What did you miss at OFFF '17? | Part 1

OFFF — as you all know, don’t you — is the biggest graphic design festival in Europe. 🔥 Taking place annually in Barcelona, 3 full days of overwhelmingly interesting talks and workshops by some of the biggest names in contemporary design scene bring together best of the best. This was my impression anyway. It sounds quite ambitious and I had very high expectations before going. And to be honest, they were met. Every single talk I’ve been to was just very very good. I learned, I changed. In the end, from all the amazing speakers, great crowd and lots of new work, I was so inspired, I wanted to run home and get to work immediately. 

And isn't that the point of going to a design conference?

So for those of you who've missed it, I wanna summarise my personal, humble, truly subjective experience of it.

To start with, my favourite thing about OFFF was being surrounded by designers from everywhere, and from every interest and experience level.

It was days full of creativity. I felt like belonging to a community, a creative network, a big brother/sisterhood, a cult, a secret society, a geek party, a school trip, a homecoming, a reunion, a gathering, a je-ne-sais-quoi. 🌈 Everyone shared, listened, wondered, asked, learned and geeked on design. 👩‍💻 👨‍💻 This is a great feeling that I often miss in my day-to-day work environment, as things like dealing with client requirements or deadlines get in the way of the fun stuff.

I stepped out of my comfortable bubble and connected to a larger network. It reminded me of my art school days when I was appreciating everyday design in its purest form (while both studying architecture and later on communication design). I’m again proud to be sharing the scene with these contemporaries. They're so competent, that they do nothing but make me jealous and keep me moving forward. Of course, the competition is highly friendly — and this was my favourite thing about OFFF. 🦄

Second, being exposed to works of many many many studios from all parts of the world allowed me to compare localities within the super-online world.

For instance, design landscape in London is much different than New York. Same is true for the rest of Europe. My experience is that London studios tend to get involved in a range of client work, whose size and industry vary hugely. As a result, you as a designer can really isolate your practice in a specific field. In Europe, especially in places like Berlin for instance, on the other hand, Design is more strictly separated into commercial and artistic. My feeling is that, stereotypically of course, these two don’t quite touch, let alone overlap. 

Next, a lot of discussions happened around graphic design trends of 2017.

The biggest trend forecast by far is 3D. I think any current design studio is already incorporating this know-how into their practice one way or another. And from seeing the saturation, I would advise any designer thinking about getting into 3D design, is to not. The people who’ve been tackling it are seriously already on another level. For reference, check out Velvet Spectrum and Foreal (These second guys are super fun, they were one of my favourites, in terms of their on-stage persona). I think, in general, it’s not wise to try and catch up with a trend at its peak. This inevitably makes you a follower. And you never want to be a follower!

Instead of chasing trends, like rainbows, I believe every creative should follow their own strength 💪🏻💪🏼💪🏽💪🏾💪🏿 and hope that maybe one day their strength will be trendy. Many great designers, like Stefan Sagmeister, encourages you to not try to find a style anyway. Because It’s simply harder to get rid of it later on than adopting it in the first place, and you end up being trapped in a maze of your own making. In short, I see in my crystal bowl that we will be indulging in great 3D work in the coming months. Be aware and enjoy.

By the way, you may wonder, what 2016’s trend was. Some people say it was gradients, but I think it was animation. 2015 was definitely material design, in my opinion. And maybe it was that disgustingly overused blue for 2014 💙, not naming any nemes. 

What do you think 2018 graphic design will be about?

All in all, visiting conferences like OFFF opens your eyes to the bigger picture of Design.

You should always stay interested in what’s happening in every field no matter what your discipline. However, also be aware of analysis paralysis. Remember that your job is not to constantly research and keep up with general tendencies. So please don’t fall into the comfort of this. Please don't constantly look at people’s work. Don't have so much self-doubt. And stop criticising your work. Your primary job is production, not consumption. You’re an artist. So once all is over, go back to your studio and fucking make stuff. 👩🏼‍🎤👨🏼‍🎤

Of course, this doesn't cover my entire OFFF '17 experience — so check out this follow up article here!

Elif 😘