The final day of Offset 2014 featured talks from Marian Bantjes, Richard Turley, Jeff Greenspan and I Love Dust (to name just a few), who provided some amusing, thought provoking and inspiring reflections on their craft.
After talks from Genevieve Gauckler and fashion stylist Aisling Farinella, Johnny Winslade and Ollie Munden from I Love Dust discussed the studio’s culture and its work for Nike, Karl Lagerfeld and London burger restaurant Meat Liquor.
I Love Dust designed illustrated interiors for the venue and its sister restaurants Meat Mission, Meat Market and Meat Liquor Brighton. Meat Liquor London is designed to “look like the building has been tattooed”, while Meat Mission’s murals reference religious iconography (a nod to the building’s former use as a Christian Mission site). Meat Liquor Brighton is inspired by Miami – “another seaside location full of colourful characters” said Winslade.
The pair also discussed a series of self-initiated projects, from a custom motorbike it designed with Boneshaker Choppers to celebrate the studio’s 10th birthday, to ‘Black Valentine’s’ voodoo donuts, coffee cups and coasters.
As well as surprising clients (and making their way on to art directors’ desks), the pair said these kind of projects allowed the team, and its new members in particular, to try out new styles and techniques.
What is good design?
Next up (and sadly clashing with what I hear was a very entertaining talk from John Burgerman) was a debate on the notion of ‘good design’ – what exactly is it and how can it be measured.
Hosted by Studio AAD creative director Scott Burnett, the panel included Johnny Kelly, Richard Turley, Oran Day from Dublin studio Atelier David Smith and Brenda Dermody, who teaches graphic design at Dublin Institute of Technology.
Dermody said good design could only be measured based on its context: it might be a project where someone has worked outside of their comfort zone, or something that is simply beautiful. “But if the designer hasn’t learned much from it, is it still good?” she asked. Day, who also lectures at DIT, said that when teaching students, it could be just as valuable to critique examples of bad design, and Turley said for a design to be ‘good’, it must provoke a visceral reaction.
Johnny Kelly’s The Seed
The panel also touched on whether the public is becoming more aware and critical of design, but Turley said it’s not the only discipline to suffer exaggerated critiques on personal blogs and social media these days, while Dermody said that public outcries over logos, marques or branding were often just masking discontent over the brand itself or a wider issue. “The design is just a soft target,” she said.
The group also discussed the importance of awards: Turley said he felt there was little value in them, other than impressing his bosses in America. Kelly said he had felt it made people take notice of his work, but claimed he had also noticed a culture of ‘this is definitely going to win awards’ among agencies. “It’s a bad place to start any project,” he said.
Day said that they’re still of value, even if there are many other ways to gain recognition online now, because of the positive psychological effect of receiving praise from your peers, while Kelly pointed out that they can also stimulate important debates within the industry.
Richard Turley took to the stage again after lunch, discussing his work for Bloomberg Businessweek, his thoughts on editorial design and his work for The Guardian.
While other talks this weekend have spoken about the importance of originality, or praised craft intensive projects, Turley spoke about creating powerful covers on a weekly basis, sometimes in just a few hours. Most of the ideas for his covers come from Google image searches, he said, adding: “a lot of what I do is copying. People are a bit angsty about the fact that you must have your own ideas, but I think it’s good to admit where we’ve taken things from.”
Of course, Turley didn’t mean he actually copies anyone’s work, but was referring to the fact that he is constantly seeking and adapting ideas that confront or inspire him – the cover of the election issue was inspired by the Halifax X, and the cover image for an issue on Bitcoin currency by an image of a unicorn he found online.
Talking through Bloomberg’s visual structure, Turley discussed his use of Helvetica and a grid structure based on multiples of 1.3 Despite these restrictions, however, he likes cover spreads to be as inentive and “expressive” as possible. “I dislike polite modernism…the Apple-ification of design,” he said. “Magazine design is really just about attracting attention: [cover spreads] are like little adverts, and you are selling the writer’s articles.”
Turley said working on the Guardian and its G2 supplement provided invaluable experience for his time at Bloomberg, and said the pressure of working for daily and weekly titles means “you have to become instinctive. It’s very immediate ad you can’t over think it,” he said.
Marian Bantjes followed Turley and spoke about her need to “say something” with her work, showing examples of designs with embedded codes, concealed type and an installation for the Chicago Design Museum which spelled out the word sorrow in flowers, and died towards the end of the show.
“You have to make sure a project is worth the time and effort you will bestow on it,” she said, adding that she had a pet peeve for things like alphabet posters which are pretty but have little purpose. “If you’re going to the trouble of creating a beautiful alphabet, use it to say something,” she added.
Bantjes also discussed her monograph, Pretty Pictures (read our blog post on it here); personal projects including her yearly Valentine’s gifts and a recent project with Adobe, where she customised an Eames chair with wood veneer:
She also spoke about collecting and said that she often photographs sidewalks and hotel rooms: a poster she recently designed for the National was inspired by the structure of the skyline from her room in Hong Kong. “Grids and structure are a key part of my work,” she added.
Up next was freelance creative Jeff Greenspan, formerly a communication designer at Facebook, chief creative officer at Buzzfeed and creative director at BBDO.
Greenspan discussed how his self-initiated and side projects gave him the confidence to build a successful freelance career, and spoke of the importance of “finding your own individual voice and speaking it very loudly.” He is the creator of the ‘hipster trap’ (below), New York’s Tourist Lanes (which started out as a simple prank and attracted global media attention), and the Bush Booth (booths where people sick of seeing George W Bush campaign for a second term as President could voice their discontent at a video loop of him just listening).
Greenspan also created Selfless Portraits, a site where internet users are given a profile picture of another user somewhere in the world and asked to draw it, and “The World’s Most Exclusive Website“, a site where users must have a certain number of Twitter followers to access rooms, only to be met with another locked door. A satirical swipe at fame culture, those who did manage to access the site were offered nothing but confirmation of their followers, but the promise of exclusivity attracted Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber and Jerry Bruckheimer, among others.
Each of these projects were self-initiated yet became viral successes: Greenspan had the idea for Selfless Portraits when working at Facebook, but couldn’t persuade the company to fund it, and said if he’d approached brands with many of these ideas, he would have been turned down, yet they have attracted millions of hits and huge levels of user engagement.
“If people don’t trust me, I keep trying,” he said. “I refuse to listen to people who try to diminish that voice in my head. I know we’re not changing the world – I’m usually advertising pizza and coffee – but it’s important to be true to yourself,” he said. “If you start something, put energy into it and be bold with your ideas…then other people will join you.”
The last talk of the day was delivered by Chris Judge, an Irish illustrator, former member of The Chalets and author of award-winning children’s book The Lonely Beast.
Judge presented some charming, funny and bizarre illustration projects and discussed his forthcoming work for a teen novel by Kirsty McKay and an illustrated ‘danger manual’, Danger is Everywhere, written by comedian David O Doherty. He also talked about his spin-off Lonely Beast counting and alphabet apps, which were recently featured in an Apple ad campaign.
This was just a few of the events happening each day: the schedule also included a talk from Nobrow artists on getting published, a panel debate among Irish architects and one from a selection of Irish illustrators.
Le Cool Dublin has also been running a series of stylus wars – interactive pictionary duels – as well as portfolio reviews, and their have been regular talks on building brands in various industries. With a line-up so diverse, it’s little wonder Offset has become a sell-out events with over 2,500 attending.