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Design

Our 5 favourite insights from the Birmingham Design Festival

Author Scott Barker

Date 22.06.2018

It all began at a screening of Graphic Means on a wintery day back in November, where myself and a few others from the team went to discover the history of the industry we work in. We learned all about the industrious hands of workers like Adrian Shaughnessy, who helped establish design processes that are still relevant in the era of desktop publishing.

While we were there, there was a small amount of hype being spread around a potential ‘design festival’ in Birmingham, an event which most people associate with the plaid-clad beards of London town. The festival seemed like it would be a small local event formed of a handful of people. This was followed by a presentation of the logo and branding, explaining that the idea was born from the inspiration of the diverse melting pot and industrious history of the Midlands.

Seven months later and that ‘small’ event had exploded into a colossal 100+ events over the best part of a week. In my eyes, the plucky Brummie had pulled up its socks and doffed a tweed cap to show that Birmingham is not only playing with the big boys, but deserves to be a key player.

We attended a few events spanning a few days, including:

  • St Paul’s Gallery Tour
  • Design is a superpower
  • 10 principles of creativity
  • The future is not what it used to be
  • Celebration of colour, craft and creativity

Our five favourite insights:

  1. Good design is no longer geographically biased.Birmingham is no longer to be considered second place to London in the design industry. Even in its infancy, this event was on a scale to rival any design-based event in the capital and attracted speakers in the form of Aaron Draplin (Draplin Design Co.), The Yarza Twins. and Tom Muller (hellomuller).
  2. Design is a super power.Designers and design thinking is a problem-solving powerhouse that can drive advancements in economic, scientific, and technological development. Any creator has the power to create a change or vision in a person’s life. In a society and time of extreme transition, we need to understand and harness that power for good.

    Average is a crowded market and being brave is different. It’s about moving a heart or a person rather than a pencil or mouse… The work you do is powerful. You have superpowers.

  3. Variable fonts are the future.If you’re unaware of ‘variable fonts’, they are the new font format that offers a tonne of flexibility and streamlined web optimisation. The technology allows a single font file to include all the features of a whole font family. This also mean that the file size is much smaller, which is perfect for website load speeds and font rendering times.

    We’re looking into variable fonts ourselves and you can even have a look for yourself.

  4. Design with optimism.In a talk from a London-based agency, DixonBaxi, they revealed their 10 principles of creativity. One of which was ‘Design with Optimism’.

    For most people, agency life is a sprawl of meetings and deadlines, but when do we squeeze in the time to think about the emotional element of working on a design? Take a chance to approach a project with a more positive spin – don’t see the budget or parameters as impassable hurdles, but a chance to tackle a problem in a new, creative way.

  5. Design is life.The event finale: Celebration of colour, craft and creativity. And it was just that.

    The Yarza twins, Tom Muller and a no-nonsense Aaron Draplin wooed us with some amazing visuals and music. Their vast array of portfolios included some big clients, although the focus always came back to the importance of the ideas and discoveries that were found along the way.

    Draplin was the biggest advocate of this, and within his portfolio he has logos that he has been paid $25,000 for, and others with which he was paid in food. Highlighting that highly paid client work is not always the best and that it’s all about the idea. His passion for designing was evident throughout the talk, including a couple of moments of true emotion – there were tears (his and almost ours).

    This passion is not a 9-5 thing. Creativity and ideas are not a tap that is turned on or off during the working hours. Ideas and inspiration are all around us, and they all referenced inspiration that was formed in personal explorations or experiments.

  1. Bonus! The Merch.The merchandise across the event was eye-catching, and we even got our hands on a shiny Draplin-designed print. Amazing. Plus, everyone loves a tote bag of beautifully-designed goodies, right?

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