Designival 2012

On Thursday 22nd and Friday 23rd November, I paid a visit to Liverpool’s Designival, formerly known as Liverpool Design Symposium. Thursday saw plentiful opportunities to check out local design studios, whilst Friday featured some fairly big-name speakers at the thoroughly cool Camp & Furnace creative hub.

I really enjoyed meeting some of the designers behind the studios on the Thursday. I visited Uniform, situated on Fleet Street in the city centre, Mercy, who are up on Hope Street, SB Studio in their new office at Cleveland Square, and digital design studio Apposing who are right in the creative Baltic Triangle, on Jamaica Street. These are four design studios whose work I really admire, and it was particularly exciting (without sounding weird!) to meet the designers and developers behind them. Having recently become more engaged with designing for digital platforms, I found it particularly helpful to talk to the guys at Apposing, as well as having a fairly in-depth chat on a similar topic up at Mercy. I also got drenched in the process of walking around Liverpool, whilst the heavy rain and wind also caused the death of a second umbrella this week. But it was all worth it!

On the Friday, I ventured back over to Liverpool for a stint at Camp & Furnace. It was particularly interesting to hear Belgian graphic designer Sara De Bondt talk about her project The Form of the Book Book, which we looked at as part of one of our university modules last year. For this talk, I was sat right at the back, meaning I was also able to take in the full impact of this quirky, off the wall setting.

Camp & Furnace

A break for lunch followed, giving me time to explore the venue and the pop-up shops that Designival had organised. These included original screen prints, a local bookseller specialising in quirky design books, and Cow&Co, which runs alongside local studio SB Studio. I also had a pretty decent lunch – Chicken Sage & Onion casserole, to be precise! This was the first time I’ve eaten casserole out of a cardboard box. I sat and ate whilst other creatives enjoyed their lunches and drew on the table with felt-tip pens. 

Lunch at Camp & Furnace

I love how the building has kept its industrial, utilitarian roots intact, yet everything that is ‘new’ has been done very thoughtfully and in a way that is inkeeping with the building’s character. There are even caravans like the one below dotted around the place, which can be rented out as boutique hotel rooms!

After the lunch break, it was time for another talk – this time from illustrator and toy designer James Jarvis. He spoke of his love for toys such as lego, and ran us through the thinking behind Amos, a venture he set up in 2002. We were treated to numerous slides showing the Amos character in different situations, many relating to popular culture at any given time. He then did some drawing live on stage which was particularly interesting to watch.

James Jarvis drawing some of his favourite things – spherical characters and skateboards!

Later, we heard from Simon Manchipp, creative director and co-founder of London-based design studio SomeOne. He spoke at some length on the topic of branding, which was really helpful and interesting to hear, considering I’ve been working on a few branding and identity projects recently. It was great to see all of the work that SomeOne has been involved in, including the Compare the Meerkat/Compare the Market campaign; those who follow me on twitter will know that I am quite a fan of this particular phenomenon! Manchipp explained how weirdness can often give the best results – Compare the Market are now the leaders in the field of insurance comparison sites, having previously been at the bottom of the pile.

Compare the Meerkat! Weird = success!

He also spoke about the future of the logo, and displayed how the branding for the London 2012 Olympics, part of which was created by Manchipp and his studio, revolved around shapes and a design language, rather than a simple logo (even though the logo itself has become something of a talking point in recent years). Manchipp argued that the traditional logo, and creating consistency within a brand, is no longer effective enough. Instead, a coherent strategy should be created to work across various different channels, stating that stamping the same brand on everything is no longer the way forward. He also made the very valid point that nobody seems to like new logos – they always get stick from the press, the public, the staff and of course, the internet. I can’t say I agreed with him on everything, but it was really interesting and challenging to hear a different perspective, especially from someone with such experience!

Manchipp on the London 2012 branding and icons.

Unfortunately due to other commitments I missed the final keynote of the day, which was highly disappointing! But I am so glad I made the journey over to Liverpool for what was an interesting day of talks, in a really quirky, inviting venue. Here are a few pictures of Camp & Furnace, and the goodies I received from Designival.

Designival wristband! Nearly cut off the blood circulation to my hand when I put this on!

We were all given a copy of ‘The Designist’, a neat little book detailing the must-see things in Liverpool for designers!

This opened up into a neat little map of creative Liverpool, which then reveals the book. A bit like Pass the Parcel!

There it is!

Overall, I really enjoyed it. It was awesome to talk to some of the people from Liverpool’s top studios, and to hear from some of design’s biggest names on the Friday was especially helpful and interesting. If you couldn’t go this year, then I highly recommend you give it a go next year! It’s great to have such an event in Liverpool, rather than having to make the journey to London or even Manchester, cities that are normally seen as the creative centres of the country.