As part of the all-inclusive pass that was kindly given to TDK by the organizers, we were invited to a networking session run by IDEO’s Mitch Sinclair who is now part of the Palmwood team in Dubai. The sessions were based on IDEO’s Creative Tensions methodology whereby the audience is asked a question and given two opposing answers, each on either side of the room. Participants reveal where they stand on an issue by where they physically stand in the room. For example, one question was ‘As a creative in the workplace, do you prefer being given 1) freedom and trust or 2) guidance and support?’. People moved around the room to reflect their preference and discussed their choices. I was standing somewhere in the middle!
The whole festival was hosted by Missy Dempsey from Fletcher Street Design – she has a colorful presence on stage!
The diversity in the lineup was quite interesting as it did not consist solely of designers but also engineers, typographers, art curators, thinkers, etc. – which is eye-opening in itself. The first speaker was Japanese biomimicry designer/engineer Jun Kamei who is working on preparing mankind for the future by getting inspiration from design found in nature and developing fashion for a potentially amphibious society. He really is the person to befriend in case of an apocalypse!
The rest of the day tackled museum curation (Guggenheim’s Sara Raza), massive installations made with light-weight material (SoftLab’s Michael Szivos), contemporary Arabic typography (TPTQ’s Kristyan Sarkis) and IDEO’s Matt Brown who discussed ‘sasu’ – a weekly creative exercise that he applied at work which helps designers create unexpected stories around everyday objects.
The second day was kicked off by Carolin Wanitzek who took us to a beautiful world with her paper design installations that made it to several sets and magazines. She’s a believer that creatives should ‘find something special’ to characterize their work, as she has done herself with her bold style.
Another highlight of the day was the work of BBDO’s Daniela Vojta. She has directed multiple social advertising campaigns that have impacted thousands. She mainly talked about her powerful work with the $1.05 Price Tag campaign following a mass school shooting in Florida, which went viral (look it up!).
Other topics of the day included the practice of a ‘Nomad Designer’ and lettering by Marta Cerdá; photography with Tamara Abdul Hadi who works with minorities and creating photography workshop with underprivileged communities in the MENA region; production and story-telling by four-time Emmy winner Nicole Hendrix and finally Josh Herman who has worked on some of the most beloved characters in Marvel cinema today!
The final day didn’t fall short at all! The lineup was the most interesting one yet.
One of my favorite presentations was by LEGO’s Siddharth Muthyala’s who talked about the importance of creative learning and complex problem-solving at an early age. He strongly believes that we need to invest in the confidence of children and teach them that it’s okay to fail so that they’re better prepared for the future. LEGO’s theory of ‘hands on minds on’ pushes children and adults alike to play and enables them to be creative.
The rest of the day included more and more interesting talks such as Spotify’s Shahin Haghjou who discussed his journey from being an Iranian refugee in Sweden to becoming the Senior Art Director responsible for all artwork we see on the website. Other talks included Lebanese musician Firas Abou Fakher from the band Mashrou Leila, Tomorrow Machine’s Anna Glansén, Anagrama’s Sebastian Padilla and finally Pentagram’s non-other than Natasha Jen. Her talk was the last of the festival (gotta end strong!) and covered her journey as an immigrant from Taiwan, to design school, to being a partner at one of the top design firms in the world. Giving us some insight into her thought process, she walked us through the different phases of an F&B project that she’s worked on with Pentagram, how it got realized and the challenges faced along the way.
I was lucky enough to attend a workshop with her later in the day entitled ‘Identity Design for a Personal Cause’ where she first walked us through a visual identity that Pentagram has designed for an NGO in the US. Consequently, our exercise required us to quickly redesign the logo of an NGO of our choosing, followed by a brief presentation of our rationale and a feedback session. Her insight on each of the ideas presented was very pertinent and demonstrated how good design could make a significant difference to the appearance of an NGO and its credibility.
My favourite aspect of the festival was the fact that it had such a diverse lineup of nationalities, practices and industries, which in itself uplifts the idea of creativity to a whole new realm. Until next year!