What a week it was. Potentially the best conference week we've ever had.
For reference we'll just recap the excellent speakers and a couple of key points.
Remember, all the talks we were able to record are available on the UCLan Graphics Group page on facebook.
Gary took on the format of breaking his talk up into 7 segments in 7 minutes. He spoke about questioning a brief: what's missing? What don't you understand? Question everything.
The role and importance of research was demonstrated through his work in the naming and branding of O2. When they spoke to mobile phone users on the street, he was told "phones are essential for life". Just like oxygen...
An interesting point regarding presenting work discussed the idea that the designer holds an ace when presenting their work: fear. Clients are fearful. They have fear of the unknown, of what to say in response to a presentation, and of designers' words like kerning and leading.
In the PM slot, Mark Elwood took us through his phenomenal career. After outing his dad as a not always reliable tradesman, he told us about his lucky moment: meeting a Porsche-owning neighbour who worked in advertising. This led to an apprenticeship in typesetting, then typography before getting a job in an agency's art department. He crafted beautiful typography for a McDonalds award-winning campaign (where he was not credited - a warning that it can happen), before showing us many famous ads he's worked on for Sony, Cadburys and Skoda among others.
Ex-students Karen Hughes and Rachel Simpson began our second day. Karen runs her own studio in Manchester called Edit_ whilst Rachel runs Bird, a studio based in Preston. Their careers have mirrored each other to an extent, starting at The Chase where they worked on the wellknown Merseystride project, then True North before starting their own studios.
They discussed pushing an idea that extra nudge. Karen showed us her work for Crowns & Coronets, noting that after seeing their was a crown in the letter W, other logos had made the same connection (it was also said all ideas exist in some form or other, it's up to you to push them to a new place). But pushing the idea a step further created something new and unexpected.
Rachel and Karen told us that luck is actually hard work, thick skin, and creating great ideas from strong research.
In the afternoon we were an audience for the artist and illustrator Paul Davis.
His career has been incredible, and obviously the result of a mind which is "on fire" as he said himself. His early career saw him drawing, drawing, drawing and more drawing. Producing thousands of illustrations before getting his first commissions.
Later in his career IBM employed him to create illustrations for their entire brand, taking a couple of years. They bought the rights to his handwriting, but when Sony asked if they could commission his handwriting, and after consulting with a lawyer, he was able to use his left hand instead to get round the problem and work on the brief.
He noted how illustration has changed immeasurably since he began, but is still drawing - and thinking - every day.
The BBC ran a full day workshop led by Paul Crowley and the BBC UX&D team based in Salford. They started the day with a talk, discussing the BBC's current take on competing with new and varied ways of watching content like Netflix for example. The BBC's audience of 16-34 year olds are of particular interest, and the team were interested in how UCLan students currently perceive the corporation. BBC Three's passing was lamented!
In the afternoon session the group split up into workshops working on ideas to boost the BBC's appeal amongst a younger audience. This involved the teaching of idea generation techniques and how to develop lots of ideas quickly and then try out techniques to present the ideas themselves, for example putting the ideas in context as a headline on a newspaper.
Garry Blackburn and Simon Elliott began what was a bumper day of design. Together they co-founded Rose Design and took us through an unbelievable quantity of work their studio has produced over the years. Their talk was entitled "Lucky Bastards", which they certainly seem to be on the surface. Rose are lucky enough to work with the likes of D&AD and ENO, but as ever with design; hard work, resilience, dedication and creativity arethe actual underpinning reasons.
One piece of advice that comes to mind is that any idea - and any application of that idea (no matter how seemingly boring) - can (and should) be crafted, as you never know where it will take you.
The afternoon talks featured a double header of Jim Sutherland and Nick Asbury. Jim is a design juggernaut, and is featured a staggering 82 times in the D&AD annuals. Nick is the most awarded writer in D&AD's Writing for Design category. As a pair of individuals they are probably unrivalled in the UK, if not the world.
Jim based his talk around joy. Because if you find joy in what you do, you will communicate that to joy to others through what you actually produce. There were 285 slides in his presentation, packed with wit, ideas and as he said: joy. Possibly too many highlights to mention, but the Agatha Christie identity and stamps are tied together with so many beautiful thoughts. He was particularly candid with revealing his initial sketches and how they may be seemingly simple, still had the quality of idea to develop from.
Rounding off the day, co-author of design bible A Smile in the Mind Nick Asbury themed his on 'taking a chance on chance'. Having followed an initially academic path, he then moved to London, and surrounded himself with interesting people. This gave him opportunities to work in the creative industry. Plus he created fantastic projects which helped raise awareness of his talents. Notably Pentone and the fantastic A6 project. The Perpetual Dissapointments diary (designed by Jim Sutherland) was another great story, and illustrated that with great copy, design needs only play the supporting act rather than going over the top.
On our final day, illustrator Ben Tallon took the microphone. Also an ex-student, he detailed his journey from graduation up to today. Noting the pathways he took and how luck has played its role. Through talent and hard graft he has worked for various clients including the Guardian and Doc Martens, before working his way to his dream ticket of working in wrestling with the WWE. Most importantly he underlined how his personal work, projects created in downtime, were actually some of the ones that got potential clients' attention.
As well as working as an illustrator he also hosts a podcast Arrest All Mimics which is highly recommended. Rumour has it upcoming episodes are to feature Typographic Specimens' author Andrew Bainbridge, plus Conference Week's final speaker...
...Jack Renwick. An amazing speaker to finish off the week, Jack's talk was funny, honest and full of stunning work. It turns out one of our current placement students, Dom Parsons, was responsible for the studio's Christmas Card. (Always the hardest brief, and always handed to the intern.)
Her studio works with pen and paper first, before getting onto the Macs. All ideas are figured out away from the screens before any time is spent mocking them up and designing them. There's a thread of (seemingly) effortless simplicity running through the various brand identities the studio has created. But Jack was liberal with the truth noting many of those ideas required long days (and nights), she stressed she always wanted to push ideas further. It was so interesting to hear how Jack, as a D&AD judge, massively respected designer, and studio owner still goes through the same turmoils we all do. In fact it's worth noting that all speakers - without saying it so simply - are all clearly love what they do and therefore spend a lot of their time doing it.
In general, the speakers broadly had a similar message: luck is created by what you put in. The more you do, the luckier you'll be.
As the quote notes:
"I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more of it I seem to have."