OFFF 2009

Posted 15 May 2009

Every year since 2001 the best in international visual culture and digital creation can be found at OFFF - International Festival for the Post-Digital Creation Culture (?). It first started in Barcelona but since last year it now takes place in Oeiras a small coast town 15 minutes away from Lisbon, and from the 7th to the 10th of May more than 3.500 attendants enjoyed diverse activities related to graphic and digital design, animation, film making, music, etc. This year's line-up included creative heavyweights such like Joshua Davies, Stefan Sagmeister, Neville Brody, Paula Scher, Kyle Cooper or Alva Noto to name a few.

I arrived on Friday morning (unfortunately I missed Thursday's events including Neville Brody and United Visual Artists among others) and started the festival with an inspirational talk by Canadian graphic designer Robert L. Peters about his personal vision on the way designers should approach our job in relation with society. Paula Scher from Pentagram New York reviewed her extensive career in graphic and identity design in parallel to her personal paintings, where she combines art with typography and (extremely complex!) data visualization. New York stop motion animator PES showed us some of his personal and commercial work and gave us a few good tips on how to make a fun piece of animation using everyday objects.

To finish the day, one of the most awaited lectures of the festival by illustrator and Flash pioneer Joshua Davies who's been in every edition of OFFF since the first one back in 2001. As always, Davies gave a lesson on how to make a design talk interesting and entertain the audience in the same time - it felt like being back at school in some of the talks. Davies presented some of his latest projects and reviewed his creation process in relation with the Fail Gracefully topic, showing how accidents and randomness play an important part in his work. His creations combine vector illustration with random self-generated graphics using Flash.

After enjoying Lisbon's lively nightlife on Friday night (maybe too much), day 2 started with a discussion board featuring some of the big names of the festival around failing in the design process. I guess we were not the only ones who had a long night on Friday as it gave the impression that some of the speakers could have done with a few more hours sleep and a Bloody Mary. Throughout the festival it was interesting to see how some very talented designers can lack presentation skills whilst others don't need much to talk about to connect with the audience quickly. The following discussion board featured the DIY electronic instruments by dutchman Gijs Gieskes, made out of Game Boys, old tapes and other random objects.

Finally - my other personal favorite along with Joshua Davies - Stefan Sagmeister made his appearance on stage. He had just arrived from a sabbatical year in Bali and wearing a dress, he presented commercial and personal projects featured in his latest book Things I've Learned In My Life So Far where he explores typographically a series of statements about lessons in life.

There's a few aspects of the festival that I personally think could improve like a bit of variety in the music - this year focused on experimental electronica and some more social or networking activities but overall I enjoyed the event. And even if you're not geeky enough to cope with three days of conferences about design and media - Lisbon has a lot more to offer.

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