Cheltenham Design Festival

Okay so it was a while back but thought I’d finally get round to giving my thoughts on the Cheltenham Design Festival. Went along for the Friday and thought overall it was very good. Unfortunately I had a few jobs to tie up so only managed to go the the last 3 talks of the day, but was definitely worth a visit.

Starting off with the venue I thought it was good overall, the auditorium was not too big or small, but had no 3g signal; however this was no drama as I’m not a big fan of constant distractions from the illuminated screens of people tweeting throughout. The rest of the venue was a little small and not much else to look at/ space to hang out between talks. Though they did have a good little pop up book shop from Mr B’s Emporium with a decent selection of design books; I picked up Graphic Design: A Users Manual by Adrian Shaughnessy so that’s next on my reading list, and a small exhibition from SuperDry; as they were established in Cheltenham.

The three talks I did manage to get to were Simon Waterfall, Nick Jankel and the ‘Is there a future for design?’ debate with Aidrian Shaughnessy, Marina Willer, Simon again and others.

Simon Waterfall (of Poke fame) was very entertaining, and quite random. Not a particular narrative to his talk as it covered everything from Sat Nav theft, the end of communication as we know it because of space debris, distribution of condoms in Africa and a fair few references as to how hung over he was. He’s one of those speakers you’d like to hate but actually is very entertaining and informed on a number of issues.

Nick Jankels talk was all about releasing your creativity, and to be honest for me came across as too abstract and philosophical for my liking, but others found it inspiring.

The best by far was the Question Time style debate as it covered a variety of questions from the audience and others posted online. Was just shy of an hour and half but I think could easily have gone on for another hour or so without anyone minding. Aidrian Shaughnessy  was very articulate and made me wish he’d had his own ‘audience with’ session like Sagmeister had on the Saturday.

I did have two gripes and stress this may not be representative of the overall event as I did only get to go to a small part. It would be really interesting for graphic design festivals (I know this festival covered more than just graphic design but point still stands) to focus a bit more on the day to day running of a design business. For example giving walk throughs of some of the speakers favourite projects, issues they’ve faced and overcome and help others learn from their experiences. The majority I’ve experienced in the past come across a little too abstract/ idealistic and the advice given having limited real world applications.

Final point, I lost count of the number of mentions of London, like it was some miracle anyone would turn up to a design event outside of the M25. Hopefully if events like this and Offset in Dublin continue to be successful it will pull more design talks and events out of the big smoke and give greater exposure to the non London based creative communities. Would be great for the West Midlands to have an event like this on the national calendar, as the graphic design sector in Birmingham and the Midlands is a growing and important part of the city’s make up. I think we need to shout about it a bit more.