Jimmy McIntosh had been working as a senior at one of Australia’s biggest advertising agencies for six years. He spent his week creating digital campaigns for fried chicken, sugar drinks and large credit card companies. One day, it dawned on him that he hated it. “I’d been sitting in front of a computer for basically 10 years,” says McIntosh. “I was pouring in a huge amount of hours into something that, really, I didn’t feel reflected who I was.”
At a dinner party, somebody offered some throwaway line about running a design outfit from a self-sufficient farm, doing good work for sustainable businesses. While the mate with the great idea never did get out of the city, the idea lodged in McIntosh’s mind. He started reading a book by farmer Joel Salatin, worked his way through titles by environmental ethicist Peter Singer and sustainable foodie Michael Pollan, and suddenly reading wasn’t enough. “I made the decision, ‘Oh, the hell with it, I’m going to pack up the job I’m doing now and go and work on a farm’,” he recalls.
After some serious research – which included a six-week stint at the Old Mill Road at Moruya (“I didn’t want to pretend I was Mr Sustainable until I really knew the game,” he explains) – McIntosh went all in. He bought himself a property on the New South Wales south coast and so began McIntosh's studio, Meanwhile Outside. “I hadn’t really worked outside before that,” he admits. “That opened me up to a world I wasn’t exposed to before. That’s when I realised how much stuff was going on out there.”
From his base on the farm, McIntosh began offering his services to likeminded business, like the nursery and seed distributor Little Veggie Patch and 1803, deer farmers who utilise every part of the animals they raise.
Instead of run-of-the-mill web design, McIntosh decided to concentrate on crafting short documentary videos about his clients. Unlike text or purely graphic design, for McIntosh, video has a unique ability to evoke an emotional response. “It’s easy to look at a website, check out the about page and get a quick idea for what the company’s about, but you don’t leave with any kind of connection,” he explains. “But with video, you’re actually meeting the people behind the company. It’s not a branding exercise; you’re creating a personal connection.”
Video was once only in the realm of big corporations capable of producing TVCs, but the falling costs of professional camera gear and the ease of access online have opened up the medium to almost anyone. “When I started 10 years ago, it was really difficult to [just] build somebody a website,” McIntosh recalls.
What really appeals to McIntosh, however, is that it doesn’t oblige him to live in the city. He believes that the coming years will see a wide variety of creatives dropping out of the big smoke to go digital in the bush. “While the city’s got a lot of business and a lot of opportunity, that opportunity doesn’t disappear when you step outside of this region,” he enthuses. “There’s all those opportunities without the suffocation of living in the city.”
The only limitation, of course, is one’s broadband connection. “There’s not an entirely great system outside of the city,” he admits. “But it’s still work you can do remotely.”
But McIntosh yearns for a different kind of connection. Indeed, for him, it’s about meeting the people who share your vision about the important things in life. “It’s working with people that are inspiring and are inspired by their own work,” he explains. “It isn’t a tough job pulling out an incredible story.”