To the outside viewer, our annual trip to OFFF Festival in Barcelona may look like some sort of sun-soaked, beer-infused, food-focused jolly but we promise… we're also there to be inspired, learn and exchange ideas with like-minded creatives from all over the globe.
OFFF brings together a smorgasbord of the world's leading designers, animators, illustrators and agencies to the Disseny Hub for a three day event that features back-to-back talks and workshops across three stages.
2022 was the first year that we took the whole team and it was evident on the team's return how inspired they were and how much they got from seeing the best of the best presenting their work and their various creative processes. So in 2023 we set off again to the sunny Catalonian shores to do it all again.
The 2023 line up included Brian Collins, Pentagram partner Eddie Opara; Munich-based agency Bureau Borsche, Eva Cremers; Kelly Anna, David Carson and Bristol talent Gavin Strange from Jam Factory.
We asked the team to summarise their highlights from their time at OFFF.
During our initial visit to OFFF in 2022, we learned that the Motion Design industry is heavily influenced by 3D, even in minimalist styles. To make a significant impact, it's crucial to incorporate it into our workflow. However, the challenge we faced was making this new skillset appealing to potential clients.
During our second visit to OFFF, we noticed that agencies and individual artists were more focused on presenting personal and passion projects outside the realm of client control. Our main takeaway was the importance of producing work that we want to receive, even if it means investing time outside of client or agency work. If we are not constantly researching and experimenting then we are not allowing ourselves to move forwards or stand out above the masses.
Aside from being a whole lot of fun and chilling in the sun, OFFF 2023 gave us a great insight into what other creatives are doing.
PROJECTS BRING PROJECTS
The best talks I saw made me envious of their work and client list, which made me think: how do you get a client in an industry you have no experience or connections in?
Most speakers took a common approach of creating work they want to do, with the belief that if they do so, projects will naturally follow. This seems to be a proven formula for many creatives.
“Make an impact in the city you live in.”
Barcelona based CODEA studio presented one particular project that stuck out to me: a local campaign for suicide awareness.
Their message to “make an impact in the city you live in,” really resonated with me… I know we can't change the entire world but we can make the place we live in a little bit better.
“STAY FRIENDLY, NAIVE AND CURIOUS.”
I first saw Kelly Anna (kellyannalondon.com) talk in 2019 at Us By Night festival in Antwerp. She returned to Barcelona this year and it was cool to hear her journey dealing with motherhood and the pandemic. What makes Kelly Anna successful is her amazing work, of course, but also being “friendly, naive and curious” goes a long way. She spoke about making connections at every opportunity and how those relationships can lead to fruitful outcomes.
David Carson sighting ✔️
Feeling inspired ✔️
Feeling guilty ✔️
Daytime gin & tonics ✔️
Getting caught admiring shoes ✔️
Fainting employees... ✔️
Aside from the (delicious) gin & tonics, OFFF 2023 was as ever a jam-packed, super-inspiring, educational few days.
Hey! What? has worked non-stop for the past four years to build solid relationships with clients, steadily grow the team, and reach for some pretty dreamy new business opportunities, whilst navigating a global pandemic in the middle of all of that. Safe to say, spare time hasn’t presented itself very often! But the main question I asked myself after OFFF this year after listening to some great people share their experiences was, ‘How do we carve out more time in the studio and dedicate it entirely to self-initiated, agency projects?’
It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation - You need to ensure that all client projects are running smoothly, the creative team are happy and feeling confident, milestones are met etc. But you also need to spend valuable time on developing the team’s skill sets, encouraging creative thinking, and ultimately building a tighter unit to produce even better results for said client projects.
Luckily, the rest of the Hey! What? lot were just as keen as me about the idea of having more time for self-initiated work.
We’ve now collectively come up with a plan to dedicate a small portion of our week to agency projects, and I’m super excited to see what ideas we come up with, watch this space!
IDENTITY AND THE ACCEPTANCE OF CHAOS
At Hey! What? We love working with the music industry, whether that’s directly with artists, or with festival and events organisers, or with community music projects. It’s part of Hey! What?’s origin story - when Hamish started the agency in 2018, this was very much a key part of where he wanted to it.
The key difference between working on projects for clients like this, rather than a more corporate entity, is that you’re collaborating with another artist; not just delivering a design solution. You’ll work with a lot of colourful personalities and with people with a lot of different approaches to “how the work gets done”, and because of this the process can be absolute chaos.
One thing I took from Bienal’s talk on identity was that “the process is always chaos, and there is no such thing as stable change because we are all constantly moving in different directions.”
I hadn’t stopped to consider this before - the process is always chaotic! But instead of fighting it we strive to adapt and be resilient to that chaos, and accepting and embracing it as members of the music industry because that is part of Hey! What?’s origin, and you won’t be able to be original without a strong grasp on your origin.
A common theme that was brought up in many talks, from independent artists and from global tech companies was the importance of play.
As kid’s, “play” is how we learn, experiment and push our boundaries of intelligence and creativity.
Why do we stop this as adults and professionals?
Artist and designer, Chris Tsevis, spoke at length about the division of our time been broken up into three parts; Survival - the work you have to do to keep your head above water, Publishing - how, when and why you release and publish your work, and Research and Development.
His primary focus was on R&D; without the R&D, the work you have to do to survive won’t become more creative, it won’t have more focus and land as effectively, and it won’t spark as much joy for yourself or for the client.
I was most looking forward to catching the talk presented by ’BLUP’ - a studio based in London that have been demonstrating their cultural insights and design abilities for a good while now. Their presentation did not disappoint, and fuelled me with inspiration and ideas to head toward home with.
One thing that resonated with me along with being a common thread between many of the 2023 OFFF speakers, was the attention given to experiential design - especially with the increasing advances in consumer tech.
This helped to reinforce my own creative interests within generating experiential work and manifested within me creating a few Augmented Reality experiences during my time in Barcelona. Creating these helped to inform the fact of what modern street photography can look like in an age where we can use our phones for more creative experiences than ever.
WHAT HAVE WE TAKEN AWAY FROM OFFF 2023?
The big thing we have taken away from this year's OFFF is that the team is hungry for more time for experimentation and skill development. With the constant evolution of the creative industry and all the new trends and emerging technologies that are out there we need to stay on top of our game.
So in a few weeks, we will be introducing the Hey! What? Playground to the studio. Every Friday afternoon we will clock off from client work and use this time to focus our efforts on creative play. We will come up with internal briefs for made up 'dream projects'. This will not only give the team direction for experimentation but it will also provide us with a suite of campaign style work that we can put in front of potential clients giving us the opportunity to show off what we are capable of as a studio.
We believe that OFFF is a worthy investment for the studio and would definitely recommend it to any other creatives or agencies. It's definitely not cheap taking the team away every year but it is clearly evident how much they get from it. There is also the element of camaraderie that comes from stepping out of the office and out of Bristol which brings us all together as a team.