Friday, 27 April 2012

OFFSET2012, Part 2

(Making Marks panel discussion in OFFSET second room)

This article was first published in Architecture Ireland #262; read OFFSET2012 Part 1 here.

From Friday 9 to Sunday 11 March Ireland’s premier creative festival OFFSET returned for the third time to the newly-renamed Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. Over 25 designers, illustrators, animators, artists and more from Ireland and all over the world presented their work and shared insights into their practices to attendees twice in excess of the last edition (my guess is there must have been about 1500 people there). Over the course of 3 days in 2 rooms from 10 in the morning to 7 in the evening we the audience were exposed to top-quality work from many disciplines and saw the fruits of ambition, determination and a whole lot of labour. And now to condense all of that creative inspiration into 800 words or less... here goes...

(Lettering by Jessica Hische)

Finding what you love and sticking to it 
Though OFFSET consisted of almost 40 presentations, panel discussions and interviews, there were a number of common threads running through many of them. Finding what you love and sticking to it was definitely one of those threads, with US-based letterer Jessica Hische hammering that point home best with her explanation of ‘procrastiworking’. Procrastiworking is all the work Hische does when not working for her clients, from setting up websites like Inker Linker (creating a database of great printers all around the world) to Mom This is How Twitter Works. Hische firmly believes that by making time for the work you really like, it will have a positive impact on you and your client work, and if her bright, energy-filled client work is anything to go by, procrastiworking seems to have a very positive effect.

Taking risks ... 
No one seems to me to take quite as many risks as Dutch advertising agency Kesselskramer, and Friday’s presentation by Erik Kessels was definitely one of my OFFSET highlights. To say that the practice is unorthodox is an understatement – from ads for the Netherlands’ Radio 1 that sparked complaints from animal rights activists to ads for mobile phone provider Ben that sparked complaints from human rights activists right down to an entire advertising campaign that pitched the Hans Brinker Budget Hotel as the world’s worst hotel, Kesselskramer approach their projects from any angle but the obvious one. Though it would be really hard to pick a favourite project from the ones shown by Kessels at OFFSET, one that certainly stuck in my mind was the stamp they created for TNT Post in the Netherlands – it’s a 30-frame lenticular stamp and those 30 frames are directed by Anton Corbijn, the Dutch director better known for directing ‘Control’, a feature film about Ian Curtis. It may have been the shortest smallest film ever made, but it got the red-carpet premiere treatment nonetheless.

... and learning from mistakes
For a man with such a massive amount of design experience and respect in the industry, Micheal Bierut has no qualms about sharing his mistakes. Bierut has been working with Pentagram for over 20 years and has been working in design a lot longer. Throughout that time he has received hundreds of design awards and accolades and has work featured in major design collections the world over. He’s also made a lot of mistakes and was keen to share with the OFFSET audience how much he has learned from all of them. His presentation passed on sound design advice not only of his own but also of his colleague Paula Scher and veteran designer and illustrator George Chwast, who both presented at OFFSET too. Nuggets such as ‘if you can’t make a good idea work, maybe it’s a bad idea’ and ‘the client is always (eventually) right’ could become mantras in any design studio, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see them scrawled on a post-it above many a creative’s desk in Dublin from here on in. Bierut used examples such as his work on rebranding Saks Fifth Avenue, his signage for the New York Times building and his identity for the Museum of Arts and Design to illustrate the obstacles he’s overcome (some of which he readily admitted he had made for himself) in creating usable accessible design solutions.

(Michael Bierut. All images courtesy of OFFSET)

As all of us many attendees poured out of Bord Gáis Energy Theatre each evening, the energy and excitement all of us shared was palpable. OFFSET2012 provided the creative community in Dublin and beyond a real source of inspiration. Though a little tired after an intense weekend of presentations, parties, discussions and drinks, I have no doubt many creatives were keen to dive back into projects the following Monday, approaching their work with a newfound perspective and vigour and already looking forward to OFFSET2013...