Made in Sheffield

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

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.


Craig Oldham is a Manchester-based graphic designer whose previous project include the design family tree and the hand.written.letter.project.



CR in Print
The February issue of CR magazine features a major interview with graphic designer Ken Garland. Plus, we delve into the Heineken advertising archive, profile digital art and generative design studio Field, talk to APFEL and Linder about their collaboration on a major exhibition in Paris for the punk artist, and debate the merits of stock images versus commissioned photography. Plus, a major new book on women in graphic design, the University of California logo row and what it means for design, Paul Belford on a classic Chivas Regal ad and Jeremy Leslie on the latest trends in app design for magazines and more. Buy your copy here.

Please note, CR now has a limited presence on the newsstand at WH Smith high street stores (although it can still be found in WH Smith travel branches at train stations and airports). If you cannot find a copy of CR in your town, your WH Smith store or a local independent newsagent can order it for you. You can search for your nearest stockist here. Alternatively, call us on 020 7970 4878, or buy a copy direct from us. Based outside the UK? Simply call +44(0)207 970 4878 to find your nearest stockist. Better yet, subscribe to CR for a year here and save yourself almost 30% on the printed magazine.

CR for the iPad
Read in-depth features and analysis plus exclusive iPad-only content in the Creative Review iPad App. Longer, more in-depth features than we run on the blog, portfolios of great, full-screen images and hi-res video. If the blog is about news, comment and debate, the iPad is about inspiration, viewing and reading. As well as providing exclusive, iPad-only content, the app will also update with new content throughout each month.

More from CR

A new source of inspiration

A new baby brings joy, delight, and deferred deadlines. But before you know it, there’s a fellow creative in the house

What’s in a name? Just about everything

‘Action’ on this, ‘beating’ that: in their naming and branding, charities are becoming much clearer about what they do and why. Michael Johnson of johnson banks charts the development of this new, ‘active’ approach in the sector

Stock or shot?

Photolibrary or photographer? Your answer may depend on all sorts of factors, but there is more choice than ever before. Photographers’ agent Lisa Pritchard and commercial photography consultant Zoe Whishaw debate the merits of using stock photography versus commissioning original images. Can you tell the difference? Try our quiz (answers at the end)

Graphic Designer

Fushi Wellbeing

Creative Designer

Monddi Design Agency