Last month saw the Bord Gáis Theatre swarmed with a large segment of Ireland’s creative community, who gathered to see the big hitters of their industry expound on their processes, skills, catalogues of work and sources of inspiration.
As a junior ad creative, Offset is a great chance for me to learn and absorb whatever nuggets of advice I can scribble down fast enough, expand my understanding of the creative industries and generally get all inspired and creatively riled-up.
This year’s schedule was packed with creative influencers from all corners of the industry including illustration, fashion, animation, advertising, typography, installations, extremely insulting hate-mail and loads, loads more.
Each speaker had their own twist on addressing the crowd, with some detailing their creative processes and personal backgrounds, and others going through catalogues of well-known work paired with interesting backstories.
It’s the former that interests me primarily; I love hearing how people approach a new job or what makes them excited to be ‘a creative’, so I’ve gathered a few of my favourite bits of advice from the weekend.
USE YOUR SURROUNDINGS
Many people spoke about the influence their surroundings had on their work. For some, this came in the form of constantly consuming and taking inspiration from everything that caught their eye or made their hearts sing, while others practiced this in a more literal way.
Character design studio TADO advised us to “consume everything” and to “let your surroundings inform you”. For them, this was a case of an almost out-of-control toy and comic book collection, fuelled by their shared passion for delightful character creation.
For other people like Morag Myerscough and Russell Mills, their surroundings played a much more physical role. Mills spoke about constructing a six foot tall iron logo for the band Nine Inch Nails, and leaving it exposed to the English weather for effect, reminding us to see the natural world as our school and to “look at it, learn from it”.
GMUNK, one of the liveliest speakers of the second day, spoke about observing his roots in the past, as well as the importance of the present. Speaking about how crucial good references are as a visual tool, he even shared his Pinterest board with us, encouraging the audience to “consume and catalogue everything that resonates with inspiration.”
MAKE IT WRONG
Another strong theme to emerge from the weekend was the importance of failure. 4Creative’s Chris Bovill and John Allison spoke at length about this topic. They advised everything from “professionally winging it”, to just “making it wrong”, and viewing “success as a distraction”.
U2 creative team Stephen Averill and Shaughn McGrath touched on this too when they admitted using photoshop “in just the wrong way” to get interesting tones on the iconic album cover for ‘POP’.
And Seb Lester, the final speaker of the event, made reference to a Morihei Ueshiba quote as a constant reminder in his creative life; “Failure is the key to success; each mistake teaches us something”.
And then there was Mr. Bingo. Possibly one of the best examples of being unafraid to make it wrong, Mr. Bingo has an undeniable sense of mischief and an urge to follow through on ideas no matter how wrong – or even officially treasonous – they may be;
Being unafraid to fail isn’t necessarily new advice, but in a world that values success above all else, sometimes we need to be reminded that we’re here to try our best. Inevitably that will sometimes lead to a face-palm-worthy fail, but it’s only from failure that we’ll learn anything about ourselves.
BELIEVE IN YOURSELF
“Be a creative terminator” was another pearl of wisdom that particularly resonated with me. Another one from 4Creative’s Chris & John, they wanted to drive the point home that starting off in any creative industry can be tough, but the key is persistence. As their ‘non-chronological chronology’ continued, they paired this piece of advice with others that might apply once you’ve made a success of yourself, such as “always be naïve” and “always be humble”.
Jonathan Barnbrook – creator of ‘Mason’ typeface and designer of many Bowie artworks – hit on this too when he said “you attract the work you want to do”, referencing the importance of being pro-active in your career. His talk was a definite highlight for me, particularly because he didn’t discount the opportunities to have fun and push boundaries within advertising. Where some other speakers saw client work as a necessary evil in their lives, Barnbrook seemed to approach it with the attitude of possibility and opportunity. Advertising may be a controlled space, but Barnbrook reminded us that “we can take it back occasionally”, making it work in new and unexpected ways.
Piranha Bar’s Gavin Kelly gave us some clear examples of self-belief too, interspersed with lovely old ads from the likes of eircell that captivated the attention of the audience. Kelly spoke about not letting one skill define him (or the studio), bouncing from project to project with the enthusiasm that comes from having a distinctly “fragmented creative identity”.
Seb Lester was another expounder of self-belief, ending his talk – and the entire conference (and this blog post, I guess!) – with this mesmerising video:
Grainne Harnett is Copywriter
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