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Autumnal inspiration

Posted on October 2nd 2013

As the summer started to gently fade, a month of inspirational design events began. September has been a busy, but massively enjoyable month…

Reasons to be Creative

Kicking off the month was Reasons to be Creative, a three day conference for designers and developers, held at the Brighton Dome. With over 50 speakers, there was something for everyone. Reasons has a laid-back feel; there are generous lunch and dinner breaks allowing the delegates — who seemed to come from all over the world — time to network, wander off and grab some food/drink with new found friends or make their way down to the beach.


For me, the highlight of this event was seeing Stefan Sagmeister talk. He delivered the best design talk I’ve ever seen, on the subject of happiness. His research is interesting and he completely dodges the usual ‘show and tell’ format favoured by designers presenting their work. His presentation was slick, funny and beautifully put together, showing several self initiated motion design pieces which will appear in his forthcoming film. It ended with everyone happily singing along to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy!

I also really enjoyed seeing Fabio Sasso, Dominic Wilcox, Royal Bandit, Jon Burgerman and the hilarious Erik Spiekermann. Hellicar and Lewis‘ enthusiasm was infectious and James Paterson was also excellent. As were the 20 elevator pitches!

Three days of back to back talks (and some evening socialising) is actually quite tiring; there’s a lot to take in but I came away from Reasons buzzing with inspiration and keen to get the ball rolling with my own ideas and get my teeth into more client work.

Design Brighton

Next up was Design Brighton‘s ‘Talking Digital’ event (which I organised) as part of the Brighton Digital Festival.


We had three speakers; Ed Cookson from Crystal London spoke about their amazing work creating the audience pixels for the Olympic opening/closing ceremonies. Denise Wilton from BERG gave a passionate presentation about how we interact with design. While Matt Rice from Sennep offered an insight into their super-slick interactive websites, games, installations and mobile apps. Three great speakers for just £5.00!

Brighton SEO

In the middle of September sits Brighton SEO a free one day internet search/marketing conference which takes place twice a year. At the April event earlier this year, the advice was that link building strategies should be replaced with creating engaging content to help improve Google search rankings. At the September event, speakers discussed the power of local search and the increasing number of people accessing the web via mobile devices.


According to the Office for National Statistics, access to the internet using a mobile phones more than doubled between 2010 and 2013, from 24% to 53%. This figure really underlines the importance of responsive/adaptive design and creating websites which are able to function across a range of different screen sizes, not just on a desktop device.

The world of SEO is evolving quickly as Google introduce updates to their algorithm and it would seem they are trying to make searching for something more of a human experience. I’ve long argued that we should optimise websites for users, not design/build them so that they appeal to computers, so this is great to hear. Brighton SEO isn’t a design conference, but I was able to take away lessons that will definitely inform my design work.

AGI Open
Finally to London for the AGI Open. The Alliance Graphique Internationale is an organisation made up of the world’s leading graphic designers. Each year AGI hosts the Open conference, a two day event featuring lectures and discussions from its members. This year was the first time the event has been held in London and it didn’t disappoint the expectant crowd.


Highlights of the first day included a lively discussion pitting the Cavaliers of design against the Roundheads. Here we saw Marian Bantjes and Stefan Sagmeister (in the self-expression corner) take on Sean Perkins, Sascha Lobe and Dean Poole (in the reductionist corner).

There were also excellent talks by Japanese design legend Kenya Hara, Spitting Image don Roger Law and First Lady of design Paula Scher. Peter Saville wrapped up proceedings with a ‘we need to talk about Peter’ session as full of contradictions as it was of insights.

Day two kicked off with Jan Wilker and Bibliothèque. We then had the rare chance to hear from the amazing Margaret Calvert, distinguished designer of the UK road signage system. This was follow by Christoph Niemann, whose Maurice Sendak video had me close to tears (OK, I might have been a bit tired too!). After which I shifted to a fringe space to hear four Pentagram partners talk. After lunch the ‘A question of design’ discussion panel got their teeth into several poignant issues such as ‘where are all the women in design?‘ Frith Kerr and Marina Willer both came across well in this talk.

With the end in sight, Chip Kidd, Tony Brook and Jeremy Leslie spoke passionately about how their hobbies intertwine with their practice. Sagmeister closed the show, with a 40 minute version of his aforementioned Happiness talk, which I really enjoyed.


One month, four design events, six days away from the office. Was it worth it? Definitely! I love what I do, so it’s good to meet other people who are passionate about design. They say it’s important to surround yourself with people who you can learn from. And what better way?

As a small business owner, I’m conscious that it’s easy to become detached. To be too focussed on doing your own thing, while the rest of the world moves on.

Learning about other peoples processes and approaches is enlightening. Seeing amazing work is inspiring. And this knowledge of the wider design landscape helps me to further define what Very Own Studio is, where it fits in and more importantly where it stands out, which in turn helps produce more relevant design.

There is always something new to learn.


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