Words are wind.

Here’s a startling admission for someone who writes words for a living: I seldom read books. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them. It’s not that I can’t make the time if I want to. I simply just don’t. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t an active choice. There has been no resolution to shun the professionally published writings of others. Nor is it a reflection on my need to be up to date with whatever is currently perched upon the nightstands of Readerati.

To me, reading a book is a luxury and an investment. The kinds of books I traditionally read put me in foreign places, strange times and inside the minds of characters that demand you obsess over every little detail of their fabricated lives.

The other thing holding me back from devouring paperbacks at will is that I am what most people would class as a terrible reader. Not in the sense that I lack the requisite comprehension skills to absorb the information, more like I read every single word. That’s right. Every. Single. Word. Sometimes more than once. And if a particular sentence is exceptionally well crafted, I’ll deconstruct it and try to figure out what it was that made that string of words sing so beautifully.

The last two books to cop the word by word workout have been A Feast For Crows and A Dance With Dragons – books four and five in the A Song Of Ice and Fire series by George R R Martin. Approximately 2000 pages in total. Needless to say, they took a while to wade through.

A phrase struck me as I read, and has stayed with me in the months during and weeks since: words are wind. It’s an utterance made by many, diverse characters from a made up place in a nondescript time, but its relevance to today resonated with me strongly.

In an age where more and more people are communicating on behalf of brands, not just externally in mainstream and digital channels, but internally among our colleagues, the way we use words has never been more important.

Not just because we are consuming more bite-sized information than ever before, but due to the sheer amount of information being pushed to our tvs, laptops, tablets and mobiles, we need the right wind to blow our audience away.

Shabbadu’s Chris Taylor forced to hire his own sister.

It is with great regret that Shabbadu’s Chris Taylor announces the hire of a new Digital Strategist: his sister, Kate Crawshaw.

“I can’t believe I’m having to say this out loud in public, but I have a talented sister who knows more about the important field of Digital Strategy than I do.” says Taylor through gritted teeth.

According to Taylor, he was left with little choice. “Recently, more and more of our clients have been wanting in-depth strategic thinking for their digital and social marketing campaigns. I tried everything I could to hire someone else, but – and it kills me to admit this – the fact is my sister is one of the best thinkers in the field. Her fifteen years experience and strong skill set in everything from board-level facilitation and creation of strategic plans to implementation and staff training is perfect for our clients and for us.”


“As part of her hiring conditions I’m required to acknowledge that she is now, has been and always will be smarter than me and that Mum loves her more because she is clearly the better child.”

Crawshaw is clearly happy with her new role. “Now that the whole sibling rivalry thing’s been acknowledged as the no-contest it obviously was, I’m looking forward to teaching the little snail-eating bedwetter how the world really works. I’ll give my little brother his due, though. Shabbadu is a fascinating business with some great partnerships already in place. My role is to help nurture those relationships as well as strengthening internal processes as the business heads into an exciting growth stage.”

Taylor has no concerns about mixing family and business, though. “Look, if it doesn’t work out I’ll give her a hug, thank her for her help and tell her she was adopted.”

The art of giving feedback ~ or ~ The Shit Sandwich

We ‘creative types’ are a sensitive bunch. Sure, we might act all aloof and intellectually superior on the odd occasion, but in reality we’re just faithful hounds to our client masters: pining for a belly rub and hoping they remember to feed us on time. This Jekyll/Hyde persona is no-more pronounced than during the creative presentation/client feedback parts of the creative process.

A presenting creative is confident and assured. They have answered the brief in a fresh way and they’re bound to blow the client away with their cleverness. A creative receiving feedback is the ultimate submissive. The client holds their hopes, dreams and future successes in their hands. In some strange way, this piece of work represents a small piece of the creative’s soul.

Don’t laugh, this is serious.

To a creative person, to stand before a client is to stand before Caesar. For they are the ultimate judge. There is no appeals tribunal. Just a thumb pointing up or down.

So stepping out of the poor, defenseless creative person’s $200 trainers for a second, it’s not the client’s fault that they can’t take criticism, is it? The client has a job to do. They have their own masters to please. Why can’t it just be how they asked it to be?

Well, the simple answer is, it can.

Sometimes as creatives, we get it wrong. Sometimes we get it hugely wrong. Other times, it’s mostly right but with a few little tweaks it’ll be bang on. Still, when we get it wrong, we need to fix it. But asking certain types of creative people that a little piece of their soul is wrong is akin to asking them to eat shit.

You can’t dress it up. You can’t make it taste better. But you can hide it. It all lies in the art of the Shit Sandwich.

So, how does a sandwich work? You’ve got a slice of bread at the bottom, filling in the middle and another slice of bread on top, right?

In the case of a shit sandwich, you start by saying something nice about the work. For example; “I love the visual treatment…”, “The headline was hilarious…” or “I really admired your punctuality…”

Then, you administer the ‘shit’; “But, it’s been rejected by legals”, “My wife/husband/cat hates it” or “It’s so off brief we sent out a search party.”

The final slice is another affirmation to leave the creative feeling positive about what must happen next; “We’ve managed to extend the deadline so there’s more time for you to come up with something amazing! We’re sure you’ve got it in you.” Etc…

Good news – Bad news – Good news. That’s the Shit Sandwich.

In my experience, it’s the most effective way to get a creative person to happily slice and dice a piece of their soul for you. The method also works really well on pre-school children.

But be warned, administering a good Shit Sandwich takes practice. I’ve seen good clients clumsily rush in with the Open Shit Sandwich (no layer of good news on top) which the creative can see from a mile off and get in a bad mood before you even start talking. Or even worse, the Reverse-Open Shit Sandwich. Which just leaves everyone really confused and with shit on their hands.

There’s no such thing as good, bad feedback. But when you slip it between a couple of slices of something good, it makes it a lot more palatable.

How to brief a creative person ~or~ Making sure you get what you deserve.

Briefs are like design books. Most creative people love receiving them, but they don’t read them much: they flick through them for vague inspiration before running off in the direction their heart/gut tells them to go.


But don’t let that dissuade you from writing one, because they’re massively important. Not just to guide the creative process, but to also help solidify your own thinking beforehand. Plus, when push comes to shove, it will be the lighthouse everyone looks to when they’ve all (yourself included) lost their way.

There is no ‘one’ perfect way to brief. Every advertising agency has a different template. But there are a few signposts you need to lay down to ensure the end result is right.

First of all, and this is the hardest part of the process, get rid of any preconceived notion of what the end result will look/sound/feel like. Just forget it. It will cloud the way you brief and it will cloud the way you respond to the work.

Step 1: Define what you want to achieve: Are you looking to build awareness? Are you having a sale? Are you launching something new? Whether you’re fulfilling a function or aiming for double-digit growth, put it down on paper and share it.

Step 2: Define the parameters: Who is the target audience? When do you need it by? If you’ve already booked the media, what’s the schedule? What’s your production budget? All these things will be factors that will affect the outcome. If you have the information, it’s best shared with those that need to know from the very start.

Step 3: Set the tone. If you’ve got an established brand this will be a walk in the park. If you’re starting from scratch it’s a process that really needs to take place separately. If you don’t know how your brand speaks to its audience, you really shouldn’t be advertising until you do. Taking the time to create one not only helps focus your communications, but can increase your effectiveness exponentially.

Step 4: Define how you will measure success. Separate from Step 1, this is more about what you want the target audience to think/feel/do once they’ve seen this piece of communication. Is it even measurable? If so, it’s good to set a target for the creative to aim for.

No offence, but this isn’t what success looks like to normal people. 


And despite all this required information, try to keep it short and sweet.

But what about the ‘Unique Selling Point’, or the ‘Single Minded Proposition’? These are ‘nice to haves’ but not essential. Besides, if you’ve got people writing those things for you, you don’t need to learn how to write a brief.

So there you have it. In short, know what you want to achieve, define the parameters, set the tone and define how you’ll measure success.

Start with these steps and an open mind, and your creative suppliers will thank you for it.

agIdeas 2013 – a conference in tweets.

agIdeas 2013 – a conference in tweets.

Over three jam-packed days, 40 of the world’s leading designers and creators gave us their insights into how to become a great designer. There were three commonalities that revealed themselves during the conference: design is empty without context; hone your craft skills and empathise with your end user.

Let’s Start With Day One.

    1. #agideas2013 now that’s 500 years of design experience standing on stage right there @agIdeas pic.twitter.com/n4Zt342aKK
    2. Neville Page (@nevillepage) talks creature design, working fast and drawing. It’s easier to sell a design to the client when you can show its emotion at play.
    3. The ultimate in design context – Nadine Chahine (@arabictype) talks about the redesign of Lebanon’s An-Nahar newspaper and the font they commissioned her to create.
    4. #agideas2013 Claire Kahn from Wet shows us her fountains. One looks like synchronised swimming made from water. pic.twitter.com/wcY8l6bIhy
    5. Lighting departments now control back drop video screens. #foreheadslap of course. Great insight @paulcollison #agideas2013 @agIdeas
    6. Paul Collison – “being creative isn’t a licence to be flaky”. Turn up on time wearing the right footwear. #agideas2013
    7. Can I replace my body parts? @OronCatts is out there. Lend me your ears. pic.twitter.com/4Vaq4XbUDZ #agideas2013
    8. #agideas2013 “sometimes the rules are the mistakes” -Heribert Birnbach
    9. At the end of Day One, there’s plenty for the organising team at The Design Foundation to be proud of. The day has run smoothly and there have been plenty of educational insights for experienced and aspiring designers.
    10. Congrats @kristinmccourtie (not on twitter) @kazsorensen @LeniKaponis @sampaverd on massive 1st day of Forum. @agideas rocks! #agideas2013
    11. agIdeas Business Breakfast – early Day Two.

      No rest for those seeking inspiration. agIdeas business breakfast presents design researcher and thinker Dan Formosa followed by the man who helped reinvigorate Teague design, John Barrett.

    12. Don’t design for ten thousand people. Design for ten of them. Much harder but results are much better. @danformosa #agideas #breakfast
    13. Think about the relationship the thing you’re making is forging with the user. That’s where you’ll earn your 5 stars. @danformosa #agideas
    14. “It’s personal relationships” says @danformosa “treat them like you’re dating” #agideas #breakfast it’s all about getting five stars online
    15. @J_Barratt from @teague1926 talking about work for Boeing. They make full-scale model planes! “Designers need to get tangible” #agideas
    16. After getting up early to speak at the breakfast, Barrett was also the last speaker on that day at 6pm. Totally different talk but same level of insight.
    17. 2000 people in the auditorium, end of a long day. No fidgeting to be heard. @j_barrett awesome presenter #agideas2013 #agideas
    18. @j_barratt keep a compact core team, define small number of goals, do prototypes, keep you design team close, always have a plan B #agideas
    19. “Taking risks with people builds loyalty” – @j_barratt from @TEAGUE1926 #agideas #agideas2013
    20. “I’ve spoken at a lot different conferences, but the diversity of #agideas is like nothing in the world.” @j_barratt Teague #agideas2013
    21. @danformosa says establish trust by doing more quick iterations in the drafting process. @j_barratt says “shut up and listen” #agideas
    22. Day Two

      First speaker on Day Two of the conference is poster genius, Alain Le Quernec. It’s obvious that english is his second language but it really doesn’t matter for this expert in visual communication.

    23. Alain Le Quernec knows 2 or 3 things: 1. reflect what is happening around you, #agideas
    24. #agideas Alain Le Quernec me:my client pic.twitter.com/gmHXEjym19
    25. Alain Le Quernec they are not real posters if they’re not in the streets #agideas pic.twitter.com/mz7hbKQJuJ
    26. Alain Le Quernec – clever#agideas pic.twitter.com/4an291lAra
    27. Alain Le Quernec – the Kleenex logo – use it throw it away – perfect for a truly famous client – let the client be the famous bit #agideas
    28. @davidnobay “what would have been helpful when I was nineteen?” What you think is great may not be what your client thinks is great #agideas
    29. @davidnobay “the most important thing about the relationship with your client is trust.” #agideas
    30. Diabetic jewellery. Empathy at work. Leah Heiss. #agideas pic.twitter.com/FJ4wUOtCVV
    31. How do you design? Empathise with the end user – walk a mile in their shoes. Leah Heiss #agideas
    32. Reiko Sudo – half of design is using the right material. #agideas pic.twitter.com/j1CgBe31vM
    33. Design is a service. @janvanschaik and his adventures in Mildura. #agideas pic.twitter.com/UKf2H48Xyh
  1. @chris_khalil from News Corp talks UX – rational and emotional come together to make engagement. #agideas pic.twitter.com/71relNefEJ
  2. Ian Anderson from Designers’ Republic.
  3. Ian Anderson – create a piece that resonates through time, great. create design that WORKS through time – genius #agideas
  4. Ian Anderson – if you work for money you end up with a tongue as brown as it can be. #agideas
  5. I’ve never seen a really good designer who is really rich – Ian Anderson #agideas2013 #agideas #CheerUpIan
  6. Eve Clone Series / Lin Pey Chwen / Taipei MOCA
  7. Eve Clone is an attractive and dangerous woman – just like the technology around us. Pey Chwen Lin #agideas #agideas2013
  8. @voice_of_design battle the “same same” Shatter the rhythm of routine with relevance. #agideas2013 #agideas pic.twitter.com/riX1pKOcxW
  9. Don’t risk unless you’re prepared to die every so often. Then pick yourself up and start again. @voice_of_design #agideas #agideas2013
  10. Awesome work, @voice_of_design #agideas #agideas2013 pic.twitter.com/yhMhJLCPAt
  11. Day Three

    We were all designed-out. Or so we thought.
  12. Build a font from a bridge. @Spin_TonyBrook #agideas #agideas2013 pic.twitter.com/G4mFRRWhTu
  13. “Even when you’re busy, give yourself an hour of play. Because design is PLAY.” @Spin_TonyBrook #agideas #agideas2013
  14. George Poonkhin Khut different approach to interaction. Use your heart to change the display #agideas #agideas2013 pic.twitter.com/gkDeFShPkQ
  15. Rest & digest. Fight & flight. “too much time with an interface transforms you.” George Poonkhin Khut #agideas #agideas2013 #hypercard
  16. ‘6 breaths per minute is the sweet spot in many different traditions.’ KhutAmazing thinking on computer interfaces. #agideas #agideas2013
  17. Creation thru destruction. But construction informs result. Interesting oxymoron @_DION_LEE_ #agideas #agideas2013 pic.twitter.com/XOdtZUAWGs
  18. “Fashion is change. Reacting to what worked & didn’t. So there’s always experience in a collection” @_DION_LEE_ #agideas #agideas2013
  19. Seasonless approach to fashion marketing because there is no geographic context on social media@_DION_LEE_ #agideas2013 #agideas
  20. Context makes my brand unique@_DION_LEE_ #agideas2013 #agideas pic.twitter.com/IiETSEisG3
  21. It’s hard to talk about design without talking about business-the product needs to be relevant to exist
    @_DION_LEE_ #agideas2013 #agideas
  22. The people who do well in design are constantly creating. Fear and self-doubt drive creativitySoren Luckins #agideas2013 #agideas
  23. Who do we design for?Greed, humanity & your family. The dynamic tension of the three. Soren Luckins #agideas2013 #agideas
  24. Curiosity – to create new you need to be soaking up new.
    Soren Luckins #agideas #agideas2013
  25. Smaller cities are conducive to serendipity.@petaheffernan #agideas #agideas2013 pic.twitter.com/8qNRmsA9EL
  26. The light on the hill.Again, the designer’s message is CONTEXT IS A STRONG SOURCE OF INSPIRATION.@petaheffernan #agideas #agideas2013
  27. The more interest you have, the greater your insight and the better your work will be.@petaheffernan #agideas #agideas2013
  28. Moooo.Daydreaming is fundamental to the design process. It’s not madness.Robert Foster #agideas #agideas2013 pic.twitter.com/xVS7s5dNJ0
  29. @aurora__design fear and a capacity for obtuseness. That mismatched pair are a great couple of mates for the creative. #agideas2013 #agideas
  30. Robert Foster (with a small factory in Queanbeyan) agrees with the mega-design co @TEAGUE1926 – prototype, prototype#agideas #agideas2013
  31. Portraiture is about who we are.A different approach?Christopher Chapman #agideas #agideas2013 pic.twitter.com/r69sc0R0l6
  32. Stony Cherng
    A designer who draws inspiration from her own world.
    #agideas2013 #agideas Should be subtitled CONTEXT pic.twitter.com/fzS0UimP35
  33. Stony Cherng shows us how designers must be magpies and collect from everything and everywhere. #agideas2013 #agideas
  34. “Why not?”The challenge isn’t to find the answers. it is to find the new questions.@AndyStalman #agideas2013 #agideas
  35. It’s the “top of heart” not the “top of mind” anymore.@AndyStalman #agideas2013 #agideas
  36. Bon Jovi kick off from Sonia Payes #agideas2013 #agideas pic.twitter.com/cgQ7my2yZt
  37. I don’t just click and walk away. I connect.Sonia Payes #agideas2013 #agideas
  38. Are we building for building’s sake?Sonia Payes #agideas2013 #agideas
  39. First things first.
    We’re not in business to make money. We’re in business to help people.
    @vincefrost #agideas2013 #agideas
  40. Too often design and advertising work for charity for their folio. Instead they should help. @OzHarvest
    @vincefrost #agideas2013 #agideas
  41. All the speakers are like living versions of their work.@kitweb #agideas #agideas2013
  42. And then Gemma O’Brien hit the stage. A rock star in the design student community, she was like a breath of fresh air. I got her twitter handle wrong, though (as she politely informed me a couple of days later). Her real handle is @mrseaves.
  43. Just draw, says Roger Dean.Someone’s listening, Roger.#agideas #agideas2013 pic.twitter.com/KZ7IJBEV9z
  44. “If you can defend a space you felt good. If you can’t, you feel bad.”Roger Dean #agideas #agideas2013 pic.twitter.com/bOcVCR7V6j
  45. “Where do my ideas come from? When I’m sitting calmly they come from over here.”Roger Dean #agideas #agideas2013
  46. Hope is critical to the creative process.Roger Dean #agideas #agideas2013
  47. Presenters clearly love it. They’re all on stage watching the summary of the three days #agideas #agideas2013 pic.twitter.com/vGpatcdz9h
  48. Foyer Action

    But agIdeas isn’t just about sitting in an auditorium and listening to a collection of monologues. This is the conference that prides itself on having its speakers available for dialogue in the foyer. It turns out that they’re all up for a chat, too. Apparently they’re all into design.

  49. @nevillepage sharing his time with students at @agideas #agideas2013 pic.twitter.com/gyPTM5ptdk
  50. @Spin_TonyBrook checking out the bookstall in the foyer. #agideas pic.twitter.com/dHQiIjmjPN
  51. Sharing her wisdom with conference guests in the foyer at #agideas @arabictype pic.twitter.com/EsagqTS13U
  52. Alain Le Quernec shares his thoughts with a conference visitor in the foyer. #agideas #rockstars #greataccess pic.twitter.com/5BB2gp7Lfq
  53. @janvanschaik talks boganistas and possibility of design with guest in the foyer. #agideas #talkwiththestars #foyer pic.twitter.com/5nY2pHonnm
  54. Ian Anderson Designers Republic walks thru foyer #agideas2013 #agideasDoesn’t look that miserable.#CheerUpIan pic.twitter.com/U3zjkKyxVA
  55. John Crawford checks out his work turned into fridge magnets. @agIdeas #agideas2013 pic.twitter.com/s4VJ640YLf
  56. I’m at @agideas #agideas2013 pic.twitter.com/gQhdPDjLAG
  57. the end.

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.



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.

Day 2 of a design forum through the eyes of a writer ~ agIdeas 2013

Day 2 begins at 5:45, which is inhuman. Soon enough I’m off the train, caffeinated and hob-nobbing at the Advantage Business Breakfast. Thankfully, bacon and egg rolls are in abundance. Normal service resumes.

Dan Formosa’s opening talk was first class. He was engaging, insightful, took us on a journey and made an impression on everyone. He reset the bar for the remainder of the speakers for the rest of the conference. So many pearls of wisdom: don’t ask ‘what’, ask ‘why’, ‘People don’t buy your product, a person buys your product’. So many workable answers to our problems: ‘It’s personal relationships, treat them like you’re dating.’ You just wanted to wrap him up, stick him under your arm and run away so no one else can benefit from his genius but you.

At first, I couldn’t place John Barratt’s accent and it distracted me. Then I realised it was trans-Atlantic Novacastrian and slapped my forehead for not picking it sooner. John works at Teague. A massive industrial design company that only has about 20% industrial designers on staff. Makes sense. Well, everything else he said did. No matter how big your project, get a small, core team to run it. And he knows big projects. Like, $200,000,000,000.00 worth of big. He also told us designers need to get tangible early in the process. Handy.

Both mornings before the ‘big show’ we’ve been treated to the musical styling of an up and coming band (Rebirth/Red Leader). I neglected to mention this yesterday. Today’s group, made me feel like I was at a Spandau Ballet concert. But in a good way.

Notre premiere presenteur, Alain Le Quernec, didn’t suffer from English not being his first language. In fact, he used it as weapon. I don’t know how you say ‘brevity is wit’ in French, but I’m pretty sure he does. He proudly proclaimed not to be ‘a reference or an example’, then proceeded to show us time and time again exactly the opposite. He had us eating his political, cultural, social communication out of the palm of his hand until we were full.

Second up was a man I’d been looking forward to hearing from ever since the speaker announcements were made so I’m probably going to be unduly hard on him for missing the brief. David Nobay from Droga5. ‘Nobby’ is one of advertising’s better-known characters, and for good reason. His work proceeds him, as does his ability to get the best out of those around him. The guy wins awards for breakfast, but I’m not reviewing his work, I’m reviewing his talk. Nobby took it upon himself to give the students in the room a ‘pep-talk’. This included telling them that there were already too many people in the industry and illustrating his points with clips from MadMen. It would have been great if he gave us insights into how we can overcome all the problems he brought up and gave us a better insight into what he looks for in people, but unfortunately he didn’t.

To whoever tweeted about the lack of female representation on the speaker list, Leah Heiss should have put your mind at ease. I’ll take quality over quantity any day. With agIdeas now falling under the Victorian Government’s Design Matters initiative, Leah stood confidently on stage and showed us precisely why. With a range of inspired, functional jewellery designs that administer medicine, monitor arrhythmia, project allergy information and more. Reducing the necessity to lug around cumbersome, embarrassing equipment in the process. Leah told us she’ll work with anyone, micro-biologists, nanothechnologists, designers, and pretty much anyone else who she can learn from or be inspired by. The collective subconscious in the room said “You can work with me” in unison.

After a quick break, the affable Simon Rippingale took us through the process of ‘getting a project off the ground’ while telling the story of how we got his latest animation “A Cautionary Tail” realised. “A Cautionary Tail” was written by his creative partner while holed up in hospital for a year (echoes of @FullSickRapper). Stylewise, it uses live, filmed sets with 3D animated characters. The results, that we saw, were stunning and clearly painstaking to create. Somehow he managed to get it voiced by Barry Otto, David Wenham and Cate Blanchette. Impressive. Inspiring. Informative. Everyone is barracking for it to be a success. Look out for it on ABC later this year.

Ok, so I met Jan Van Shaik (from Minifie Van Shaik Architects) for the first and only time on Monday night. After a few beverages we had a chat. Despite only meeting him once, I will trust him to the ends of the earth and back. I mean, you’ve got to trust a man who loves his mum so much to walk out onto a stage in front of 2,500 people, get them to stand up and sing her (hi Catherine) Happy Birthday. Jan’s talk was a great balance of information, aspiration and detail. The only thing that could have improved it was if he’d successfully organised a Kickstarter project to fund a group purchase of that art deco former hospital in Mildura. Maybe there’s still time…. I dare you.

Reiko Sudo, founder of Nuno Corporation and Nuno Works is a worldwide authority in textiles. The time and effort that goes into her work, is reflected in the exquisite results. I couldn’t even begin to describe it. Simply go to nuno.com and feast your eyes. Despite not being particularly fluent in English, it was easy enough for Reiko to let her work do the talking. Simply breathtaking work.

After lunch, Ken Cato announced the winners of NewStar. Again, the ladies shone out (apologies for not getting names: I think there was a Grace? and someone from New Zealand) Anyway, congrats!

Then Kane Hibberd filled the breech after the unfortunate passing of the scheduled speaker’s mother (condolences to Mr Mott and family). Kane is a rock photographer who likes taking photos of guys covered in ‘shiz’. His talk was a refreshingly candid study in believing in yourself, following your dreams no matter how shit people say you are to your face. He shoots promo shots for bands in unique ways. It made for a ripping yarn accompanied by some very interesting visuals.

Chris Khalil came out next to take us on a half journey/half lecture on the world of User Experience. Like Kirsty Lindsay yesterday, Chris told us that if people don’t notice what he does, he’s doing a great job. It must be a bugger for his boss to give him performance reviews. Still, it was a good peek behind the curtain as to why news sites lay things out the way they do.

Ian Anderson followed Chris. You could see a good percentage of the audience sit a little further towards the edge of their seats. Despite still having tickets to sell for his ‘Up And Over Down Under’ Workshop this weekend, he was definitely not on a charm offensive to win over those umming and ahing over going along. Ian grumbled, grizzled and swore through his set. He’s no arse-licker is Ian. There’s no such thing as a good, rich designer too. Maybe it’s his thing? Maybe the fact that he earned the Twitter hashtag #CheerUpIan during his talk will please him. His PR shot (a close up him casually giving a two fingered salute) would suggest as much. Not knowing him from a bar of soap beforehand, I saw him as someone I’d probably love to have a beer with, but wouldn’t cross the road to be inspired by. Still trying to figure out if his parting slide “Don’t be a cunt all your life” was ironic or not.

Taiwan’s Pey Chwen Lin has created a really interesting hologram based installation piece known as Eve Clone. She took us through the process of bringing the concept to life – which was kind of interesting. Then she went deep. She started talking about the planet and how we’re stuffing it up (which I’m totally cool with). And this all led into what Eve Clone was all about. I was kind of expecting a half-baked concoction that was tenuous at best. What we got was so good it was scary. From memory, Eve (the first woman) Clone (technology) represents the lust men have for technology, and their desire to advance it, be with it, and use it to the sake of everything else. Her eyes follow you around the room at all times. The explanation had one absolute effect – All the guys who were live tweeting, quietly put their phones down. Bless.

By this stage of the day, you need something refreshing. The guys from Voice design delivered. So confident were they in their ability to cut the mustard as designers, they started their business fresh out of Uni. Their theory was, you’re not born with it, you learn it, work hard and earn it. From the looks of their work and their shut-up-and-do-it attitude, they’ll do just fine.

Last up was John Barratt. I’ve already sung his praises and he carried on well in the face of a couple of technical difficulties. The big difference between this talk and this morning was it gave us an insight into how his career started and subsequently took off. It’s all about trust.

I trust, we’ll see some more brilliance tomorrow.