Monday, March 24, 2014

Offset Conference Themes 2014

This year’s Offset creative conference was a refreshing recharge for my creative batteries. I saw a lot of interesting and inspirational work over three enjoyable days. I experienced a lot of new creative work that I was unfamiliar with. Measured on that basis this conference delivers.

The most common style of presentation is where people showcase their work throughout their career while also imparting some wisdom they have learned along the way. This is a challenge on many levels. With an audience of over two thousand creatives from many different industry sectors, the inclination is to speak in broad principles rather than in specifics. With more than twenty other presenters imparting similar insights, there is a lot of scope for crossover.

Rather than write up my notes on each presentation this year, I made this list of aphorisms from presenter’s key slides instead. All are from the formal presentations on the main stage, rather than the discussions and debates on the secondary stages. The presenters expressed a lot of shared sentiments. I have anonymised, reordered, and mixed this selection of their messages. This representative list may reveal an emergent theme for the whole conference.

  • Be uncompromising in your approach. 
  • Be true to your own heart. 
  • Great work comes from passion.
  • Dig deep. 
  • Always be curious. 
  • Always ask questions. 
  • Find your own authentic voice and speak with it very loudly. 
  • Explore your identity through your work. 
  • Pay attention to what you do when no-one is paying you.  
  • Talk less about making things: just go and make things. 
  • Everything is a design problem. 
  • Coming up with ideas is the easy part. 
  • Embrace ambiguity. 
  • Be comfortable with the uncomfortable. 
  • Build a process that delivers the unexpected. 
  • Be fearless.
  • Almost all fear is bullshit.  
  • Dive in head first. 
  • Don’t be afraid to lose control. 
  • Make trouble. 
  • Explore, fail, and fail again. 
  • Set yourself constraints. Play by your own rules (and break them).
  • Focus on your work/play balance; not your work/life balance. 
  • Play is your most important activity. 
  • Get away from your computer. 
  • Think outside the box.*
  • Don’t learn creativity: unlearn restrictions. 
  • Keep simplifying until you can’t simplify anymore. 
  • The parts that no-one sees can be the most important.  
  • Try to interrupt the dominant narrative. 
  • Always over-deliver. 
  • Respect your client.  
  • Invest in progress. 
  • One good thing leads to another. 
  • Fight for what you believe in. 
  • Never say die. 
  • Don’t be an asshole. 

One concern I am grappling with is that the speakers are just delivering broad generalities. Perhaps I am expecting too much. I may be better off just appreciating the exceptional creative work on its own merits and being less concerned about any advice on how to find success and happiness in a design-centric career.

*Yes, someone actually stood in front of two thousand creatives and advised them to think outside the box.