Design Manchester is an ‘originative week-long festival celebrating creativity, collaboration and inclusivity in art, design, film and music’. The theme for this year’s festival, ‘the how, the what and the why’, brought together a rich programme of talks, workshops, exhibitions, screenings and debates, with a full weekend celebrating the love of print with the Manchester Print Festival at the People’s History Museum.
Two of the key players behind Design Manchester, Malcolm Garrett & Kasper De Graaf, were kind enough to share some thoughts with us…
But first, some background:
Since 1977, Malcolm has earned a global reputation for his influence on graphic design and popular culture. Malcolm is a co-founder of Design Manchester, Creative Director of Images&Co and has recently been added to the Design Week ‘Hall of Fame’.
Kasper is a writer, producer and CEO of Images&Co. He is a board member of VITAL, the European Internet of Things consortium, expert assessor for the Horizon 2020 ICT programme of the European Commission and partnerships director of Design Manchester.
And here’s what they had to say:
What first inspired you to pursue a career in design?
Malcolm: From a very young age I always intended to become an architect, having been influenced initially by visiting the castles of North Wales and the cathedrals of the UK as child. Then later the modernist architecture that sprang up all over the country throughout the 60s began to catch my attention. I was particularly taken by the Catholic Cathedral in Liverpool and the iconic Post Office Tower in London, both built when I was at primary school.
Kasper: I am mostly a writer and producer in the design sector, but the visual side of publishing has always been present in my work, particularly in magazines and books. In communications, editing and design are two sides of the same coin and it was natural for me to team up with designers to develop a connected and coherent approach to communications.
What do you think has been the most exciting development in the design world recently?
Malcolm: Undoubtedly the smart phone. Carrying so much personal connectivity and digital capability in a palm-sized device, that requires no more than a stroke of your fingers to liberate its immense power is simply mind-blowing. I grew up with the futuristic stories of Gerry Anderson’s TV21 magazine and James Bond's gadgets as inspiration. It is almost unbelievable that we have so rapidly surpassed many of the predictions that period of sci-fi culture suggested.
Kasper: I would say the continuing move to empowerment of individuals through technology (from music and publishing to the internet of things) is both the most exciting and the most challenging development for designers.
Who’s work has impressed / inspired you in the last 12 months?
Malcolm: Ben Terrett continues to impress me. His clarity of thought and vision of a useful, uncluttered graphic landscape are exemplary.
Kasper: MUMA’s redesign of the Whitworth (among many other things!).
Tell us a little bit about Design Manchester.
Malcolm: Design Manchester grew out of a conversation in 2013 between Prof David Crow, Dean of Manchester School of Art, John Owens, creative director of Instruct Studio, and myself, to stage an event to celebrate the 175th anniversary of Mcr School of Art, the oldest school of art in the country (after the RCA).
It didn’t take much to realise that not only was there a healthy appetite for design-focused events in Manchester, but the city proved to be the perfect foundation and backdrop for much broader range of events catering for a diverse and important range of creative industries. Underpinning the whole thing is of course an educational agenda that aims to connect design and technology education pathways through from primary to apprenticeships and beyond.
Kasper: Rooted in design practice, DM engages professionals and students with exciting showcases and discussions, as well as the wider public and policymakers in the evolution of design thinking and the contribution made by design.
What were some of your highlights from this year’s Festival?
Malcolm: The French illustrator Malika Favre was awesome, in the true sense of the word. Then compiling a panel that comprised Ben Terrett (GDS), Steve O’Connor (IDEO), Clive Grinyer (Barclays) and Lee Fasciani (Territory Studio) to discuss the multiple facets of creating environments for user-focused, experience-driven interaction design was a genuine treat. They complemented one another so well, each bringing their particular take to designing for the many and varied people that we would be wise not to simply refer to as ‘users’.
The Great Debates, this year and last, which talked of the 'Northern Powerhouse' and 'the Values of Design', have been immensely important in helping place Manchester at the heart of this National discussion, and re-enforcing the economic importance of design to the area.
Every DM15 event was, of course, quite special in its own way as we aimed to cater to a variety of disciplines, audiences and age demographics. That said there are still many avenues to pursue in future years.
Kasper: The launch event with Swifty being interviewed by his Manchester Poly contemporary Prof David Crow; the public debate with city council and industry leaders; Design Now with students interrogating Malika Favre and Hudson Powell; the Print Exhibition with G F Smith’s paper workshop; the CoderDojo with dozens of kids engaging with software and robotics. Unfortunately I had to miss Design How but I hear it was great!
What makes Manchester exciting from a design perspective?
Malcolm: When we decided to revisit Design Manchester for a second year in 2014, I had in mind as a reference the Manchester ‘In The City’ festival. This was the annual music festival that Factory Record’s Tony Wilson had initiated in the 90s, but sadly did not continue after he died. I soon came to realise that where Design Manchester differed is that we did not need to attempt to bring an industry to the north in order to celebrate it, for the creative industries are already deeply rooted in the heritage, culture and economy of the entire area. The scale of Manchester is ideal too. It is a major conurbation attracting the best of industry and culture, yet has a human-scale city-wide design community at its heart. Its connectivity with the industrial cities of the entire region, and its enviable standing on the International stage, make it ideal as a festival location.
Kasper: Manchester is one of the original world cities of design, from the industrial revolution through the birth of computers, the music and club scene from the 70s to the 90s, the National Graphene Institute, city devolution, Media City, the City Sports Academy and the upcoming Factory arts centre.
What are the future ambitions for Design Manchester?
Kasper: Design Manchester’s ambition is to engage the profession, students of all ages and the public (end users) as widely as possible in the appreciation of design and the evolution of design thinking, promoting Manchester as a world city of design and opening new opportunities for talent, skills, employment and the economy.
Malcolm: Watch this space!
Many thanks, Malcolm & Kasper.
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