OFFSET 2013: day two

Despite something of a melt down of the limited wi-fi at OFFSET in Dublin yesterday, highlights were delivered by Hvass & Hannibal, Ji Lee (image from his Bubble Project, shown above), and Vaughan Oliver…

Despite something of a melt down of the limited wi-fi at OFFSET in Dublin yesterday, highlights were delivered by Hvass & Hannibal, Ji Lee (image from his Bubble Project, shown above), and Vaughan Oliver

Nan Na Hvass and Sofie Hannibal are no strangers to us at CR – we featured them in a One To Watch profile piece in our May 2007 edition when they were still both undergraduates studying at the Danish School of Design – and have been keenly following their career since.

Above: Hvass & Hannibal transformed that most boring of spaces, the meeting room, into a colourful wonderland for client DGI-BYEN

The Danish duo told the OFFSET audience about how they met and started working together mainly on producing flyers and decorative installations for friends’ music nights – as well as costumes in which to dance around in.

As well as explaining how their illustrative and colourful style has developed, the pair also demonstrated how performance was a crucial part of the making of the above sleeve for band Efterklang’s Magic Chair album (shown above) – by jumping around the stage waving the colourful ribbons they created to be twirled around by a host of gymnasts during the album cover shoot.

They also told of a project they agreed to do for free for a gym that approached them with the offer of doing an exhibition in their space. It turned out the gym just wanted the duo to decorate the interior of their drab gym (which used to be a butcher’s workshop) for free. But the duo, despite hating the space, made the most of the opportunity and, rather than covering it in the bright colourful illustration of previous interior projects, decided to instead install ironic anti-exercise statements:

“If you’re going to do something for free, it’s important to maintain creative control so you can at least do what you want,” the pair warned of taking on such projects.

See more of the duo’s work at

Later on, Ji Lee, now Facebook’s creative strategist, showcased a host of impressively pro-active and experimental personal projects to demonstrate that “idea is nothing, doing is everything”.

His Bubble Project – in which he created speech bubble stickers and stuck them to advertisements to encourage the public to add their comments – brought him much attention, including this ABC news item in which Ji Lee appears, hilariously disguised:

Just as Iain Tait did yesterday, Lee spoke about enthusiastically about the benefits of hacking: “The term has negative connotations, but hacking is improvising, reappropriating, fast and highly efficient,” he said. “The bubble project was a hacking project and turned corporate monologue into a public dialogue.”

Another of Lee’s personal projects demonstrated neatly the power of the potential of personal projects. Intrigued by the fact that ceilings are generally undecorated in modern households, he created a miniature domestic scene on the ceiling of his flat and posted pictures (including the one shown above) of it on his blog. The project were reblogged and Lee ended up winning a commission to create a similar work from MoMA in New York, no less:

See more of Lee’s work at

Pixies Come On Pilgrim album cover by Vaughan Oliver

My own personal highlight of the day was witnessing a talk by a man who has designed the sleeves of records I’ve been admiring and collecting for about 25 years: Vaughan Oliver. Oliver’s main stage talk focused mainly on his early career working on record sleeves for independent record label 4AD (after leaving a packaging print company where he worked on such creative tasks as designing cat food labels), and the enthusiasm he still has for the work was palpatable.

He spoke lovingly of the relationships formed with the numerous photographers he collaborated with such as Simon Larbalestier who worked with Oliver on sleeves for PIxies.

The biggest surprise of Oliver’s talk was his engaging use of humour throughout – although there were more surprises too. I, for one, had no idea that the cover of The Breeder’s 1990 album, Pod, actually depicts Oliver himself wearing a couple of eels strapped to his midriff, otherwise pretty much naked and “doing a fertility dance”. Who knew!?

Immediately after his main stage talk, Oliver appeared in the conference’s Room 2 interviewed by Adrian Shaughnessy, revealing further his playful sense of humour as well as some hugely insightful details about his career post-4AD and in particular his difficulty in coping with new ways of working in the 90s when using computers took over older, more hands-on methods of creating layouts. Now, Oliver revealed, becoming a valued educator through teaching as a Visiting Professor at the University of Greenwich is the reason he gets up in the morning.

Seeing one of my all-time graphic design heroes enjoying talking to a crowd clearly enamoured not just by his work but by his personality, enthusiasm and his ability to engage and entertain is something I won’t forget too soon. Thank you OFFSET.

For more info about OFFSET2013, visit To keep up to date with all the latest OFFSET news, follow@weloveoffset on Twitter and check hashtag #OFFSET2013.

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