Day 3 of a design festival through the eyes of a writer who wasn’t there ~ agIdeas 2013

It was sometime during Pey Chwen Lin’s talk yesterday that I started feeling uncomfortably warm. By the train ride home I was shivering, and by the time I woke up on Friday morning, I knew I wasn’t going to make it to day three. So, here’s day three of a design conference interpreted by a writer through the notes and tweets of people who were actually there.

A font built from a bridge.

A font built from a bridge.

First speaker walks out and I’m already seething. I really, really really, wanted to see Tony Brook. As a ‘non-designy-type person’ his work really appeals to me. That’s not meant to be offensive. What I mean, is it’s clean, simple and it all works. There’s no bullshit. I get the feeling the man himself would be similar. Plus, he called his studio ‘Spin’ because he loves cricket. I wonder how close he came to calling it “Left-arm Chinaman’? Anyway, if I had have been there, I would have heard him speak of his work and offer up a great piece of advice regarding ‘inspiration’: It’s not where you get it from, it’s where you take it to.

Artwork created with biofeedback from the audience.

Artwork created with biofeedback from the audience.

George Khut could very well have been Friday’s Oron Catts: that guy you hadn’t heard of but blew your mind. Heard of biofeedback? Get your head around it. It’s awesome. George has already developed a game/app for hospitals that calms the player/user down as they use it. George’s presentation was a visual representation of the crowd’s feelings on a screen. It was confronting, beautiful and I’m super annoyed that I missed it.

Unique perspective is your point of difference.

Unique perspective is your point of difference.

I don’t know much about design, but I know even less about fashion. So 20 minutes with Dion Lee seems like it would have done me the world of good. Dion waxed lyrical on the importance of fabric choices (mesh, rubber, vein-like structures, thermal imaging in 3D) although visualising a concept always comes first. “Be honest with yourself to have a unique perspective”.

Soren Luckins is the Design Director of Büro North. He looks like he’s got a bit of swashbuckle about him. Unfortunately, I cannot confirm or deny this. He asked the crowd “Who do we design for? Greed, humanity or family?” Which is enough to put any crowd on the back foot. But that’s exactly where Soren likes to be. He shared with the crowd that fear and self-doubt make him a better person, and while he’s an optimist, failures and future challenges push him forward.

Munchkins?

Munchkins?

Gliding onto stage next, oozing class, came Peta Heffernan, Architecture and design eating out of the palms of her hands. She introduces us to Liminal Studios in Hobart and firmly agrees that answers arrive only if we collaborate and then outcomes often feel like magic. So I’ve got a mental image of her as Glinda, the Good Witch of the North from the Wizard of Oz.

The ladies love a man who can operate serious machinery.

The ladies love a man who can operate serious machinery.

I know quite a bit about the next speaker, Robert Foster. See, I told my wife to bravely carry on without me and go to the Gala Dinner on Friday night. She had quite a big chat to him. Robert Foster is a silversmith who’s acclaimed studio FINK delivers works that sit comfortably alongside Stark and Alessi. Robert Foster is so talented. Robert Foster is so amazing. He’s a free living daydreamer who believes new ideas fuel the mind. Yeah, I’ve got my eye on you, pal.

There's more than one way to paint a portrait.

There’s more than one way to paint a portrait.

Someone who definitely won’t try to steal your wife while you’re on your death bed is Chris Chapman. As senior curator at Australia’s National Portrait Gallery, he took the audience for a platonic walk through the rooms he’s put together in Canberra. If there’s one thing he wanted the audience to get to know intimately, it was the architecture of the gallery and the element of human scale which augments the audience’s pleasure. I’m told he made the audience feel at home and comfortable, like a true friend. Nice one, Chris.

Strong design.

Design that sings.

Stony Cherng burst onto stage amidst dry ice, ceiling fans and backlit venetian blinds and burst into song. Before the last note had hit the back of the Plenary, the audience were on their feet cheering wildly. Following the tweets from home, I did a search on the iTunes store. Nothing. I tried YouTube. Nothing. Turns  out she’s a better designer than she is a singer. Her style is clever, well-crafted and leaves you thinking ‘I wish I thought of that’. Just like her intro.

I knew something was up when I was tweeted a hug by a colleague. According to ‘Branding Expert’, Andy Stalman, the amount of gratification we get from social media, devices, etc is the equivalent of eight, six-second hugs. No wonder people are roaming the streets holding their phones rather than their significant others these days. Anyway, from the notes of others, it would appear that Andy was today’s speaker that missed the brief. Turning his talk into a big pep talk with audience participation. “Who’s in the centre stage of this era? ALL OF YOU! Don’t be afraid to be a superhero no one has heard about. New ME is WE. etc”

Bon Jovi fans are everywhere.

Bon Jovi fans are everywhere.

From hugging to listening to Bon Jovi, ‘It’s my life’ and a time-lapse of raw shots from Papa new guinea, Japan and China by Sonia Payes. Sonia lives and breathes photography, she’ll put herself in front of anything with an attitude. As long as she’s there with her camera she’s happy. Beyond the camera she experiments with digital mediums, processing and 3D. As we’re immersed in her depth and raw passion for photography, she educates us how pollution can work as a filter and effect rather than a photo of landscape. Her photos left you feeling as though you had met the subject and knew something they maybe kind of didn’t want you to know. Sonia explains, “I can do that I’m an artist, not politician.”

Vince Frost was one of the major draw cards of this year’s event. Once again, majorly cut that I missed him. If you’re reading this, he doesn’t need an introduction. As a designer he’s done it all, and today he spoke of how he’s using his powers for good. OZ Harvest, one of his current clients, rescues excess food and delivers it to those in need. Today’s Frost Design is all about giving from the heart, helping people to be better at what they do. There’s a focus on generosity. Giving to those who truly need your help. Clearly he’s won at design and now he’s angling to be the next President of the United States.  I’ll vote for him.

Come out of the cave, man.

Come out of the cave, man.

There’s something about the last grouping that seems to always throw up an unexpected hit. In my notes, this sentence leaps out at me. Kit Webster: a man who once called himself a hermit has now taken video, sound and mapped out lighting to a new level.  Words like compelling, spectacular, sensory, woah, and a few others that are a bit sweary were used to describe his work/presentation. Hands up who missed it! <waving>

Typography, not topography.

Typography, not topography.

If anyone was waning and daydreaming of the bar, Gemma O’Brien soon woke and sobered up their thoughts. Gemma burst onto stage in a bubble of energy that didn’t seem to stop. Ever. She’s probably still going. Talking about how she was discovered on social media and flown to Berlin to talk about her all over font body protest against graffiti art. She’s probably still effervescing of all the fonts she’s designed commercially since. She wasn’t just a breath of fresh air, but a fire hose of confidence. The kids loved her.

"Just draw" he said. Someone was listening, Roger.

“Just draw” he said. Someone was listening, Roger.

Roger Dean. A drawing legend who deservedly teased the day out just a little further than scheduled. He reminded the audience early in the piece to draw and take your sketch pad everywhere. As the talk augmented to a display of genius, you apparently just had to glance to room to see more emerging talent busily drawing. He effortlessly talked through slide after slide pointing out sketches that took him ‘20 minutes’ which looked like a good days work. Truly timeless work of an artist who’s drawings, font’s, album covers will be world renowned for decades to come. And a fitting end to another quality chapter in agIdeas history.

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