The Kikk Festival crowd at Théâtre de Namur

Five reasons you should go to Kikk Festival next year

Two weeks ago my colleagues and I travelled to Namur Belgium for Kikk Festival, an international festival of creativity in digital cultures. Kikk Festival brings together the world’s most talented creative coders, innovators, designers, artists and researchers. Here are five reasons you should go next year.

1. Step away from your glowing screen

It might seem obvious, but at Mangrove we believe that to be inspired you need to stop staring at your screen and go out into the world. Reading about innovative projects on blogs is very different from seeing a person in real life talk passionately about his or her work. That’s why we try to go to festivals, conferences and meetups because that makes our work more interesting.

2. Broaden your horizons

I sometimes feel that everything I see in the tech scene revolves around the web. This might be because of my personal and professional interests, or the sites I visit, but I’m glad conferences like KIKK help me realize there’s a lot more going on. Amazing things are happening in architecture, like an ephemeral luminous tunnel (by Loop.ph), or in museums like a crowdsourced animation (by Studio Moniker).

We saw artist and educator Golan Levin talk about his fascination with hands. He co-created the The Augmented Hand Series, a real-time interactive software system that presents playful, dreamlike, and uncanny transformations of its visitors’ hands. It consists of a box into which the visitor inserts their hand, and a screen which displays their ‘reimagined’ hand — for example, with an extra finger or with fingers that move autonomously.

Daniel Leithinger is a PhD research assistant in the Tangible Media Group at the MIT Media Lab. His research focuses on actuated tangible interfaces and interactive shape displays. Think of it like the computers of the future, where you’re not interacting with a piece of glass, but with a shapeshifting display that is almost like a teleportation machine sending your hands to another location.

See the video below for a cool demo:

Pretty amazing stuff we probably wouldn’t have seen if it wasn’t for Kikk.

3. See inventors

As a kid I read a lot of Donald Duck comics and I loved the stories where ‘Willie Wortel’ would show up. Willie Wortel — or Gyro Gearloose as he’s known in English speaking countries — is a crazy inventor and when I saw Tim Hunkin talk he reminded me of him. Tim is an inventor that makes satirical machines that he has on display in Suffolk and London. Machines with which you can travel on holiday, operate a nuclear reactor, give yourself a full frisk, get a foot treatment and much more.

The second inventor we saw was Niklas Roy, a self-proclaimed inventor of useless things. Some of his projects: My little piece of Privacy, The Perpetual Energy Wasting Machine, Galactic Dimension (a Giant Pinball Machine) and the Pneumatic Sponge Ball Accelerator. How useless his inventions are, I’m not sure, but I found them very funny and interesting to say the least.

4. Learn from your peers

I found it very interesting to hear about the learnings from Anton & Irene. They were both working as directors at digital agency F-i and they wanted to get back to being designers. They decided to start their own studio and they gave a really entertaining talk about the six emotions they faced in their first year.

Anton Reponnen on stage

Among the learnings they shared these stood out for me: always ask for a budget, track and plan all features from the start and don’t put crap in your portfolio. To grow as designers Anton & Irene spend 40% of their time on personal projects like their Urban Walks app or a watch or a documentary. That’s something Tobias van Schneider also talked about in his “Side projects are Stupid” talk. He’s always working on several projects at once — like his Authentic Weather app or Semplice — so when he’s stuck he can easily switch to another. Tobias also shared his 5 principles, some of which he has blogged about (Trust your gutIgnore Everybody).

Niklas Roy & Tobias van Schneider

His “artist date” was particularly nice: a date with yourself to get out of your comfort zone. This can be anything from going to a fancy restaurant by yourself to running naked through the park. Just something that can ignite a creative spark, or get you in trouble.

5. It’s free

Yes, that’s right, the conference is free. Considering how much work setting up and running a conference is this is pretty amazing. We got to see 17 international speakers in a beautiful concert hall and I didn’t even mention the workshops, start-up market, culinary talks and exhibitions.

These were just some reasons I think you should go to Kikk Festival — see you next year!