I had the good fortune to attend Offset 2010, the annual conference for the creative industry, in Dublin this weekend and suffice to say it exceeded expectations.
The back-to-back programming over the three days included a rich and varied choice of very high calibre speakers, many of which are international icons in their chosen fields of expertise. As an event intended to excite, inspire and challenge those of us who work in this industry, it definitely achieved that on a variety of levels.
The three speakers who most impacted on me included Scott Dadich – Creative Director Wired Magazine and Executive Director Digital Magazine Development Condé Nast, George Lois – an Advertising Executive and Designer widely regarded as being one of the greatest innovators in advertising and Lance Wyman – a inspiring Designer who is credited with helping define the field of graphic design, and is a specialist in branding and wayfinding systems.
A brief bio on each of these individuals and their achievements, will give you some insight into why it was such a privilege and inspiration to hear them speak.
Scott Dadich oversees the design, photography and production for Wired Magazine coupled with being the lead executive responsible for the building of digital editions of Condé Nast titles for electronic reading devices like iPad. A global publishing entity, the Condé Nast stable of publications includes household brand names such as Vogue, GQ, Vanity Fair, Epicurious, Condé Nast Traveller, Reddit and The New Yorker to name a few.
It was intriguing to hear how he’d worked with the creative team in Wired Magazine to adapt the publication for electronic delivery, all of which was initiated long before iPad came to market. Wired’s reader app for iPad, when introduced in May 2010, became app of the week within days of its release and was downloaded approximately 100,000 times !
Dadich is among the foremost speakers on contemporary publishing and technology and one of the most dynamic creative directors in the industry. He’s the only magazine professional to have won both the National Magazine Award (NMA) for Design and the Society of Publication Designers (SPD) Magazine of the Year award three consecutive years in a row: 2008, 2009 and 2010. He’s also received more than 100 other national design and editorial awards, including 50 gold and silver design and photography medals from the SPD.
George Lois with a career spanning five decades, is widely regarded as a pioneer, innovator and advertising genius, the superman of Madison Avenue, to quote New York Magazine ! A larger then life character and legendary profanity spewing ad man (which he more then lived up to on Saturday) George Lois has a visceral instinct for communication, with messages that are delivered in a nano second. The atmosphere tangibly sizzled with the passion of his delivery at 18:09 on Saturday evening. Its fair to say we were riveted to our seats and the hour past far too quickly.
He put MTV on the map with “I want my MTV” campaign, brought the Tommy Hilfiger brand to the international stage and renamed/relaunched Stouffer’s frozen foods as Lean Cuisine. He’s best known though for his near 100 covers designed for Esquire Magazine which are regarded among the most memorable propaganda imagery in any medium and certainly the most provocative in the history of the magazine industry. He’s also author of nine best selling books.
Describing himself as the “crossover guy” who’s successfully leveraged as much from graphic design as he has from guerilla advertising tactics, even now he’s still an undiminished tour-de-force. In his 79th year and an unconstrained figure of roaring fire and sharp humour, it’s difficult to imagine what it really would have been like to work full time with such ferocious energy when he was at the height of his career.
Lance Wyman is another man with an incredibly distinguished career spanning over four decades and a winner of countless awards too. He’s a prolific graphic designer best known for his work in brand design, packaging and wayfinding systems. Wyman is most noted for his design of the 1968 identity, entire stadia and communications collateral for the Mexico Olympics, which although designed to be of the moment (groovy minidresses included), remains one of the most enduring icons of 20th century graphic design.
Lance Wymans branding and wayfinding systems also includes work for Washington DC Metro, the Royal Saudi Airport in Jeddah, the LG Arts Center in Seoul, the American Museum of Natural History in New York and pedestrian skywalks in the cities of Calgary and Edmonton in Canada. Time magazine listed his work for the Minnesota Zoo as one of the ten best designs of 1981.
A warm approachable man, he was unassuming and gently humorous as he shared insights into his work and some of his most remarkable projects with us. Lance Wymans many awards read like a roll call in design “Oscars”, including from the American Institute of Graphic Arts, Society for Environmental Graphic Design, Art Directors Club of New York and the Milan Triennial. His work has also been published in the New York Times and plethora of magazines including Life, Time, The Architectural Forum, Progressive Architecture, Graphics, Print, ID and Communication Art to name a few.
So having listened with rapt attention to each of these iconic individuals speak, generously sharing their insights, experiences and opinions, what did I take from them individually and collectively ?
Each man has powerful individualism, both in their characters and work ethic, which is clearly demonstrated in the results each has achieved. None would settle for mediocrity or plagiarism or “group grope” as George Lois so aptly put it.
To have a future you must have a healthy economy and to have a healthy economy you must have great ideas and imagination, a message perhaps more potent in our current climate then ever before.
Exceptional graphic design is the transformation of an idea into an amazingly big message, which communicates in a nano second to its target market. To quote George Lois, and I did mention his language was consistently colourful, “If you don’t get it immediately, its a piece of s–t !” It must have “culture busting creativity”.
Professional designers across all their different disciplines are innate problem solvers, contributing their communication skills, knowledge and expertise to help make money, given the freedom to do and the will to make it happen.
Visual and verbal expression are indivisible and design that really works must:
• catch the eyes
• capture the mind
• warm the heart
• have lasting impact
Without doubt, real creativity can solve virtually any problem and each man, in telling his story, mentioned challenges which may have floored less creative, persistent or resilient individuals.
Great design can be an engine metabolizer for economic prosperity, driven by laser sharp ideas which support new developments and change, resulting in tangible benefits both now and into the future for the greater good.