If you know me, then great… if not, here are a few starter points:
This post is like me, it requires a bit of work. You’ll have to click links. You’ll have to forgive my overuse of exclamation marks, parentheses and the Oxford comma. And possible bad language that I wouldn’t even dream of using in the company of my mother, or even more, your mother. There may be mentions of testicles (all relevant). And finally, like a goldfish needs water, I need design.
Some people watch football. Others collect stamps. Some people go train-spotting.
Me? I look at design.
It started in 1990, when Mr Nott, my art teacher recognised that I was pretty rubbish at art, but I knew vaguely how to construct things into an order that conveyed a logical sense of information. I could tell a visual story. And he showed me some work that wasn’t art, but was artistic. It was creative, it was design.
From here I figured out what I needed to do to get into college and onto a design course (mostly fail all my Pre’s in the pursuit of the perfect portfolio of 18 year old rubbish art samples that showed the slightest glimmer of hope), and over the course of many years, of different directions, of false starts, and hard, hard work, I made it!
I graduated with a degree in design, and I got a job. But since the early 90’s I’ve watched television with an eye for fonts, I’ve read newspapers with more of an eye on the layouts than the stories, and I’ve bought countless books for the covers, never ever opening them or reading the content.
But the thing about design is – or at least was – that it was largely something that you read about in Creative Review, or Eye, and marvel at. Then the Internet happened (yes, I am that old) and a community of discussion & sharing grew where we could discover things that we’d read about them, and see more, see similar and learn more. But there was a disconnect.
What could you do with that sort of lust from a distance?
I don’t remember my first Offset. I just remember being mind-blown by talent, passion and determination. But I remember being in the same room as some of the people who inspired me to create, to learn, to try and try harder. I remember that sense of astonishment that someone on a stage in front of me was the person who designed something that I’d known for years and wanted to know more about.
Remember your first concert? – it’s a bit like that.
And 5 years later, it’s all there again. that sense of bewildering, confusing, heartbreaking brilliance, where someone describes the experiences of their professional journey and the highs and lows of being a creative.
Looking back at my notes from this year, I sat through 21 hours over three days of talks by my peers, and here is a small selection of those who, as a friend of mine so eloquently described as “not so much having lit a fire inside me, more created an inferno” of wanting this more, and more, and more.
Rothco, one of Ireland’s foremost advertising agencies spoke about their structure of gangs – a less Marketing-Speak term for ‘teams’. But despite the BS, they shared their process (anyone can bring anything to any department at any time), and the creative freedom that failing and mistakes bring. And their genuine elation of being part of the defining moment that the Yes campaign helped bring to a New Ireland last year, through their involvement in their Shred of Decency campaign (see more about it here: https://rothco.ie/rothco-daintree/ or here: https://vimeo.com/124607988)
Also, their honesty in bringing a stick and a football and combining that with the incorrect use of a bus companies logo and just how on the edge of fresh underpants they all were while presenting was refreshing (this is the result: https://twitter.com/NetworkNoel )
Robert Ballagh told us how he sold his bass to Ireland’s first black man, and started painting, ‘cos “He thought he could”, and my admiration for him, and his talent multiplied by a huge degree. There’s a piece of his work on display in Cork’s Crawford Art Gallery – go and see it, and sure if you have ever held the last issued £20 punt note with Daniel O’Connell on it, then you’ve handled a masterpiece.
Closing the first day was the unstoppable Mr. Bingo. A force in modern post social-media dynamics, and a vocabulary coarser than even mine, he was a master class in rejecting the approach that everyone else follows and carving a path that others couldn’t dream of.
Go to his website and click on the link about him working for free. You may know him from his hair portraits (http://www.mr-bingo.org.uk/index.php?/latest/hair-portraits/ ) but what you really should know about him is his wonderful Hate Mail project, and the insanely brilliant kick-starter project that he ran to fund the book of Hate Mail.
Click here at your peril!
Day two started well, the Assemble Studio of architects/creatives/disruptives who explained how, well, if you want to do something, then do it. They made me think of space (not the thing with worm-holes and Wookies in it, but the immediate area that surrounds each and everyone of us) and how we accept what is “our” space, and how we use it.
And then the day went batshit crazy!!
Piranha Bar, Jonathan Barnbrook and GMunk arrived on stage, one after another to literally shake the bejesus out of us.
Suffice to say this, Piranha Bar’s new film “Doom Newt” looks on fire, and their approach to doing what they want, because that’s why, reinforced so much of my own thinking. Barnbrook has had the enviable position of being the late David Bowie’s graphic designer.
His work on ★ was an eye opening 40 minute talk of working with a genius. Plus his work on the brilliant Adbusters from the 90’s was phenomenal. And then there was GMunk. I’d seen a bunch of his work over the past few years, not knowing who had done it.
At this point of the day I was pretty tired, but he bounded onto the stage, and it was like a missile going off in a fireworks factory, in about 50 minutes, blasting us through his ‘8 Pearls of Wisdom’. Click here for a slightly older version of this talk. I will never do him justice so take a long lunch and watch all 68 minutes of this, I promise that you’ll clap at your screen at the end.
The motion control projection mapping in was utterly incredible (it’s called ‘The Box’ and it’s at 28.28 in the link above), and the work on the Windows 10 and Adobe Brands is jaw dropping.
Sunday was wrapped up beautifully by the Studio Dunbar people, talking about (amongst other things) the misappropriation of their work for the Dutch Police, Una Burke (image above – Big Shout Out to the LSAD graduates! High Five!) spoke about how fortunate (its not luck, she’s bust her chops to get where she is) she’s been in the fashion industry.
Ok, there’s been a bit of luck but also that research is a key part of any project and how it influences your decisions and end goals.
mcBess, a French illustrator brought a wonderfully cynical sense of humour to his talk, complete with highly inspirational quotes (“I like to draw” mcBess, 2009,”) and some great illustrations to illuminate his quotes
So what did I learn?
..so much. but I’ll try to wrap it up like this:
- Fail, but learn from your failings.
- Collaborate. More often than not someone else may bring something to the table that shakes things up for the best.
- Be brave. Take your hands out of your pockets, and run through nettles. People will admire you.
- Check your testicles. Check any outsourced work for testicles. And grow some testicles. Three different speakers mentioned testicles, and in more ways that you can imagine, this may have been the most important lesson for all of us to take away.
- Reference, catalogue, credit.
- Always try to reinvent yourself. Stay fresh.
- I need to design.
Bonus learning: Gifs. No matter how much we are told, it’s impossible to pronounce it Jifs. Even if 2016 was the year that gifs were in every presentation.
Phew…see you next year
Jonathan Leahy Maharaj leads our creative Graphic Design Department in Fuzion with offices in Cork and Dublin, Ireland