Tuesday, November 02, 2010

A (Very) Concise Review Of Offset 2010

Offset 2010 was a three-day event celebrating creativity and the power of the creative process. It was held in the Grand Canal Theatre on the first week of October.

Now in its second year, the independently-financed conference was more expansive this year, with a larger venue, more attendees, and an ambitious programme of presentations, interactive sessions and many related events taking place throughout Dublin. As with last year’s conference, one of the unique charms of Offset is the breadth and variety of its contributors. While some speakers may align with your own preferences and interests, there is always the possibility of discovering engaging presentations by unfamiliar speakers. Given 24 main presentations and 17 secondary sessions, the following are some unavoidably brief highlights of my three days in attendance.

Irish designer Aiden Grennelle acquitted himself admirably with a considered presentation on his influences and career. He combined a low-key presentation style with a determined rigour and understated passion for his work.

Scott Daditch on stage. Photo: Aiden Kenny.
Scott Dadich the Art Director of Wired magazine intrigued with a behind-the-scenes look at the development of their iPad app. He was savvy enough to recognise that – although magazine apps are cousins of the dead-end CD-ROMs of the nineties – today’s technological landscape may ensure they avoid that technological cul-de-sac. He was especially interesting on the operational challenges of producing the interactive version of Wired in parallel with the printed edition, both within the same 28-day work flow.

The weekend’s only serious misfire was nineties wunderkind David Carson's ill-prepared and over-long session. Starting out as quirky and amusing, he quickly descended into shambolic tedium.

Veteran designer Lance Wyman's career retrospective concentrated on his environmental graphics, particularly his striking work for the 1968 Mexican Olympics. Unfortunately Wyman proved a somewhat reticent interview subject at his later Q&A session.

George Speaks. Photo: Aiden Kenny.
Offset’s undisputed heavyweight champion was George Lois; the septuagenarian ad man earning a standing ovation for his barnstorming presentation on Saturday evening. He followed that by breezing through an extended Q&A session the next day. His no-nonsense conversational style, pithy anecdotes and uncompromising can-do attitude were a refreshing antidote to the economic gloom in that Sunday’s newspapers. He also challenged some prevailing design reflexes by embodying a creative approach that focuses on outcomes above artifacts.

While the individual presentations in the main auditorium did not permit audience engagement, that was facilitated in a second room with complimentary interviews and themed round-table discussions. Saturday’s ‘Future of Publishing’ session was the most insightful and engaging, addressing the many ways digital distribution channels are disrupting archaic business models in the publishing, design and media industries. The four-man panel [Scott Dadich, Stephen Heller, Adrian Shaughnessy and Hugh Linehan) tackling a topic fully deserving of it’s own three-day conference someday soon. That both the digital evangelists and the print advocate agreed on print inevitably becoming a niche channel as the larger proportion of all audiences migrates to digital was particularly telling. Videos of all sessions from both rooms will be posted at iloveoffset

Future of Publishing Session. Photo: Aiden Kenny.
It is worth noting that – alongside the creative possibilities of digital futures – Offset provided a beneficial counterpoint with a strong sense of historical perspective also informing the event. Those sessions featuring evergreen design work from the sixties and seventies were amongst the most inspiring of the weekend.

The Small Print have delivered on the ambitious goals they set for themselves with this event. Offset now sets the standard for all other Irish design conferences and festivals to aspire to.

This article also appeared in the Winter 2010 edition of the Institute of Designers in Ireland newsletter Ratio.