For the second time, I attended the annual design conference Offset in Dublin last weekend. In its twelfth year running Offset is a renowned 3 day design conference that hosts talks by the top visual designers in the design industry, not to mention that it is Dublin born and bred which just adds to its appeal! I must mention now that this piece is slightly biased as I absolutely adore Offset but I haven’t always thought like that.
In college, while I was completing my degree in Fashion Design, I was fortunate enough to share an apartment with 4 very talented graphic design students (one being my best friend). Some people may think of it as a disadvantage and I must agree there were times I wished I lived with other fashion heads who I could talk about seam lines, silhouettes and the cost of fabrics with! While I did feel like I straddled two completely separate worlds never really fitting in either the visual design or fashion design circle completely, I’ve recently come to realise that these years were the beginning of my love of digital design and fashion design. By pure osmosis, I soaked up random knowledge and random graphic design terms like widow and orphans, the all powerful Helvetica, the mysterious power of the Adobe apps or the incredible experience of attending Offset. Offset sounded like the Glastonbury of visual design. Be inspired by day, mingle and drink with design rock stars by night. My housemates repeatedly told me I’d love it but I - like most other fashion people - thought: it’s a lot of money to pay for something that isn’t my field…and it’s not like I’m super passionate about font design (I was also schooled recently in how wrong I am to use the word font it should be typeface!!). It wasn’t until I began teaching myself to use Illustrator for fashion tech drawings that I realised how interested I was in digital design of all types.
I attended Offset ’16 as a sceptic but after 3 days I was converted. Offset is mainly aimed at those studying or working in graphic/visual design, illustration, print etc. But the ethos, passion and inspiration apply to anyone in the creative world. That was more evident than ever this year. Quite ironically I found myself at the main stage for the talk by Bruno Maag of Dalton Maag, the typeface design studio. My God was he inspiring!! As I mentioned before I have no interest in typefaces but his absolute passion for typeface design, science and craftsmanship were contagious. His example of using scientific fact to back up amazing design for an awkward clients pitch really resonated with me. Who in any creative industry has not had a difficult client who almost demands a concrete tangible reason for your design? I had to talk myself down from dropping everything and immediately applying to intern at his studio… The 3 days were filled with moments like this. If I didn’t particularly like an artist’s work or medium, their work process, personal experiences, advice or inspiration was an invaluable resource.
Other highlights for me from the weekend were the illustrator Rod Hunt who creates intricate, illustrated maps on Illustrator - as he showed his work, all I kept thinking was how many layers does each artwork have?!? To the iconic image-maker Jean-Paul Goude, so many of his images have inspired me and yet I didn’t know half of them were his creation. Or the advertising agency Chemistry, I would ordinarily say I have no interest in advertising but frankly if you watch tv, if you’re exposed to ads of any sort, you tend to have an opinion on what is good advertising and Chemistry are masters at it. They were the creative agency behind the ballsy 'I Want Cancer' campaign and the notorious 'Ladyball for women’s GAA/Lidl' campaign, among so many others. Their design and thought process was fascinating to learn about.
These were just a very small example of the highlights of the weekend. I feel like as designers working in the fashion industry, we tend to exist in this self-imposed bubble continuously consumed by the fashion cycle. This is mostly due to the ridiculous pace of the industry and the need for all newness all the time. But for the majority of us the awful commercial soul-destroying aspects of fashion design overshadow the creativity, joy and beauty of fashion design - the reasons we decided to be designers in the first place. Attending Offset reminded me of this. You experience creativity outside of the fashion bubble, sources of inspiration that aren’t the newest celebrity trend or ‘it’ item. We forget that it’s so easy to become stagnant and disheartened in this industry, your creativity needs to be recharged once in a while! Dublin is an amazing inspiring city for its size but we are sorely lacking in big name fashion exhibitions and travelling over to London as often as you would like isn’t always feasible. Which is why I would urge any creatives working or studying in fashion to attend Offset even for a day and see just how beneficial and uplifting it is.