About a month ago, Birmingham, England, welcomed for the second time the Birmingham Design Festival. Taking place between Birmingham City University and Digbeth, various locations were picked for three days of intense exchanges around creativity, sustainability, responsibility, emotion and most of all, this year’s theme : TRUTH.
After an early arrival from Paris to BHX airport, I went straight to my hotel to unpack and head to the beautiful campus of BCU. I was welcomed by a very nice crew of volunteers, whom I would later have the chance to meet all festival round.
The first talk was about graphics, but also about women. Fully Justified, founded by Emma and Helena is a study project, digital and editorial, on the place of women in the design industry. Payment gap, gender equality, lack of confidence, shouting louder to get heard in a meeting... and coming across those issues by educating young women into thinking they are as worth it as men. Then ICBQ Magazine’s Tom and Connor, presented their editorial project on how to look at rejection in a healthy way and realizing that it is a part of the creating process that should be more valued and celebrated.
The third talk of the day at Mama Roux’s by Toshi Omagari from Monotype was about his love of videogame and the amazing work that has been done on 8bit typefaces. He showcased a full study of the main trends and how they came through different forms depending on the game designer and the game universe. Thanks on the BDF2019 user guide, I enjoyed a very nice local fish and chips at the Old Crown, just enough to give me the energy for the next talk at the Old Library, where Bianca Berning from Dalton Maag took us through the history of type and its major breakthroughs. Introducing us to the enormous possibilities enabled by variable fonts, she suggested that this more practical, lighter, faster, easier to use alternative for typography might be the solution to foolproof visibility in the ever-evolving digital world. We then went back to BCU Parkside to enjoy Dn&co’s advise on the creative world, how to create things in a smart way and sticking to your guns in order to be proud of your projects and stay true to your creative personality. For me, the day ended with A Journey of Style by Liam Wong on finding your style and how you want your work to be identified but also this amazing path that took him from being a creative director in big studios to being a renowned photographer with a very recognizable style.
I couldn’t attend the main event about designing communities... but I’m sure it awesome as well!
The second day was a very exciting one. It started with the 2-hour, highly popular workshop by Chris Do, awarded Designer and founder of the online teaching solution, The Futur. Finding your Super Power workshop was all about finding what makes you you, how to embrace it, make the most of it and eventually find the dream job/project that will allow you to be your full self. The main exercise took place on the yellow sheet but we also came across the impostor syndrome, the struggle we all feel in our everyday hustle and sharing our day to day experience with others. After this amazing experience, I headed to the Awesome Merch booth where I got to silk print my own festival tote! Woot woot, very fun as well.
At the BCU Steam House, we were very lucky to meet Felix and Toby from Moo who talked to us about their love of paper, good client service and how the quality of their product led them to the Moo success story we all know. Then Jon Marshall from Pentagram exchanged on how to do your part in saving the planet starting with the way you design your product, how to use alternative materials and how to reduce waste. Micheal Johnson from Johnson Banks gave us some tips from his book Now Try Something Weirder on surviving the creative world and keep having good ideas by trying to see things from a different angle.
The Main Event that night was a glorious mash-up of people working in the movie industry, starting with Minalima Design studio who did all Harry Potter’s and Fantastic Beasts’ graphic props during twenty years. Then we had the luck to assist the most energic talk ever by JamFactory also know as Gavin Strange from Aardman Animations, on making the most with who you are and the 24 hours you have every day. Funny gifs and awesome videos were definitely on board! Then Erica Dorn told us how she got the job on Isle of dogs as the lead graphic designer and how this experience gave her new career perspectives. And finally, Mike McGee from Framestore took us through all the post-prod magic happening these days in the movie industry with visual effects, virtual reality and CGI characters, making us believe so hard that we cry when Dobby dies in Harry Potter!
That was all for Day 2 but it definitely wasn’t the end!
Day 3. Last but not least! On Saturday Paul Barnes from Commercial Type introduced us to his new project, Commercial Classics, taking the art of 1800s typefaces and redesigning them so modern graphic designers could use them daily. I then headed to the magical/awesome/amazing Foilco toner foiling workshop. I’m sorry, I can’t get over it... I could have foiled the whole world, didn’t, but foiled three of my illustrations. Lunch was rainy but okay and at 2 pm Jacob Dutton from McCann helped us understand why designers are more likely to be the CEO of a future design-led company. How the classic, pyramidal, company model is outdated and how new companies care more about human collaboration and consumer-centric design than decision making. Mike Roberts from Green Room explained to us how the Proust Madeleine is key to a good user shopping experience, and creating emotional recall by taking a commonly shared personal experience such as thunderstorm and attaching a new experience to the feeling as he and his team did with the in-store Bose project.
At the end of the afternoon, Veronica Fuerte from Hey Studio flew all the way from Barcelona to give the most amazing lecture about her colorful, but difficult journey founding her studio and creating her own new boutique! The day finished with this super Main Event about emojis and building bigger brands. Jennifer Daniel from Google Emoji told us how we got our butt emoji back on iPhone, and how wanting to be too specific in emoji design can create ostracism, how emoji has become its own international language with appropriation depending on the culture and the interpretation of person using it. Richard Small from Sony walked us through working for the advertiser and still doing awesome things on the side, while Laura Pol gave us trust in big brand identity (Apple, McDonald’s, Nike...) and how you can still be ethical at the top of the world by staying true and consistent to your costumers. Finally, Andre Jay Meissner from Adobe XD reminded us of the responsibility we have, as designers, in the use of technology, its evolution, and how it affects human interactions.
I went to bed with the head full of images, pieces of advice, and mantras!
That’s it for Birmingham Design Festival this year! I couldn’t tell you which day was my favorite because each one was fulfilling and empowering. It gave me great hope in opportunities and in my ability to cease them. Most speakers told us “The wave came and I caught it” and I think that’s what all of this experience was about! Catching the wave! You are enough, you can do it! I FEEL EMPOWERED AND READY FOR WHAT’S TO COME ! See you next time #brum!