On a sunny Saturday two weeks ago herds of designers and design lovers flocked to Bratislava’s Arena Theatre to attend the second edition of By Design Conference and enjoy a day full of inspirational talks by some of design’s most creative minds. The line-up of international speakers was particularly impressive this year as was the range of design projects they presented: From clever packaging solutions to sublime graphic design and witty illustrations.
The day started off with Edvard Scott, the digital director of award-winning Stockholm Desing Lab. The studio from Sweden is known for its international list of clients including IKEA, Volvo, Coca Cola and Scandinavian Airlines. In the studio’s work minimalistic design meets remarkable ideas and fulctionalty. Great examples are the packaging design concepts SDL developed for IKEA as well as for Japanese retailer Askul. Next to its big international clients the studio also likes to take on smaller projects such as designing the bottle of premium sake producer Ohmine. The beautiful bottle design does not only express the exclusivity of Ohmine’s limited-volume product but the rice grains on the bottle easily distinguish the three sake grades and the Opaque, opal-white glass protects the sake from direct light to prevent a loss of quality – a perfect symbiosis of design and functionality.
The next personal highlight were the Mingarro brothers, aka Brosmind. The Spanish duo creates playful, original and engaging illustrations for clients such as Nike, Microsoft, Gillette, Land Rover and Volkswagen in their studio in Barcelona. Next to their projects I enjoyed the extremely funny and quite personal presentation of the two. The story of Brosmind starts with Juan and Alejandro, two boys who love to draw super heroes and invent their own toys. Eventually they get older, grow a beard and found a very successful design studio but at heart they are still these two super creative and a little bit crazy boys.
After this very vivacious presentation it was graphic designer and illustrator Lotta Nieminen who took us back to a calmer but nonetheless exciting world. The native Finn who lives in NY divides her time between her two big passions: On the one hand she makes extremely sleek graphic design often adding a playful touch and on the other hand she creates simple and very feminine illustrations for renowned clients such as Hermès, Google, the New York Times, IBM, Monocle and Vanity Fair. I particularly liked her branding for the app Beautified and the window display illustrations for French high fashion house Hermès. Nieminen did not only talk about her projects but also about the lessons she learned on her way, about nothing being worth a cry and finding her own illustration style – very inspiring, indeed!
The person who left the most lasting impression was maybe Christoph Niemann. Through his award-winning work, the German artist, author and illustrator tells stories and comments on politics, the economy, art and modern life. His concise and satiric works have appeared on the covers of The New Yorker, Time, Wired, The New York Times Magazine and American Illustration. What I found very interesting is the fact that Nieman relentlessly works on his craft, trains his imagination and drawing skills, is his own fiercest critic. Next to commercial projects he works on personal projects such as his Sunday Sketches in which he gives a new meaning to ordinary objects such as bananas or tea bags. I am trying to follow his example and once you start focusing on seeing things in different ways, the world gets so much more fun and interesting.
Of course, this was not it: I also very much enjoyed the talks by Ginette Caron, Jessica Walsh, Erik Spiekermann and Huge – every one of them having a truly distinct style. The atmosphere at the conference was very relaxed, in the breaks people had the chance to chat with the speakers, check out the stands of the sponsors, buy some nice books or simply enjoy the sunny weather. I can definitely recommend to visit the conference next year – I’ll be there!