OFFF Review 2010 – Digital Creation Culture

4am start to get Taxi to Heathrow with Mary Agnes who was accompanying me on this venture. Finding out there was to be a general Strike in France that day is not the best news when you are due to fly to Paris. However the plane was only delayed by about 20 mins.
After getting a Taxi from Charles de Gaul only to find the motorway into Paris was jammed meant we didn’t arrive at La Grande Halle de la Villette till around 11 30, an hour late. There was the most almighty queue due to some mess up over allocating wristbands. Presumably not helped by the Strike.
The Hall itself is a huge impressive structure constructed of Iron. Built between 1865 and 1867 by architect Jules Merindol it used to be a Market and Slaughterhouse.
Grande Halle
Eventually got inside the venue to catch the end of Hellohikimori & mudbubble. Nice to see their work doing pieces for True Blood and Glee. So tired from travelling though so difficult to make much analysis of this section. Next on the bill were H5 however this was cancelled “Due to the strike”. Shame as I was looking forward to their presentation. An opportune moment to head over to the Hotel then and drop our bags off.
After lunch we got back for Craig Ward. He did a presentation showing his whole process and methodology behind creating Typefaces. Particularly striking where his experimentations with Hair, dropping clumps and taking reels and reels of pictures until he came up with a bunch of “Happy accidents” that represented letters of the Alphabet. The whole thrust of his ideology was the ability to create beautiful works through random chance events, so that new visual languages could be created were the mind of the Artist/ Designer would not be able to come up with these works using their normal thought process alone.
Next on the stage  were Dixon Baxi, presenting about their work with fiveusa (UK digital channel). Fantastic how they were able to create these great “stings” and “montages” to sell the channels content. They make re- runs of old 80’s action films that you have probably seen half a dozen times look fresh, new and exciting.
Then came Neville Brody – it was supposed to be Keith Schofield presenting but I can only assume this was another  casualty of the French Revolution. Neville decided he would not present about himself but interview one of his greatest influences the French Design Anarchists Bazooka. Together with a reluctant translator what preceded was probably one of the most shambolic, controversial but interesting presentations of the day so far.
Commenting on the Modern world of Graphic Design Kiki (I believe) from Bazooka proclaimed “It’s all shit”. Talking about all the corporations he proclaimed he would “Kill them all”. He even said he would kill Neville Brody.
The essential protest was that by doing work for big globalised companies or anybody with a commercial message you are not able to express yourself artistically. These are people who see Graphic Art as a tool to transform and change the world. They believe anyone using Graphic Art to further the interests of Agencies or companies are worthless. A big message aimed at a conference which must be dripping with Company Execs and Commercial interests.
These themes of Designers been able to express themselves Artistically Vs the Constraints of Commercial work would be continued the next day.


OFFF Paris 2010 Titles from OFFF, let’s feed the future on Vimeo.

So after a welcome nights sleep and a decent breakfast I arrived at offf feeling sharper and ready for a full day of technical insight and creative inspiration.
First on the bill was Hoss Gifford. This was a great lecture on some key fundamentals of programming and also how to conduct your Business. Compared to the Anarchy of the Bazooka performance the previous evening we were back into the room of commercial realities. It was a well paced presentation. Early on he talked about the principles behind “Less is more”, with a criticism towards anyone who uses this philosophy for the sake of it. He used the Benjamin Franklin Story about a Hatter:
“I have made a rule, whenever in my power, to avoid becoming the draughtsman of papers to be reviewed by a public body. I took my lesson from an incident which I will relate to you. When I was a journeyman printer, one of my companions, an apprentice hatter, having served out his time, was about to open shop for himself. His first concern was to have a handsome signboard, with a proper inscription. He composed it in these words, ‘John Thompson, Hatter, makes and sells hats for ready money,’ with a figure of a hat subjoined. But thought he would submit it to his friends for their amendments. The first he showed it to thought the word ‘Hatter’ tautologous, because followed by the words ‘makes hats,’ which showed he was a hatter. It was struck out. The next observed that the word ‘makes’ might as well be omitted, because his customers would not care who made the hats. If good and to their mind, they would buy them, by whomsoever made. He struck it out. A third said he thought the words ‘for ready money’ were useless, as it was not the custom of the place to sell on credit. Every one who purchased expected to pay. They were parted with, and the inscription now stood, ‘John Thompson sells hats.’ ‘Sells hats!’ says the next friend. ‘Why, nobody will expect you to give them away. What then is the use of that word?’ It was stricken out, and ‘hats’ followed it, the rather as there was one painted on the board. So the inscription was reduced ultimately to ‘John Thompson,’ with the figure of a hat subjoined.”
Hoss’s main point was that you often have to begin with “more” before you can strip an idea down to it’s bare essentials therefore ending up with less.
The remainder of his talk continued with good advice from his experiences within the industry – each function within a code should do only one thing at a time, Pick a font and stick to it, Never discount your fee, Rich people own assets, poor people own liabilities. He also commented on how outliner was an extremely useful tool he uses to structure his ideas – a product developed by my friends Husbands company.
Next to present was Tara Mcpherson. Her talk began with her showing some early school paintings and her progression through Art College, then her decision to take a degree in Astrophysics. I believe she managed a year of this before deciding that her true love was painting after all. It was an inspirational talk as she showed her work designing Toys, Packaging, Rock Posters, Comic Covers, Tattoo’s, Wall Paintings, Screen Prints.
What is great about her work is that though she has worked for various clients she appears to have been given quite a lot of creative freedom. Again this is something very important to her and touches upon the issues raised by Bazooka the previous night.
Having watched two great presentations it was time for a break and lunch. Returned in the afternoon to see Knife Party. Presenting was the man at the helm Simon Robinson. This turned out to be one of the most inspirational talks for me. The presentation was about a collaborative animation film titled “Coalition of the Willing“. The film is based on what is essentially an essay by the writer Tim Rayner. It discusses that how together through modern technology and social networking we can create a “Swarm” movement similar to the radical movements that brought about social change during the 1960’s, with the specific aim of stopping man’s affect on Global warming. What was particularly impressive was that this was a largely voluntary project and was using the skills of Artists, Animators, Directors and writers to produce a piece of work aimed at improving the society and world that we live in.
One of the Animators involved Nina Pfeifenberger summed it up quite well when she said that one of the roles of Commercial Graphic Designers and Animators was to manipulate peoples minds, and it is rare to get the chance to work on something with true value so when you do you should grasp it with both hands.
I’m sure the guys behind Bazooka must find it hard to critique this particular project, in the same way that they appear to have written off the majority of the modern breed of Graphic Designers. Having said that, working on a project like this would not do any harm to your future employability by large corporations.
So to follow we have Universal Everything, a design company helmed by Matt Pyke. Again we are back firmly in the world of commercial Graphic Design. In this presentation Matt talks of his development from the Artwork of his school days. It was a slick presentation and showed some impressive work he had done with various clients including Nokia and the V&A. A large section was dedicated to the re- design of the MTV titles. A portion of the previous presentation discusses how 60’s culture has been re- appropriated, I believe MTV is a good example of this – how themes of personal freedom and Pop culture are intertwined to sell a product. I guess in this case MTV and its sponsors are the product.
After a deserved break I returned to catch the presentation by the SOSO collective, who showed their work using the Media to create live performance events, They used the words spoken during media events such as public apologies from Politicians, Celebrities and Corporations and broke them down into different categories. Using statistical data gathering techniques these categories where displayed in various visual formats. A fascinating way to show and document how language is used in the Media.
So the Final day has approached. The day began with a presentation from Art + Com.
Presented by the Company Chairman Prof. Joachim Sauter it was a good start to the day. Art + Com specialise in creating interactive exhibitions within public spaces. He took us through projects such as a Dinosaur exhibition within a Museum, where by looking through a viewer directed at a T- rex Skeleton flesh would be applied to the bones and the exhibit would come to life. Other projects included a walkway where digital ripples would be created when stepped upon, only to be transferred to the pool underneath to create real ripples. Then there was a brilliant project for BMW which created a Kinetic sculpture using Metal spheres which showed the production of a BMW car. There was an element of Frustration when Prof. Sauter explained how BMW went on to use the concept in their advertising campaign without any credit going to Art + Com. This is a theme that has been brought up by a few presenters – seems that a good idea will be mimicked and re- appropriated without any permission from the original creators. Sometimes there is nothing that can be done you just have to let it go. At least it is a compliment.
One of the final messages from the Professor was the importance of teaching what you have learned as this makes you re- evaluate your own way of working and as a consequence maintain your standards and keep out bad practices. He showed some examples of his students work including image fulgurator by  julius von bismark which was quite simply excellent. A device that would cause words or images to appear over an object when an unsuspecting member of the public would take a picture using a flash. For example people would be astounded when they would check their pictures of a painting of Chairman Mau only to find his face was obscured by a Dove taken from a famous Magritte Painting.
So next on the menu was Grady and Metcalfe. They gave a confident talk on their pop culture magazines and video work. Their focus was on what motivates them and they opened by talking about the dangers of “Analysis Paralysis”. The theory is if you think of all the obstacles in the way when you come up with a grand creative vision then you will never go ahead with it. An example they gave was Walt Disney when he originally presented his ideas about creating the Disney Theme parks.
So they continued and talked about their first Magazine Gum and how they managed to get this produced even though it broke all the Magazine conventions – the first issue was presented in Gum card format and included stickers, tattoos, gum, interviews in the form of Mini comics. As this was a work of love and had limited commercial success they then talked about the development of their magazine Lemon which, though still “Off the wall” had more commercial appeal.
To conclude they summed up their philosophy which boiled down to “Ready, Fire, Aim”. In other words – don’t get bogged down with thinking about things too much just go for it. I guess this Philosophy can work in certain situations however I’m also sure there are plenty of arguments against this. For instance George Bush Juniors war policy on Iraq.
After a visit to Montmartre for lunch I returned for the afternoon session. Non-Format where first up. This is hands down the winner for the most energetic, enthusiastic presenter, Kjell Ekhorn. Highly entertaining he discussed his projects and how they always follow a “Wheel of Style”  – Excitement, Established, Mass – Market, Cliche, Embarrassment, Forgotten, Nostalgia, Reinvented, Avant-garde. An early example he used was his work on an Orange billboard campaign. As it enters the Mass Market phase it gains imitators then as a consequence becomes a Cliche, then an embarrassment then eventually forgotten.
There was a lot of talk about their work on Typography and the different styles they have created. Recent work includes their album cover for Delphic. All in all a highly entertaining presentation.
A hard act to follow but next up was Julien Vallee who created the offf 10 Sponsor titles. He gave a well presented talk about his work and his move away from digital based animations towards more traditional animation techniques – he did some great pieces using paper. He finished by showing the offf sponsor titles.
Then The Mill were up and began by showing the off opening titles. These were highly impressive, however the following talk about the making of the titles was quite laboured. With a Panel of presenters it was really a case of too many cooks. This meant an opportunity to venture downstairs to discover a performance by Random, who was full into the swing of his “Chip – style” sounds. This was highly entertaining and frankly, a relief from the performance upstairs.
To end the night in style then it was Lullatone and Michael Paul Young to do a special live show to end the festival. Their performance of their “Hello Kitty Theme Song” was just perfect. At the end of which I decided it was time to leave.
All in all a really successful event. Happy 10th anniversary OFFF.

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