There was a great buzz around the first Manchester Design Symposium and I felt really excited that so many creatives had congregated together for the event. It seemed that much of the hype had been generated via Twitter and subsequently any Design Symposium related tweets should be followed by the tag '#mds' Many of the people I interact with on Twitter were attending the event and I wondered if any of them would actually speak to me in 'real life,' away from the safety net of the computer screen, The likelihood of which I found unlikely and was eventually proved right. There were five key speakers at the event; Si Scott, John Walters (Eye Magazine), Bruno Maag (Dalton Maag), Jonathan Barnbrook (Barnbrook) and Tom Dorresteijn (Studio Dumbar) David Crow orchestrated the event, commenting and introducing each new speaker. The theme of the event was 'The Value Of Design' and each speaker had free reign as to how they may interpret this. of course any public speech is an opportunity for self promotion and for some this is exactly what happened, whereas others genuinely offered their slant on the value design had. There were certainly a diverse range of responses. First up was Si- Scott. I have heard a talk from Si-Scott before and I have to say that this talk was not much different really. I didn't think that Scott explained the 'The Value Of Design,' but merely talked us through his career path so far and how he has become successful using his own personal style. I think that Si Scott has an interesting style of work and the direction his more recent work is going in is good. He is a down to earth person and I think many audience members related to him, however I didn't think he offered any interesting opinions and his oration was a bit dull (might have to let him off though slightly, as he was under the influence of strong pain killers)
John Walters, however, offered his opinion about 'The Value Of Design,' from a non-designer perspective, which is exactly what Eye Magazine is base on. It was very engaging and refreshing to hear his opinion. Founded by Rick Poyner, Eye magazine has brought design writing from being, at best, a caption or short summary to an extensive dialogue and interesting discussion. Walters explained his view that Design has Value in five key ways; Editorial, Cultural, Functional, Financial and Educational Value. During the Question and Answer section at the end I asked Walters whether he thought the online accessibility of eye magazine affected the popularity of the print version of the magazine, Walters answered that eye has always had a strong online base, and that eye's online presence is as important as print, and part of what has made eye so popular, it just depends how people prefer to view things, and he had faith in eye as a beautiful printed item as well as an informative online resource. I certainly regard eye as one of my major online, cultural resources.
Probably one of the most entertaining of the speakers was Bruno Maag. Maag is like a firework and jumped straight into his talk with a sparky warning to anyone not paying for font licenses that he would personally hunt them down. Maag has a very craft-based respect for typography and he told us about the return to black and white gouache in drawing typefaces, and that any intern must close their mac and appreciate type non-digitally before they can create type digitally. I was really inspired my Maag and thought it would be enlightening to do a placement at Dalton Maag, a kind of karate kid technique in learning about typography. Maag quite literally talked about the value of design, in that the design of typefaces, which are effective and which work to sell product, can literally lead to cold hard cash, his unashamed discussion of making money was something, some conservative Brits, may have found unusual, but Maag has proved in his own work with huge clients such as Windows and Nokia, that you can make a lot of money from type. (I suppose you would have to be paid a lot to design a typeface that can be read in 3 billion different languages!) Maag has also created a free typeface also called Ubuntu, which has a vastly impressive number of variations, made available to everyone regardless of financial circumstance, location or language or as Maag says "before now typography has mainly been in the domain of the geeks"
Jonathan Barnbrook talked us through his experience as a more unconventional type designer, I couldn't help but think their may have been tensions between Barnbrook and Maag, all in good faith of course. Barnbrook is an extremely likeable and witty character and although I am unsure if he described a value of design as such, it was really interesting to see how he sourced inspiration for his typography and imparted anecdotes from his design experience.
Finally tom Dorresteijn spoke about his interpretation of 'The Value of Design.' For some reason everyone woke up slightly as Dorresteijn began his talk, maybe it was the change in accent. As a design strategist, Dorresteijn believes that the value of design is the 'design of value' in that if you can persuade a client that your design has value, then that is the key to success. In other words if the client is turned on' then they will appreciate the value of design and see how good design can result in business success.
I found that all in all the day was really inspiring and it was great to experience so many discussion about the topic of design, I felt that the day re-affirmed my belief that what I am doing really doe have value and is extremely valid as a vocation. Although I was disappointed at the absence of female representatives at the event. Afterwards the talks continued at The Deaf Institute, with a networking event organised by 'designinnit.' (to be continued)