Graphic designer Craig Oldham reports for CR from Curated by, a one-day creative conference in Sheffield which, this year, took as its theme the idea of Narrative
Sheffield. City of steel, the world’s first football club, and Curated by, a one-day conference started in 2010 by two of Sheffield Hallam’s graphic design lecturers, Pam Bowman and Matt Edgar. Centered around a different theme with each year, this year’s subject matter was Narrative, with the intent, as described by the organisers, to explore “how stories are structured, built and crafted to communicate messages through a range of formats and media”.
With a line-up consisting of Morag Myerscough (Studio Myerscough), Jack Schulze (Berg), Johnny Kelly (Nexus Productions) and Erik Kessels (KesselsKramer) this year’s thread was woven through the entire creative industry with graphic design, typography, architecture, interaction and product design, film-making, animation, photography, and advertising all ticked-off in polymathic style. The diversity of their respective backgrounds and interests, inspiration and methods, made each speaker’s talk in itself engaging enough to avoid the attention-plummet that’s sometimes a pitfall of such events (although some speakers were inevitably more comfortable on the stage than others).
Studio Myerscough’s Movement Café in Greenwich, which we posted about here
Each speaker had an enviable body of work behind them. Morag Myerscough kicked things off with a slide-show of her work and her years growing up in North London. She jumped through her distinctive ‘supergraphics’, starting with ‘Familiarity’, the hoarding which began her relationship with architects. Using bright colour at a large scale (which the local councils, initially, disapproved of) has always been central to her work, evolving into the bright and bold typographic aesthetic that she is known for today.
Next was Schulze, the entertaining principal at Berg, the studio responsible for (alongside much more envy-inducing work) the much-loved Little Printer. But Schulze’s lecture was far less concerned with work and dealt more with Berg’s approach to it, and their understanding of the world, something Schulze talked about with great passion and humour. Highlights included the analogy he made between examining something and “seeing the whole” with a strip from a Warren Ellis Iron Man comic (below), and his prediction for there being “no more U in UI [as in User]” which was illustrated by a video of kittens riding a Roomba (the latter, he exclaimed, was “How to win at conferences.”).
Kelly (see CR profile on him here) walked a more frequently trodden path, talking through examples of his directing and animation work (including his Procrastination graduation film, below), peppered with the animations and films of others for no obvious reason than he just seemed to like them (which, admittedly, was something you had to agree with him on).
Which left a snow-delayed Kessels to wrap-up. His trademark charismatic and insightful lecture, delivered with his usual humour and honesty, covered the beginnings of the inimitable KesselsKramer and his personal endeavors and evaluations in photography and graphic design.
Kessels talking about Fred and Valerie, the latest in his In Almost Very PIcture series of books of found photography. See our post about the project here
The Curated By… Narratives one-day-er should be applauded for its assembly of a diverse cast (though the absence of a writer-in some capacity-was felt). The perseverance needed to pull off an event in the North of NowhereTM* in snow that would usually bring the entire country to a grinding holt, was admirable.
That said, shortly into the first lecture it became quite apparent that the crux of the conference, narrative, is in itself is a pretty complex thing to talk about. Couldn’t everything be considered narrative, especially when working in a creative industry where arguably all work concerns communication?
It felt to me that the real ‘narrative’ isn’t the process of the realisation of a piece of work, but where the ideas for these outcomes come from in the first place. Whether your personal history filters into the process, your empathy and unique experience of the world provides the source, or whether it’s about striving for simplification or a commitment to a standard of thinking that governs seemingly everything thereafter. The real narrative is that personal story we all have of constantly creating, regardless of our structure, our audience, our format, sequence, or our message.
In the end, the narrative is really in the strength of the ideas. And the ideas of these speakers at Curated by… were as strong as the steel of the city which hosted them.
*Nod to tDR and Ian Anderson.
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