Three months after Transmediale, here I am again at Haus der Kulturen in Berlin to attend what is claimed to be “Europe’s greatest design conference”. Typo Berlin 2014 focused on rediscovering the inner values of design. With “Roots” as the underlying theme the conference set out to understand what are the long lasting values of design in a totally digitalized world where form don’t just follow function, less is maybe not more and design trends change faster than my socks.
Daniel Gjodeis the founder of Stupid Studio. Gjode explained the fresh and innovative approach of its digital design agency based in Copenhagen. An approach that place people at the center of their business stating how “any creative must put their culture and people above their strategy and business plan.”
Their cutting edge agile business model sees a close collaboration with their clients from the start. Clients get invited from the beginning to attend workshops and drawing session in the studio in a process that creates empathy and understanding from both sides. Accountants and managers get asked to draw their vision for the new logo or to try out different colour palettes for the new identities allowing for a greater understanding of the clients’ needs. Subsequently, the emphasis of the talk was directed to the importance of having fun at work- “do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”.
To conclude he expressed his company’s reluctance to do free pitching- the one time they did it being reassured, “It is only a formality” they wasted hundreds of hours of work and resources.
From now on Stupid Studio will NEVER free pitch again.
Sarah Illenberg has been one of my visual hero since early stage of my career. Her playful and surreal approach to design has always been a key reference point. Her talk consisted of an inspiring retrospective of her works from the early days at Central Saint Martin in London to the latest illustrations for Time Magazine. During her 5 years at Neon magazine she designed a number of illustrations and publications of unvaluable creative excellence. Vegetable dresses, discoball helmets, sex charts and food faces are all part of this productive years at Neon. Her incredible portfolio of works also includes wooden fruit, pome-grenade, Hermes parade and ice cream watches amongst others. She concluded the talk stating how “having a great idea is like having an orgasm.”
First day ended in a loud and chaotic burst of creativity by Snask. The rather unusual intro saw a fancy dressed bishop, king and bunny performing a mini rock gig to introduce the studio’s co-founders Frederik Ost and Magnus Berg. The lecture was filled with alcohol, swear words, pranks and laughter. The studio’s philosophy shouts “make enemies and gain fans”. Beyond their hilarious performative facade lies a superb design style that skilfully mixes handmade, low tech, filmmaking, illustrations, identity and stop motion. Brilliant works includes a video for Never Forget to Vote, Sabo, Malmo Festival, Dans Stockholm and Offf Lille promo.
Jim Avignone was a delightful revelation. He claims, “I want to be to art what punks are to music.” A truly creative creature!
Jim named himself after a peculiar experience back in the early 90s that saw himself drifting to Avignone, France. With zero money in his pocket and a shattered Ford to repair he had to start selling his art in the streets of Avignone. In just three weeks he managed to raise enough money to fix his car and come back to home. From this experience his pseudonym.
Back in Germany he focused on painting. He curated a number of very successful exhibitions with unique concepts throughout Germany. In one of this events he provided each guests with a pair of scissors to cut out pieces of the artwork to bring back home with them- but only after midnight.
During the 90s Jim Avignone became “the painting face of Berlin’s techno movement” finding himself to paint the walls of hundreds of clubs and venues all over Berlin.
Then, as a number of prestigious international clients commissioned him and commercial success kicked in, he experienced a personal crises that saw him “becoming a rich man but betraying his original ideals”. He then stepped back and reassessed his art and value.
I personally experience how amazing Jim can be just outside of the auditorium- he sat there for literally 5 hours to sign his publication to each one of his fan. And believe me, the queue was gigantic.
In his talk titled The Art of Theft, Roger Law explained how “if you can draw you can steal everything.” The fantastic british caricaturist presented his impressive portfolio of works including illustrations, sculptures, puppets and ceramic. Punctually addressing political issues in a fun and fierce way, throughout his career he has been able to create caricatures of many different public figures. Marilyn Monroe, queens and kings, David Cameron and the ever hatred Margaret Thatcher are all part of his incredible portfolio of work. Every piece was shown next to the work it was inspired (or stolen) from. Most recently he has concentrated on ceramic and relocated himself between Australia and China mastering his craftsmanship.
Last talk of the day was by the much awaited design superstar, David Carson. Personally an idol. After reading dozens of books on him I could finally see him in person. His revolutionary approach to design that entirely changed the way we create and perceive it was presented in an incredibly humble, relaxed and fun way.
Following his mantra “don’t mistake legibility for communication” he showed a gigantic portfolio of works spanning across media and decades. Within the hour long talk he managed to drink three beers, burp, yawn, make endless jokes and mock off german design.
Particularly interesting were the comments he would regularly make on the doubtful effectiveness of design when it comes actual sales. “As if my quirky design was going to make more poor young boys buy more super expensive cars…pfhuh”
The biggest tip from Carson I’d like to pass on to you is to make work that is subjective and personal because in a world where computation is taking over most jobs creativity and individuality are the only tools left to survive.
Third day at Typo Berlin definitely started with a bang from surreal collective Grzegorz Laszuk. The early morning show was a creative collision of theatre, glitter cannon, performance art, smoke machines, futuristic suits, music and design.
The performance was followed by the husband/wife Brooklyn based studio, Triboro. Their client portfolio includes people like Nike, GQ, Stella Artois and HSBC. Particularly interesting is the self-initiated redesign of the New York subway line driven by a strive to question the status quo and a search for a clean and iconic approach.
To conclude I’d like to praise the numerous workshops and institutions disseminated across the festival. Calligraphy, typography, magazines, type cafes, academic publications, print rooms and book shops that kept visitors entertained and amused.