It seems a lifetime ago already, but we spent a few days in sunny Barcelona at the beginning of April for OFFF. Eating burgers, drinking beer and listening to inspiring talks.
We're fully aware of the impact these events can have. Visiting Offset in Dublin back in 2014 was a catalyst for how our design direction developed. We went to that event as fairly young, naive designers, and our eyes were well and truly opened to the vast array of incredible work, and equally incredible designers that we share this industry with. When visiting OFFF, we went with a different mindset — thinking that we wouldn't get as much from it as we're more aware of the industry. We couldn't have been further from the truth....
OFFF takes places at the Design Museum of Barcelona every year. We intended to go last year, but my strong allegiance to my beloved Sheffield Wednesday meant I was at Wembley (fuck you Hull). On that subject, I received this lovely text from Dave moments after we lost the Playoff Final. This year it was a month earlier which meant football didn't get in the way.
We avoided spending too much time looking at lineup before hand. It's always nice to hear tales from the well known 'celeb designers', but as is often the case for us, it's the
designers people we've not yet come across that we get the most from. I say people over designers, as OFFF is about bringing together a vast array of talent from many different disciplines: animation, film, art, design, illustration, and the experience is so much richer for it.
The 3 days were packed with talks from 11.00am til 9.30pm across 3 stages. The main stage is a huge room, which was often too full (a United Airlines nightmare) with people sat on the floor, as well as a smaller stage outside and an auditorium. We saw some amazing people: Outro Studio, Leta Sobierajski & Wade Jeffree, Anton & Irene, Gmunk, Mr Kat, Calvin Sprague, Anthony Burrill and Joshua Davis to name a few, as well as watching Stefan Sagmiester's documentary The Happy Film.
We found a bit of time in-between talks to see a few sights, and spot some streetwords. Dave also treat us to a classy pair of socks. Rather than choose Kanye or Drake, we took one sock each. We'll be wearing odd socks at important meetings from now on.
So, what did we take from OFFF? There were 5 common traits we noticed...
Most studios we saw weren’t fancy-pants studios, with agencies across the globe, shipping container meeting rooms and more ping pong tables than staff.
They were rough little places, producing great work, but behind the scenes they were small and DIY.
One set of speakers' favourite place was the local $1 shop – they bought all their props from there. Which goes to show you don’t need big agency budgets to produce great work. It makes us less conscious about our regular trips to B&M.
Another big thing that came across was the love within these small studios. Studios of 2-6 people, collaborating on great little projects. Or working together with other small studios in other disciplines. It’s good to be small. Small = Creative. No project managers or account managers muddying the water.
At the heart of these creative hubs are teams working towards a common goal: produce great work that they love. Leta & Wade’s Compliments project is a lovely example of this if you haven’t seen it.
We’ve said it for quite a while now, but it was nice to hear it from other studios too.
Side projects are everything. They allow us to experiment, fail, learn and create without any limitations or clients to please.
We don’t do any sort of marketing/sales/outreach. Clients simply see the cool stuff we put out and want a piece of the action.
Yes, they sometimes make you poor and yes, they sometimes end up in the bin. But occasionally it works.
GMUNK said he invested £750 in LEDS, to make an experimental video. That video lead to Adobe seeing it and paying him good money, then Audi seeing the Adobe work and paying him even bigger money, then Microsoft seeing the Audi work & paying even better money.
It’s very simple:
Do good things > New client sees good things > New client wants it > Cycle continues.
Studio Outro said: 'Ensure all side projects are Small, Fast and Fun'.
This was echoed by a lot of speakers throughout the talks. The issue for creatives is:
We’re innately creative. Too many things excite us on a daily basis. We’re like magpies.
So specialising in one thing is like wearing a straight jacket.
We realised we need to push ourselves out of our comfort zone more.
We get branding, we love it, but sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in all the strategy, when you’d really rather be pissing about with lasers, or making a poster.
A child-like curiosity is a good thing, and one we hope to nurture more.
Many of the speakers were incredibly humbled to be talking at OFFF. Adam J Kurtz said ‘I have no idea what I’m doing here’. He couldn’t understand why so many people liked his work, but they do!
A lot of these presenters hadn’t been designing for 20 years. They hadn’t worked with huge names, but that didn’t matter. Their lack of experience was overshadowed by their huge passion and ability to DO.
It was all over too quick, but reiterated to us the importance of going to these type of events. We're very much 'get off the computer', but we can fall into the trap of getting lost in our little bubble of work. Having the time to get away from the day to day running of a small studio and be exposed to quality work and inspiring stories is a necessity for us.
To summarise, here’s 5 things we took away from OFFF:
— Don’t become complacent, ever.
— Open up to more collaborations.
— Be proud of our size – it’s exciting to be small.
— Video/moving graphic work reaches emotions that still static graphics sometimes cannot.
— Keep going, we’re on the right path...