The great thing about this 2 day conference was the mix of talent crammed into the 2 days – mixing the big names such with the less well known, but equally talented in their field. It was also a really good mix of disciplines, touching on Illustration, Photography, Type Design, Animation, Graphics, Set Design and Art.
The conference kicked off with the illustrator Yasmeen Ismail. Presenting in a laid back (and very pregnant) style, she talked more as a stream of consciousness about her career and process. Although it trod the line of being a bit too self-referential, she came across very honestly and was very funny – talking about her work in an endearing way that complimented her obvious talent.
Next on the bill was Eric Kessel or Kesselkramer who took a completely different tact of presenting a ‘greatest hits’ of his work in a fast paced showcase covering a lot of work. It was nice to see the full range of work they did for the Hans Blinker Budget Hotel along with the side projects of ‘Useful photography’ and ‘In almost every picture’ magazines. Those in the audience who saw pretty much every spread for Useful Photography 13 certainly won’t forget it in a hurry…
The photographer Aisha Zeijpveld did a great job of showcasing her beautiful work without English being her first language. Using camera tricks, optical illusions and practical effects, her work is eye-catching and tactile, creating unique portraits.
Rounding off the morning was Andy Stevens of Graphic Thought Facility who, rather than trotting out their portfolio of work, instead focussed on one project, Wayfinding for Hult International Business School. Although at points, quite dry, it was fascinating to see a job in so much detail and see how a wayfinding brief turned into an identity, spatial design and creating unique pieces of art.
After lunch, the animator Johnny Kelly shared his ’13 step guide to making it’. In a laid back style, he gave an honest and engaging look at his work and what he learnt from various projects - successful and unsuccessful.
Maser, Rachel Thomas and Pony gave very different, if equally unsuccessful presentations that didn’t really resonate with the audience who had probably been spoiled in the morning. It’s not that some of the work wasn’t interesting, just the manner in which it was presented didn’t hold the attention and you can only look at pretty pictures for so long…
However, the best was saved until last with Seb Lester. In spite of starting his talk with a dodgy microphone and a very formal introduction, he went on to speak about his career with real insight and passion. His dry sense of humour came across brilliantly, talking about his unsuccessful combinations of type and 3D, how he became a type designer and working with Nasa. It was also really nice to see someone being so humble about his work gaining popularity and ending with an emotional plea to 'believe in yourself’ via his extraordinary skill with pen and ink. A fantastic end to a largely great day.