Design Manchester 14 conference

A bunch of our Creatives recently attended the DM14 Core Festival Day, the theme of which was ‘The Science of Imagination’ — here’s what they thought.

“For me, the highlights of the day were the talks by Rob Lowe and Daniel Hirschmann mainly because their enthusiasm and passion for the work they make was infectious.

Rob showed a nice handful of intricate and charming illustrations. They were all great but one set stood out in particular for me. I loved the line work and the sheer amount of detail, but also how there’s a subtle story behind them (of a post-apocalyptic world being reclaimed by nature). With this in mind the buildings, districts and fauna gradually paint a vivid picture in my mind. To see storytelling work in such an abstract way like this is pretty fun.

Daniel’s set was split in two — the latter part being an insightful behind-the-scenes look at bits of his eclectic studio work — but it’s the opening half where he talked about his other venture ‘Technology Will Save Us’ that I most wanted to draw attention to. The idea is that you designs gadgets that you can then go on to make yourself — everything from a simple speaker to a handheld games console. I’ve spotted these around the web in the past but seeing Daniel speak about them so passionately got me quite excited. Getting my hands dirty in something other than screen-based design is something I’m keen to do and I love the execution of these little kits.”

Ben, Lead Creative

“To save you from having to read another glowing paragraph about Daniel Hirschmann and his brilliant interactive objects (not as creepy as I made it sound) I will just say that all of us were impressed and inspired to see how digital design shouldn’t be limited to a screen. He was genuinely creative. Which is why we were all pretty disappointed when the conference organiser cut his time by 20 minutes…

I started the day with almost no expectations, which is why I was surprised when I found myself learning from almost every speaker. Even the ones who failed to engage me were a reminder that whenever I talk to a group of people the aim shouldn’t be to impress or state my authority, but to relate to and inform them.

That being said, my highlight of the day was the talk from Rejane Dal Bello. She instantly engaged me with her passion for meaningful clients (or maybe it was the Brazilian accent, I don’t know…). From branding of a non-profit children’s hospital in Peru to her work for cancer charities, it was clear what Bello got out of the work. Profit wasn’t the aim; ‘conversion’ was never mentioned.

She walked us through her thought process on her branding work for an Alzheimer’s charity and showed some ideas she had along the way that could have easily been the finished work. But when she revealed the final designs it was visually totally different. I was reminded of the most important part of the creative process: experimentation. As designers, we’re sometimes expected to produce something close to the completed designs within a really short time frame. But being given the freedom to experiment, change her mind and ultimately reach the best possible solution is really important.”

Dom, Digital Designer

“Ross Phillips (Head of Design at Dalziel and Pow) talked to us about his ventures into physical computing and interactive art. His work was really great and introduced some principles that I believe could be taken forward into aspects of digital design. The one theme that stood out for me was the importance of ‘elegant failures’.

Much of the commercial work that he showed us focused on enhancing the physical space of retailers including Argos, Primark and The White Company. It was through showing this work that he introduced the principle of ‘elegant failures’.

For Primark in Berlin he helped to create a fantastic digital display that was projected over a 3D relief of the city. A huge amount of testing went into the project and there was careful consideration of the technology failures there would have to be for the display not to work. If the display was to (against all odds) fail, the act of failure had been considered and is to a degree ‘elegant’ because the passers-by would still be left with a pleasing 3D relief of Berlin.

He once again demonstrated this principle with his work for The White Company where he would hide small projectors in books dotted around the store and project brand messaging onto the products. With this project, the projectors could fail without having a detrimental impact on the display.

I walked away from this presentation thinking about ‘elegant failures’ and how we could apply the principle to digital design. There are countless examples of interesting 404 and other error pages out there which in a way are an example of an elegant failure online.

However, it feels to me like we could be more experimental and engaging when it comes to giving the user feedback as to why a digital product is broken or has gone wrong. Surely we can achieve something which is a little more human, useful and ‘elegant’.”

Luke, Lead Creative

“I really enjoyed the talk by Rob Lowe who was a really charismatic presenter — very natural and funny. He gave us a welcome reminder that ‘As a creative, sometimes you just need to make things to have fun and not over analyse what you’re doing.’

Adrian Shaughnessy, Tony Brook and Sam Stevenson from Unit Editions reminded us that books can still be a valuable source of inspiration and that Google images are not the only answer.

And Michael C. Place, Creative Director at Build, talked about how his agency only works with clients that they genuinely want to work with. This gets the client relationship off to a positive start and creates a level of trust that everyone can then build upon.”

Colin, Lead Creative