The sixth annual conference from the genii behind It’s Nice That was held last Friday at the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington (posh crib). The jam-packed one-day conference featured inspiring talks from a diverse range of creatives with mad skills and useful advice to share, as well as pop-ups galore to entertain and exhibit in the breaks. Here are some of the highlights…
Adopting the strangely wonderful habits of the ‘Hovering Art Director’
Jasper Janssen, senior creative from McGarryBowen, set a humorous tone for the day by kicking off the talks with a dissection of his work on the ‘Hovering Art Director’ spot for the sponsor of the conference, Adobe Stock.
The spot transports you to the real La La Land a.k.a. Advertising, where a stoic designer is subjected to the neo-tribal-tattoo-and-wavey-garm-sporting art director, who comes complete with contradictory feedback (“I want black, with a little bit of white”) and egocentrism (“I know it was your idea but it was my idea to use your idea”).
We were treated to some of the commercial’s improv scenes that didn’t make the cut but had us all in stitches (do I count as a copywriter whose only weapons are puns yet?) and Adobe Stock were on hand to let us become Hoverings-in-training through art directing personalised labels for our very own bottles of ginger beer.
Jokes aside, Janssen gave us some pretty good tips for the collaborative process, such as working out exactly what the problem is before running to give a solution, a common pitfall that perpetuates the dreaded never-ending feedback process.
Continuing the drinks train
Cold brew on tap! We had our palate truly wetted by Hugh Duffie, co-founder of Sandows London, the UK’s first independent cold brew brand. Make sure you pass swiftly over Pret’s offerings in favour of this delicious caffeine nectar…
Inspiration comes from the darn-dest of places
Juno Calypso, the young photographer best known for her brilliant Honeymoon Suite and comical Joyce series, dazzled the crowd with her schoolyard cool, authentic suavity and all round lack of pretence.
She managed to convince everyone that the selfie is actually pretty cool and it’s O-bloody-K to have a dry creative patch, then suddenly get your lightening-bolt inspiration from punching in a Google search. It was also massively calming that she, too, hates the question “What do you do?”
Utilitarian and genre-bending sustainable fashion designer Christopher Raeburn similarly reassured us that inspiration sources can be as unexpectedly commonplace as the uber-functional German sleeping bag (complete with sleeves and hood… the dream) that he encountered as a six-year-old in Kent.
Astrid Stavro, the most travelled graphic designer IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD, treated us to her grassroots font FS Sally Triestina, a merging of typefaces to characterise her hometown Trieste (despite being able to call 33% of the Earth home!).
She treated us to the reel of her Mallorca-based design agency Atlas, complete with its sharp aesthetic, multicultural influences and melting jazz soundtrack, and left us with a meaningful and relevant message on the importance of cultural acceptance and collaboration.
Cooking up a stationery storm with Risotto
After enjoying some lunch in the sun, we chatted to Risotto, the bold design brand now stocking their wicked collection of prints, stationery and apparel at Liberty London. Go get!
We got to build and customise our own notebooks, choosing from a variety of prints to layer up on the cover, then picking the page insert designs and finally hand-stitching the binding for a truly unique journal.
Getting philosophical with drawing
“Drawing is taking a line for a walk” – Paul Klee.
James Jarvis glazed over 15 years of work of toy design and soft vinyl mastery, eschewing the decorative nature of art in order to give a fascinating talk on delving beneath the surface of drawing and examining the process itself.
He cited skateboarding as a long-term inspiration, in viewing the board as a vehicle to explore physical space and repurpose everyday objects into ramps, pipes and obstacles. I spoke about this a few days later with a mate, who isn’t a skater but told me that playing Tony Hawk video games as a kid warped his perception of the outdoor urban landscape in a similar way to what Jarvis was describing. Long live PlayStation!
This perceptive play paved the way for Jarvis to use drawing as a means to explore ideas – conceptualising the actual act of drawing.
Referencing Plato’s Theory of Forms, the walks of artist Richard Long and Nietzche (obviously), Jarvis took us through his re-imagining of the drawing medium, using it as a physical tool to aid the intellectual process.
Chair-related antics and a robot arm that draws better than you
The Conran Shop and Carl Hansen exhibited some very fun furniture; most notably a giant shell chair that (and I’m sure the Dude would agree) would really tie the room together…
Good ol’ Benny was on site demonstrating his mad weavin’ skillz by constructing one of their glorious wishbone chairs – up for grabs if a savvy guestimator was able to correctly predict how much cord was needed to make the chair.
Still waiting for them to confirm my victory…
We were able to take away works by Peter Judson, Martina Paukova, Fran Caballero and Jonathan Calugi thanks to Joto, the first connected display that draws with a pen. Using the same technology as laser-cutting, Joto takes pictures and words from a screen and translates them into pen and ink drawings. Dezeen rightly calls them “an Etch-a-Sketch for the digital age”.
Joto have now reached their Kickstarter target, so expect to see these robotic drawing boards popping up in UK homes soon!
Candid is the best policy
Triboro’s all-round cool dude David Heasty and uber-talented conceptual artist Ryan “War on Everything” Gander gave us some wonderfully candid talks, with Heasty dreading a bollocking from the missus and Gander having us giggle over his New Year’s resolutions, hatred for palm trees and cheeky anti-business card.
Heasty talked us through the process of arriving at their design work for the restaurant Sauvage, Nike NYC and the ‘Wrong-Coloured Subway Map’ which provided an eye-opening insight into the design process. Gander faux-worried about running out of time while he talked us through his dramaturgical sculptures and the blurred lines between his art and everyday life.
Filmmaker and animator Anna Ginsburg gave us a humorous account of the inspiration and process behind her short film Private Parts for Channel 4’s Random Acts. Nothing says Friday 3pm like hearing about someone’s first masturbation experience.
Middle Boop alert
Bumped into the designer with the toppest of bantz, Gordon Reid of Middle Boop – check out his awesome work here. He was speaking to our good friends at Adobe about his work and graphic design, and dishing out some sweet sweet merch. Lighters ahoy!
And here he is pictured with Klara Block, budding graphic designer and student at Cambridge School of Art at Anglia Ruskin, check out her ace work here.