Birmingham Design Festival 2024: Process

11th June 2024

Every year we look forward to June, when we step away from our desks for two days, to take in new information and inspiration on our ever-changing creative industry.

As technology evolves around us, it’s more important than ever to stay up-to-date and learn about new ways of working and how other creatives work.

Every year the festival has a theme that the talks and workshops are based around. This year’s theme was on the topic of ‘process’.

Our Creative Process 

Every creative will have a different process, for us this is delivering a brand from start to finish, and generally across disciplines it usually looks something like:

Initial contact > Research > Development > Presentation > Feedback

We’d be surprised if anyone has their creative process fully nailed (if you do please give us the magical formula!). For us, at least, our process changes and adapts depending on the nature of the project, client, or timings.

Sometimes, naturally, we add a little bit of self-doubt and imposter syndrome into the mix, other times, we’re well-oiled machines.

We’ve walked our socks off around Birmingham, taking in all of its sights, unique charm and beautiful historical industrial buildings.

‘Everything Old is New Again’ by Elizabeth Goodspeed

Graphic designer Elizabeth Goodspeed delivered a talk full of vintage ephemera. Of course, for this reason, it was right up our street.

Elizabeth talked about how gathering research solely from the likes of Pinterest can be limiting, as the algorithm is built to display similar images in similar contexts.

By expanding our research to historical pieces of artwork, vintage ephemera and things that aren’t necessarily in the same context as what we’re designing, we can gather more varied research and inspiration and have better creative results.

With a studio full of collected items, and most recently, a giant box of old matchboxes from Newport Tip shop, we 100% get it!

There’s so much charm and inspiration to be taken from historical art & design, whether from typography, the rustic feel and texture of something that has become worn over time, or working with limited colour schemes that traditional print techniques once offered.

We finished the day of talks with ‘Futureproofing Brands’ by Rachel Gogel, who shared her experience navigating the rise and dominance of digital design, working for GQ, Facebook and The New York Times. We had a quick pit stop for dinner, ready for our evening seminar.

The evening seminar with Annie Atkins, Louis Henry Mitchell & Jessica Hische.

Making new things, look old!

Annie Atkins is a Welsh graphic prop designer who specialises in filmmaking. We’re all huge fans of her work so we were chuffed to get to see a talk from her in person. Annie is a master of making props for films or TV look perfectly in character with the style of the production or era.

Annie spoke about her work on The Grand Budapest Hotel for director Wes Anderson, explaining that imperfection is sometimes key, so that props don't appear to be straight out of the art department and have that 'human touch'.

With prop design, if things blend in and you don't notice them, they've done a good job!

This talk only increased respect for people in the film & tv industry and their level of skill, intricacy and determination. Where was this art module when we were in school studying?!

Loving the work you do

Louis Henry Mitchell, Creative Director of Character Design for Sesame Street delivered a heart-warming talk called 'Think BIG'. His pure love and passion for Sesame Street earned him his job and has kept him motivated and creative and this really shone through. Lauren and James are big fans of The Muppet's Christmas Carol (classic!) so this talk went down well with them. 

Life & lettering

We ended the night with author and extremely talented lettering artist Jessica Hische on the topic of 'Crafting the Life You Want'. 

Day two

On day two we had another busy day with three talks.

We started with 'Smashing Taboos' by multidisciplinary artist Annie Frost Nicholson the creator of the touring Fandangoe Disco. She shared her touching story of creativity, fueled by grief and loss. 

Followed by 'An Acceptable Level of Miscommunication' by book designer David Pearson.

David talked about how ambiguity in book design and withholding certain information from the viewer can lead to a more interesting and intriguing book cover. We loved his work, bravery and plus, he seemed like a genuinely nice guy.

We ended the festival with our final talk from Amanda Gaskin and Tim Donaldson of Seachange Studio, a New Zealand-based brand and design studio.

They delivered the talk with jet lag (hats off to them!) and showed us their beautiful catalogue of branding and intricate packaging, all of which we would very proudly display on our shelves.

We're now back at our desks, full of creative juice. The festival really does get even better every year, so a big thank you to the organisers and volunteers who make the festival happen. It really is the highlight of the year for us.

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