Last Friday, a group of us went to a ‘creative symposium’ where we got as much free flavoured coconut water as we could drink. It was run by the people behind the brilliant It’s Nice That blog. And it was called Here.
Laurie Pressman kicked off with a note from the sponsors, celebrating colour as a ‘mind altering drug’ on the 50th anniversary of Pantone. She took us on a colourful journey from the psychedelic sixties through to today’s “insatiable desire for newness”. Yes, she did reference the “freshness and humour of lime.” And the fact that Starbucks imbued the colour brown with an unprecedented panache. But it was interesting to think about the relationship between colour and design through the ages.
Wayne Hemingway was a major highlight for most of us. To quote Ben, he’s a “bloody inspirational chap.” Why? He’s been banned from Swindon. He called Michael Gove an “idiot.” And brilliantly, he used the phrase “daft cat.” Wayne suggested we “meet every Monday and remind each other why you’re here.” He said that “design is about improving things that matter in life.” Finally, he said he believes that “sometimes you just have to react to things” while warning us against pigeonholing ourselves.
For proof of his theory that design is about life and that you don’t have to be an architect to know how you’d design a house, take a look at the development he designed in Gateshead.
Mark Porter, former creative director of The Guardian, was another highlight. He also said loads of great stuff. Like “creativity isn’t magic.” And, “it’s a privilege to work with great content” – something which is really true for us at Oxfam, too. He also quoted Stefan Sagmeister: “Great work is good work that’s been pushed harder” – which resonated with us all. His comment that designers “shouldn’t think they know better than ordinary human beings”, sounded confrontational. But it was really all about putting the audience’s needs above everything else.
At lunchtime we took a break and wandered up to see Sou Fujimoto’s Serpentine Gallery Pavillion which poses a “Fundamental question about how architecture is different from nature, or how architecture could be part of nature, or how they could be merged…what are the boundaries between nature and artificial things.” You can see Matt and Joe looking confused on it below.
Other Here quotes that stood out one way or another:
“Global warming is bringing new colour to our maps” – Laurie Pressman.
“Build it to understand it.” – Stuart Wood. (Take a look at his ‘Swarm Light’ project to see how nature is still such a great source of inspiration even in a digital world.)
“There is no wall.” – Kate Morass.
“All my best ideas come when I’m on the phone to the client. I don’t like to spend too long on any one project. I mean, I don’t have time for that kind of shit – I work in the music industry!” – Kate Morass.
“Simplify ideas to improve them” – Sarah Illenberger.
“You don’t need a brief to come up with ideas” – Erik Kessels.
And finally, the bonkers moments:
The ‘erotic collage’ from Spanish collective, CANADA.
Nelly Ben Hayoun’s microwave gun and Nasa Space Orchestra. We’re glad she is manufacturing the impossible. We don’t understand it, but we love that she’s doing it.
Sarah Illenberger’s dress made out of sprouts and cabbages.
Rafaël Rozendaal’s interactive (and farting) web art.
Adam “sausages” Buxton, using Garage Band to “extend the shit out of a cymbal.”
To sum up: Here 2013’s ‘have a go’ theme was a compelling call to action. Above all, the symposium offered up proof that everything – from the sublime to the ridiculous – started out as an idea that somebody somewhere was brave enough to commit to.