Birmingham Design Festival

Corinne Powers

3 minute read

On Friday 8th June, members of the strategy and design teams at Friday attended Birmingham Design Festival – a new celebration of the local, national and international design industry.

Our agenda for the day included a variety of talks – and excitement ran high as Friday’s own speaker session had sold out several weeks prior!

The festival – which is now confirmed to return next year – included an impressive 4 day line-up of inspirational talks, workshops and exhibitions from practitioners across graphic, digital & product, hosted in venues across Birmingham city centre.

The first talk we attended was by Matthew Cane, Design Director and co-founder of Cogz, a marketplace that makes it easier for food producers to secure their product onto the shelves of well-known retailers.

Matthew’s talk, suitably named “Take Care”, began by discussing the enormous impact that digital technology has on behavioural change and society as a whole. Examples included Facebook and the role in Donald Trump winning the US election and the slow down in population growth in Japan – which can be attributed to the rise in video gaming and computer generated characters.

The introduction of new digital platforms can also serve to make behaviours obsolete – Matthew argued that when designing a digital service in response to a client brief, or to answer a customer need, there should be a mechanism for considering the reversal scenario or outcome. ie. the negative impact of solving one solution, can cause a ‘backlash’ scenario. In going about our work, designers of digital products and services have a duty to consider the reverse effects of any of the products we put out into the world.

Next up was Friday’s very own Chief Design Officer, Jo Simmons and Head of Strategy, Estelle Ricoux. Jo and Estelle talked about what makes work meaningful to our teams at Friday – sharing our target customer experience methodology – and explained that, for a recent client, the first piece of internet we’d built for them was a tool that spits out word documents. What mattered there, much more than using the latest technology was coming up with the right solution to address a core user need.

Friday strives to uncover and solve real problems, and our teams find the ‘hotness’ in innovating from the core.

In the afternoon, we attended a talk by Tom Harding, Head of Design at Made By Many, presenting notes on design in the digital age. Tom spoke about how Made by Many are tackling the growing skills gap in digital design.

He talked about how design education fundamentally needs to change. Given the scale and impact of digital technology and work that agencies like Made by Many do, numerous people – particularly younger people in education – aren’t aware that this industry exists.

One of their projects to create a piece of hardware, “Hackaball” is part of this initiative. Hackaball is a smart and responsive ball that children can program to invent and play games – and exposes kids to learn the basics of programming logic.

He also raised an important question around governance in our digital design practice, and the implications of it. Architects are required to train for 7 years, and if a building falls down, it’s a real problem. Should digital designers also be accountable? And is the recent Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal a very real example of greater controls being needed?

The final talk we attended was about designing with data, and delivered by Cris Mascort and Zoha Zoya from R/GA.

Highlights included visual designs for Next Bank, a bank for millennials in Brazil. The visual identity and collateral was rather spectacular, a visual cross between Spotify and an East London fashion brand.

We’d love to understand more about how users experienced the products and were keen to see the process of how the R/GA team got to their design solutions. A bit like a maths problem, we always want to see the workings out!

Our day at the Birmingham Design Festival was fabulous; filled with variety, candid perspectives, and thought provoking insight into the workings of some great minds! We’ll definitely be back next year.

Corinne Powers

Business Development Manager
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