Preface: Alright, this is going to be tough. For those that know me, you know that talking is easy and writing is hard. I’m a visual talker—I use my hands and a liberal slathering of expletives. For those that don’t: imagine a whirlwind of arms and (even more) curse words as you read this. Here we go!
In its third installment, I have again left OFFF Cincinnati—an international tour of the Barcelona-based design festival—feeling more inspired, less talented and filled with the need to do better and make cooler shit.
The day of international speakers sharing their point of view on the intersection of contemporary art and digital technology felt more like a conversation than your standard speaking engagement. There were plenty of nods in agreement and sighs indicating thoughts of, “Where did I go wrong with my life?” I’ve never really taken notes during talks (always been a bad student) but there were so many things I didn’t want to forget I was scribbling them down despite it being pitch black in the auditorium. Below are some of my musings on what I thought was most important from the day and demonstrates a clear change in the direction of where the design community is headed.
COMPLAINING IS STUPID EITHER ACT OR FORGET – STEFAN SAGMEISTER
DO THE STUFF YOU WANT TO DO – RAMON ESCOLA
I like to bitch. James Victore was apt to pointed it out during his talk and it’s something I’ve always noticed. It’s also something I wouldn’t mind changing about myself and see change in the design community as well—because of karma and all that shit; put good out there and get good back.
Plus, who really likes a Negative Nancy. So, I’m going to try and stop playing the victim, remember that being a designer is rad and I’m lucky to do it. If I have a problem with something—screw it—I’ll fix it or forget it.
NOT BEING PROFESSIONAL IS OKAY – JON BURGERMAN
AIM HIGH AND WORK HARD BUT NOT TOO HIGH AND NOT TOO HARD AIM FOR THE MIDDLE – JON BURGERMAN
This may actually be my unofficial mantra. It’s not only OK, it’s something I try to do everyday for everyone I work with. I’m not saying, go into client meetings swinging with American flag running shorts but instead with my co-workers day-to-day. The less it feels like work, the more fun you have and the work is better for it. Am I right? (Rhetorical).
SEPARATE THE KIND OF WORK YOU WANT TO DO FROM MONEY – SARA BLAKE of Hello ZSO
F*CK YOUR RENT – JAMES VICTORE
Probably one of the more controversial quotes of the day; none the less, James Victore is my hero. One of the main themes from his talk was: “There’s always a price to pay.” If you want something bad enough or if it’s something you value, you’ll pay whatever that price may be. For me right now, it’s working nights on posters. Making time for the part of my job that is non-billable and that’s a price I’m more than willing to pay to do (more) cool shit.
Designing and screen printing posters is my artistic outlet. It’s a form of storytelling that keeps me sharp and pushes me to be a better designer and an overall creative. The past year of working on posters in the evening has really inspired and improved my client work. I’m constantly trying to push the work to be as visually and strategically cool as it can be. And I’m using my newly honed creative confidence to inspire and imbue our clients with courage. To Onur Senturk’s point, “When you have a brave client, the work speaks for itself.”
IF YOU DON’T GO OUT INTO THE WOODS NOTHING WILL EVER HAPPEN AND YOUR LIFE WILL NEVER BEGIN – BRENDAN DAWES
FAILURE IS THE ONLY OPTION – SARA BLAKE of Hello ZSO
I WANT MY WORK TO BE LOVE NOTES – JAMES VICTORE
YOUR WORK IS A GIFT – JAMES VICTORE
In an attempt to make good on my pledge to stop bitching so much, I’ll skip the part where I tell you my thoughts on why things in the design industry are so screwed up. Instead, I’ll tell you what I’m ready to start doing to make myself and those around me better. I’m ready to start standing for something and having the courage to fight for it. I’m ready to stop being against things and being a roadblock and start helping myself and others do great, emotionally valuable work. I’m ready to—and this is hard—shut up, listen and soak up the smart that drips from my co-workers and edify.
I’m ready to make some cool shit and pack it full of content and give it away.
*All expletives are property of Aaron Benjamin May and are in no way condoned by or representative of the good and decent people of Powerhouse Factories.