Gaël van Heijst
May 2 · 6 min read

In search of inspiration

Last week five Clockwork designers visited the OFFF conference in Barcelona. Here’s a small report of the talks we saw :)


Opening titles

Thursday

On the first day Ilya Abulkhanov from The Mill+ provided a sneak peak into a possible future. Where not so much the story, but the components that make it are the hero. He disrupts the classic Hollywood narrative. He dares to challenge storylines, which are in essence a representation of our own lives. Thus creating a new reality. Ilya left us some advice to live by: in order to make good work, you have to be able to break it. He did this by making a movie about making a movie.

Slightly tensed but overly enthusiastic, Ilya Ruderman stepped onto the stage. We dove into the history of typography, only to partly emerge at flexible type. There is still so much to discover about typography. In an online world were tools are available to everyone, everyone can be a creator. Possibilities are endless.

Seattle-based graphic designer Frank William Miller Junior showed us another interesting walk of life. Starting out sharing his love for music, by running a local high school radio station. With the emergence of message boards and social media, this led to making album cover art for a variety of artists. He is now a director for artists such as A Tribe Called Quest and The Roots.

Illustrator Kelly Anna also drew interest from other fields. Her father — a painter — always advised her to never stop looking at the subject you are drawing. Don’t look at your hand, your pen or your sheet of paper, only your subject’. I guess this says something about the way we approach our work, being overly focused on computers, screen sizes and deliverables.

A talk by visual artist GMUNK closed the day off. His showreel blended craftsmanships and comedy with touches of sarcasm, into one energising stage presence. His interest in new visualisation and material distortion has no limits. In a never ending search for material structures, he flew over erupting volcanoes. Shooting pictures from a helicopter proved to be the only way to capture the essence of this material. Take out for us? Run an extra mile, it’ll be worth it.


Friday

Moving towards a more social spectrum of digital design. Where David Mikula gave us an introduction in Human Experience Design. Mixing multiple disciplines to make informed, tangible products that have a positive impact on the interaction between organisations and people.

His New York based company Friends creates intentionally better business, and creates awesome side projects such as ‘Sports in Space’. A futuristic project in which they invite designers around the globe to tag along on their journey to find out what it means to do sports in space.

Most valuable insight from David Mikula is that if the rules feel broken, you’re allowed to break them. It’s okay to push a robot into a fountain if you think it is invading on your privacy.

Full service agency B-Reel challenges us to always creatively wander. And gave us a lesson in customer engagement, sharing insight on Karl Lagerfeld and H&M projects. Using the power of social media and influencers to create strong online campaigns. Cool insight for e-commerce: layering brand communication. A brand story can be divided into a web shop, heritage with an immersive user experience and exclusive members-only content.

Great word of advice from Amber Vittoria, to take your ego out of your work. Being a freelance illustrator, she is tempted to check out other peoples’ work on Instagram during breaks. Being able to block her inner critic, makes her achieve more creative and original work.

ManVsMachine

ManVsMachine proves that every client or subject can be awesome and exciting.

When a client comes up that works with cheese, water or chicken, it might sounds not that exciting. But creativity these subjects are unlimited and it’s an amazing challenge to deal with this.


Saturday

Exclusive movie screenings were also part of OFFF. We watched Rams, a movie by Gary Hustwit. This documentary zooms in on the design principles and motivations for them, as defined by Brauns’ lead designer Dieter Rams. He led their design department for an extensive amount of time (’55 to 95'). Safe to say he inspired more than one product designer to design clean, useful and well-thought products. Less but better.

Abby Beck on AMP

Double talks from Google. First up Abby Beck, with an in-depth take on accelerated mobile pages (AMP). She works on the UX design for this eco system used by developers to make faster mobile pages. This way she increases impact for brands on a larger scale.

Google User Experience Engineering duo Munish Dabas & Mindy Dellicarpini guided us through a series of Google Maps projects. Talking through early prototypes of way-finding tool, for which they made a mind blowing 120 prototypes, before reaching a solution.

Haraldur Thorleifsson, UENO

Now we know how five stories about a CEO’s life, can silence a crowd for 50 minutes. This emotional and open talk by Haraldur Thorleifsson took us through five values of UENO design studio. His journey as a person, made him the CEO he is today. One quote that really sticks with me is ‘bring the chocolate’. Meaning to always surprise with a personal touch and added attention.

We like to talk about personal work. To David Carson all the work is personal. With hilarious slides full of graphic design wonder, he showed us that intuition can’t be copied. Clients might like your work, sometimes they don’t. But if everyone loves your work, you’re probably playing it safe. And surely don’t let the computer decide what your work should look like. A true highlight of his talk being the project with Dutch designer Thijs Biersteker, in which they collaborated on an interactive work that visualises brainwaves and projects them into a room.

He showed us clips of himself, surfing and skateboarding, days prior to the event. Showing his energy and passion. He closed the OFFF festival with the inspiring words to always keep doing what you love.


Personal insights

Main learning is to feel we are part of a tribe — or group — of creators. As colleagues we grew stronger and it will show in our trust and the work we make. We shared experiences about the things that spark us joy. In that way we know how to motivate each other better 🙂

  • Keep feeding the creative machine.
  • Make all the work personal.
  • Never stop doing what you love.
  • Know when it’s time to take a break,
  • We’re part of a tribe,
  • Go out and look for your own rituals and totems,
  • Don’t let the tools depict your work,
  • Stop shaming around not knowing,
  • Encourage colleagues to do what they love.

All in all OFFF was a truly inspring event. One that will linger in my head for a long time.

Gaël van Heijst

Written by

Design & write, photography on the side | UX Designer | www.gaelvanheijst.nl

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