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19 November 2018

Design Manchester 18

19th October 2018 DESIGN MANCHESTER 18 Design Manchester – DISRUPT

Returning to Manchester in October (11-21) was Manchester’s sixth annual Design Festival, which aims to promote the discipline of design in its many varied forms.

The theme this year was ‘Disrupt’, a theme created as a reaction to feelings of growing political, social and environmental anxiety. Speakers this year at the highlight day-long conference, were creative movers and shakers chosen for their power with word, message and imagery to counteract against indifference and conformity. This year our team of four designers, Jack, Emily Alex and Myself (Martin) were in attendance at the beautiful venue, The Bridgewater Hall (home of the Hallé Orchestra) keen to soak up the inspiration.

The day kicks off with an introduction by City Council leader Sir Richard Lease working with Kasper de Graaf, Director of the design group, Images & Co. The platform is used to promote a vision for Manchester, “A Design Manifesto for the City”. The manifesto , sets out a 10-year vision for Manchester from a design perspective. Their main objective is to shape our interaction with the city, working with city Governments, Universities and leaders of civic projects. They are well placed to reflect on the city’s new-found confidence and position on a global design stage.

Up next is Anthony Burrill, a Graphic Designer with a passion for the well-turned phrase who precedes the motivational quotes of the Instagram generation. His messages, always printed with an analogue print process such as Linotype, are at once direct, unswerving and borrow in voice from historic posters. The effect is often both a call to arms and usually tinged with humour. His work is an antidote to clean digital printing and resonates well with its inherent human connection.

At the opposite scale (in terms of noise), is the work of Kate Dawkins Studio. A primary fascination with algorithms eventually led to an adaptation into light and sound pattern generation. Kate’s work coincided with development of LED lighting and digital programming and found application in incredible live experiences. Stand out amongst her projects was the installation of a dazzling light show at the London Olympics that immersed the stadium and all of its spectators. The task required both studio and on-site experimentation to ensure that the whole flowed with the performers on the central stage. The effect at the opening and closing ceremonies with spectacular. Kate and her extensive team have gone on to create other notable successes including a sensitive and compassionate remembrance of the Battle of Passchendale Centenary at Ypres, Belgium.  

The power of theatre in presentation should never be overlooked and a case in point occurred when Design Studio were asked to pitch for the brand development of Airbnb. In a bid to grab attention and to show that they were on board with the Airbnb platform, Design Studio listed their own studio as a vacation let and hosted the pitch presentation from there. Of course this immersion in the brand found huge favour and the studio was signed up before the pitch even began. Founded in 2009 by Ben Wright and Paul Stafford, Design Studio puts Design at the heart of its business and allows designers to play a large role in every step of the process.  

If one needed a case study of colour as disruptor, no better example could be found than in the work of Morag Myerscough of Studio Myerscough. Her work is characterised by bold, saturated coloured graphics with lo-fi typography. Myerscough has primarily worked on site specific installations which range from The Design Museum, where she has brought vivacity to the austerity of John Pawson’s cool austere architecture and a bright optimism to visitors of Sheffield’s Children’s hospital.  

The afternoon took a decidedly more political tone that was at times somewhat uncomfortable with partisan opinions on the omnipresent Brexit story. Michael Wolff was joined in conversation by Madeleine Kay, otherwise known as EUSupergirl. Kay demonstrated how contemporary media channels could be used to counter-attack a cash rich political call to arms with creativity and a loyal fanbase. Wolff, from the position of a global studio, uses the power of design to enable businesses to become better, more fit for purpose and to adapt to changing times. We felt however, that his story was somewhat lost in the midst of the well trod Brexit narrative.  

These are just some of the highlights from the day and our team of four had found much here to provoke and inspire. It will be interesting to see how the conference grows and plays out in the coming years; what will future themes be and who can they attract as guest speakers? On this basis, Design Manchester have created a sound footing for the future of design awareness in Manchester and one we will be keen to revisit.    

Martin Orme