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17th April 2019 8 min read

Offset 2019

Categories — Events / Thoughts

Offset is a three-day creative fest of images, words and ideas that will hit you hard between the eyes. And the ears. And your toes. Firing all your senses and paralyzing your brain simultaneously.

This wonderful and much-loved annual design event succinctly describes itself in 8 words: 2 stages. 100 speakers. A lifetime of inspiration.

Yessssss pleeeassse.

Exposed for hours to an undiluted stream of visual magic, we leave in a dazzled state, feeling an urge to do more, push further and be better. The personal bar we walk out with is significantly higher than the one we went in with.

Here’s a selection of our favourite talks:

Edel Rodriguez – Artist & illustrator

Edel Rodriguez is great craic. The bold cheekiness and confrontational nature of his work get widely published in magazines all over the world (The New Yorkers, Time, Der Spiegel, Rolling Stone, Fortune). Despite all his success, he stays busy and active – taking to the streets to paste his home-made posters on the walls of his city to provoke reactions and conversation.

“I wanted this work to read like traffic or warning signs, graphic and fluorescent. I didn’t want to create sophisticated graphics, I wanted them to be brutal so they can connect quickly. “

We loved his story of sneaking into the lobby of Trump Tower at 1am to roll out a massive poster of his iconic “Meltdown” image on the floor and left it there to be discovered.

He urged us to “do what you want to do and do it on your own terms. The only thing you can control is your work, what you make and what you put out.‘’

Anna Ginsburg, Filmmaker

Where else other than Offset are you likely to see illustrated genitalia having conversations about sexuality? This is the first of two personal projects Anna shared with us called “Private Parts” – a 3.5 minute short film focused on addressing the stigma associated with female sexual pleasure. Her animation connects real-life recordings of men and women discussing female sexuality with illustrations of vaginas and penises to challenge this taboo in a fun and accessible way.

Her second project, “What is Beauty” focuses on the diversity of the female form and how perceptions of female beauty have changed over time.  Starting with fertility goddesses from 280000 BC to Elizabethan and Victorian-era bodies to the 20th century’s androgynous figures of the 1920s to the curvaceous hourglass forms of the 50s through to the Kardashian body type and finishing with the disturbing trend in self-objectification – women taking selfies of their bodies only (no heads in the frame). ‘Where has our connection with our bodies gone?’ Anna wonders. Why are young women choosing to dissociate their face, their mood, expressions, and feelings from their bodies in their imagery? She leaves us with the appeal to simply “love the body that serves you”.

Carol Lambert – Creative Director, Publicis

We’re grateful to Carol Lambert for choosing to share some very personal highs and lows that she experienced in early life and in her career in advertising. We especially enjoyed hearing how agencies delivered creative work in the days before the Mac existed.

Each of the 8 creative lessons she imparted included moments of humour, vulnerability, fear, and joy. She re-enacted a powerful childhood memory of being frozen mid-stride on her best friend’s stairs, paralysed with indecision about whether to continue up or go back down. A feeling that recurred when her book was slated by an ad agency in a job interview. Impressive that she had the courage and the humility to ask for help to turn things around – a testament to the hard-working success she is today.

Heartfelt, honest storytelling at its best.

Matt Griffin – Illustrator

Matt’s self-deprecating talk was a highlight for a number of reasons. His opening playground analogy was hilarious and clever – managing to fall off a slide when halfway down it, despite the odds, led him nicely into his overall theme of process and play – acknowledging that his experimental style doesn’t involve aesthetic doodles often seen in most designers’ notebooks. It was reassuring to hear him describe his process is unstructured, messy and haphazard.

He evidenced this claim with photos of his notebook drawings showing plenty of abandoned half-drawn efforts despite hopeful starts and best intentions.

For many of us, Offset can be an intimidating showcase of notebook “scribbles” which are often beautiful, perfectly formed, well-crafted standalone pieces. Matt encouraged us to keep persevering, “keep her lit”, don’t discard too quickly and finally something good will surface.

“Even by little scribbles, you are creating something in the back of your head. In my scattergun approach, my subconscious works on making it better. And eventually, that turns into a beautiful image.”

Aaron Copeland and Neasa Ní Bhriain, A Playful City

A Playful City is Ireland’s first not-for-profit focused on creating more playful, engaging and inclusive cities with and for communities.

“If cities are to be sustainable, they have to be designed for urban living and playing.”

Interesting to learn about their work behind the scenes which led to the development of the Spiel Mobile, a mobile play area co-created at a Design Charrette by 100 attendees and the Playful Streets Initiative. They have also successfully secured a broad range of high-profile partners from architects to state bodies to help them “create spaces that act as urban acupuncture to relieve pressure.”

“We celebrate community and are dedicated to play as a shared experience in the urban environment.”

Ailbhe Keane, Founder and Creative Director of Izzy Wheels

Ailbhe gave us a gorgeous account of how her college passion project turned into the international brand success that it is today. The idea was inspired by her sister, Izzy, who was born with Spina Bifida and as a result, is paralysed from the waist down. Ailbhe designed a range of stylish wheelchair covers for owners to match their wheelchairs with their outfits and feel more confident as a result.

With an excellent motto “If you can’t stand up, stand out,“ Izzy Wheels now collaborates with over 50 famous designers from all over the world on wheel covers. It was really uplifting to see photos sent to Izzy Wheels by wheelchair users from around the globe (referred to as “our Spokes People”) proudly sporting their Izzy Wheels. She concluded with an important call to action:

“We as designers have a huge responsibility to be inclusive from the products we make to what we communicate. It is really up to us to make that change.”

Anna Mantzaris, Director & Animator

This understated Scandinavian legend quietly blew us away with her stop-frame, animated short films. The process requires incredible attention to detail, patience, and perseverance. But wow is the result worth it! The combination of Anna’s storytelling and stripped back sets really draw attention to the vulnerable awkwardness and quirky behaviour of her handmade felt characters. With very subtle movements, she conveys so much of the human condition.

Her internationally acclaimed short film “But Milk is Important Too” is a delight to watch.

So too is the very dark and entertaining award-winning piece called Enough that she created as her first-year project in the Royal College of Art. Really interesting to get an understanding of her process and all the hard work and creativity that goes on behind the scenes.

‘How do you keep spontaneity in animation? It’s the accidents that happen in the process what makes the work much more interesting.’ – Anna

Victo Ngai – Illustrator

This wonder woman blew us away with her intelligence and talent. Victo showed us some of the complex and abstract briefs she receives and then revealed the solutions she came up with. Not only are they visually beautiful but she uses such clever lateral thinking in her approach.

Victo admitted the importance of introducing play into her work, not only to make the solution more interesting but also to make the process more fun and enjoyable for her. One of our favourites was a cover she created for Cincinnati Magazine to highlight the new and improving technologies in breast imaging and cancer detection. The brief prohibited the use of women’s breasts in the illustration so she disguised them in a bodily maze of blood vessels. Very smart.

Not only are we dazzled by the mesmerizing depth and detail in Victo’s work but also the eloquence of her words. So much value delivered in 45 minutes. We were completely transfixed by the content, that none of us wrote a single note :-0

Joe Caslin – Street Artist, Teacher & Activist

After 3 days of top-class content, it requires a special speaker to close Offset. Joe Caslin didn’t disappoint. He gave a very personal account of what provokes each of his activist projects and what was involved to bring them to life. Not only is the aesthetic in his work so incredibly beautiful, but his compositions hold so much story and meaning.

As a teacher of Tullamore College, five of his students took their own lives in the space of five years. This had a massive impact on him which triggered “Our Nation’s Sons” – a haunting series of images to remind us of young men who needed help and never got to live their potential. He talked about marriage inequality, drug addiction, mental health, suicide, and deportation – all of which he has sought to draw attention to through his work.  And he works bloody hard – funding 90% of his activist installations through his teacher’s wage – often working through the night to plaster his images on the walls of multi-storey buildings before getting a train straight into college to teach during the day.

What a privilege for students to have this man as their teacher – full of humour, passion, talent, and empathy. An amazing storyteller both on stage and through the images he creates, we owe Joe Caslin a debt of gratitude for amplifying what’s important, and in many cases, influencing social change.

What’s our biggest takeaway from Offset?

The message that rang loud and clear across the spectrum of speakers throughout the 3 days was this: Personal projects bring the richest rewards. This was reiterated in a slide by Elana Shlenker quoting Dutch studio, Raw Color: “Self-initiated work always costs a lot of money, but somehow it gets paid back. We throw our money out the window, but it comes back through the door. “

What’s going to change?

Working creatively with screens for much of our day, we have decided to create something by hand once a month. For the month of April, our theme is “New Beginnings”. It can be a painting, an illustration, a sketch or a sculpture. Anything handmade. Ideas are already flowing which is a lovely experience in itself. We’ll share our work at the end of each month. Any suggestions for a theme are welcome…

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