studies in visual communications, and brand and typography design.
Commencing his career in agencies, he moved on to become Senior Experience Design Lead at 3G Mobile Ireland, a leading telecommunications solutions provider, just as phones were transitioning from WAP to 3G, enabling far greater display and advancements in design.
Within this role, Wes was instrumental in exploring and analysing telco customers and their pain points and behaviour, in order to develop the company’s cutting-edge brand book.
Upon moving to Australia in 2009 and securing a position with Hutchison Three (merged also with Vodafone), he was presented with a brand book to direct design application – the very same one he had helped produce in Ireland!
At Vodafone, he translated his earlier work into practical application, further advancing and optimising the design approach, and working across all facets of the business, from brand, marketing, retail outlet and storefront.
After leaving the telco, ready to apply his creative expertise elsewhere, Wes worked pro bono helping create the identity of charity group, ‘Musicians making a difference’, and simultaneously spent the year at Surry Hills Agency, Ziller, where he first met Josh Doolan – the future CEO of Mudbath.
Strategic thinking and analysis
In 2015, Wes joined the team at Deloitte Digital, not only to share his own experience, but to build up his skillset in consulting services and strategy, by learning from some of the world’s best.
In his initial role as Experience Design Director, he worked with Australia’s largest financial technology brands, from ING, and QSuper, to Commbank and AMP, also working on projects for the Opera House.
After a year, Wes’s talent for thinking differently was recognised, and he was moved into the role of Experience Design Director – Deloitte Inside, to work with a team that was examining the consulting landscape and determining how to future-proof it as it continued to become more self-commoditised.
The highly strategic role saw the team, led by senior experts including Wes, working with key government clients to identify in-demand services, and developing innovative strategies to optimise and streamline the consulting process. The outcome was a vision to enable consultants to efficiently, yet comfortably, work on more projects at one time.
From this project, the innovative ‘Solutions by Deloitte’ self-serve app for businesses was created and launched to a very positive reception.
Taking the growth he achieved in strategic thinking from his work at Deloitte into his next role, Wes was drawn to highly-renowned and awarded, New York HQ’d digital product and marketing company, R/GA.
As the Associate Creative Director of Experience Design, Wes found the role one of the most personally rewarding of his career, due to his interaction with the team behind Australian invention, the Cochlear Implant.
He deeply explored the distinct journeys of people with hearing loss through their own lens, with an aim to improve their experience, and was rewarded when he saw a three-year-old child hear his mother’s voice for the first time. Drawing on his findings, he drove an expansive body of work, including a collaboration with Apple, designed to prevent hearing loss from device use.
After two years, Wes was offered a role with specialist software, hardware and research development company, Coates Group. As Chief Experience Officer of a software provider to every McDonalds restaurant in the world, Wes worked to strategically break down design siloes, implement shared strategy and create a true ‘design culture’, winning two ‘Good Design’ awards in the process, in addition to several other accolades.
Leading the design discipline within the business, he focused on removing cumbersome ways of operating, fostering stronger and more cohesive teams, implementing communities of practice and completely reshaping the business’s approach, which was reflected in the work they delivered to clients.
After four years, and with design teams operating now among the best in the world, Wes reached out to former colleague, Josh Doolan, as part of a general networking effort.
He learned how a fledgling Mudbath had turned into a powerhouse of product, now operating across three Australian locations.
Fascinated by its progress and aligned with Josh’s thinking, the two reconnected and it wasn’t long before Wes was making the move to the agency.
“Why Mudbath? Mudbath’s growth and success speaks for the superb work the company has done. It’s positioning in the market coupled with the opportunity that lies ahead – companies, customers and brands all compelled to have excellence in every interaction and customer experience, to stand out - means there is a huge opportunity for growth and to deliver transformative experiences. Honestly, it’s an incredibly exciting opportunity, and one I can’t wait to get started on!”
As a football (soccer) coach who at one point aspired to be a pro, outside of design and strategy, Wes is also fascinated by motivations, drivers and human psychology, and how he can be the best leader for the people within his teams, on and off the field.
He subscribes to a style of leadership that demands he has passion and humility, so he can step aside and allow people to set their own initiatives and define their own successes, with his full support.
Having studied different models and methods of thinking patterns, decision making and what drives both, during his HCI education, he has a strong understanding of group think, intrinsic motivation, conversational overlap and other key factors that underpin individuals and teams.
Bringing all of this and more to Mudbath, he sees the opportunity for the agency to really excel, and own the gap in the industry for technology-led product development, by marrying leading engineering and tech stacks with strategic, customer experience design.
Wes approaches digital product design through the frame of ‘brand as an interface’ – the concept of building consistency between the digital assets and all other brand touch points, from packaging to customer service, visual styling and support.
He recognises the vast number of elements that work together to build a successful, engaging and leading brand, and while Mudbath’s focus is on product, he acknowledges the crucial need to be cognisant of the broader brand at all times.
Joining the team after seeing the existing strong design work and engineering, Wes aims to grow that commercial creativity to provide clients with solutions they can’t get anywhere else.
After landing in Australia with the intention of a sunny holiday, Wes has now happily called it home for more than a decade, and is raising his young family in Sydney with his Aussie wife.. He genuinely believes in the opportunity of this rapidly growing agency, headquartered in regional NSW, to change the way people think about product design and development, here and right around the world.