I am very excited today to share a fantastic review of Melbourne’s recent AGIdeas event by Melbourne art director/crafter Imogen Stubbs!

Here Imogen shares her highlights of the 3 day event, which this year brought together an incredible group of international speakers including famed NYC-based graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister and typography guru Tobias Frere-Jones. Aagghh! . :( If, like me, you are kicking yourself for missing out, Imogen’s review is a must-read!

Imogen is art director for
Harvest Magazine - a Melbourne-based quarterly publication that features emerging writers, poets and artists. (I’ve featured it on the blog here.) She also makes and sells gorgeous little soy-based tea-cup candles called ‘China Lights’! If you have a moment, please share the blog-love and pop over to visit her China Lights blog! :)

A huge thanks to Imogen for sharing her highlights with us!

AGIdeas 2009 excited audience members! – photo courtesy AGIdeas

AGIdeas audience of 3000 design professionals and students (tickets sold out in 2 weeks apparently!). This photo is from the blog of one of AGIdeas’ international speakers Etienne Mineur – Etienne’s blog is gorgeous by the way, and his photos of Melbourne’s laneways and Fitzroy offer such a beautiful way to view our fair city through the wide eyes of an excited tourist! Definitely worth a visit!

Design is difference. 3 days and 44 speakers from local, interstate and overseas presenting their ideas to thousands at Hamer Hall. From backgrounds in graphic design, advertising, architecture, illustration and more, the forum covers a wide range of mediums, disciplines and topics, but each speaker had one main message:

Do what you love, do it because you love it, work hard at it because you love it and the rest will follow.

Of course this may sound easy coming from someone who has already found success in their chosen field, but everyone starts somewhere right?

The AGIdeas International Design Forum is now in its 19th year and brings together students, graduates, industry and big and small business. It’s Melbourne’s answer to Sydney’s Semi-Permanent but with more varied speakers. From the book binders to the boat builders, this is a forum where you do have to sit through a few talks that won’t interest you, but the gems are definitely there. Full of passion and creativity, this years highlights included a surprise presentation from Scott Schuman aka The Sartorialist along with the following:

Stefan Sagmeister at AGIdeas – Top left photo and bottom photo from the blog of fellow AGIdeas speaker Etienne Mineur. Top right photo courtesy AGIdeas.

Stefan Sagmeister. Perhaps an obvious choice but a valid one none-the-less. In Australia on a short break from the year he is spending in Bali on personal design projects (like a coffee table with a glass top and hundreds of compasses underneath, complete with a coffee cup with a magnet in the bottom so when you sit your cup down the compasses go wild), Sagmeister spoke about happiness in design and how the two are inextricably linked. He shared some points that help him to achieve this, and while the list was quite long, snippets included:
- Complaining is silly
- Having guts always works out for me
- Money does not make me happy
- Variety – party brand new, partly familiar
- Working without interruption
- Working on projects that matter
- Having things come back from the printer done well

While mostly simple, it’s nice to know that someone of such high design calibre and expertise still feels the same way about the little things as the rest of us.

Melbourne Chef Shannon Bennett

Shannon Bennett of Vue de Monde fame was an interesting speaker choice in amongst the majority of designers, but in his own right a designer of food and cuisine. His inventiveness and love for the environments he creates in his restaurants was quite contagious, as well as the stories behind his dishes and choices. It would be worth checking out his bistro now knowing that he ordered the majority of the fit out and furniture online from a French restaurant that was closing down. As well as his cafe, where he left the design up to Italian coffee brand Illy, who provide an online cafe fit out service. He provided measurements and background info and a few months later a container arrived along with a builder to put it all together.

It’s also nice to hear how local businesses are working towards greater sustainability. In particular Bennett’s enterprises have all their food waste turned into blood and bone by a local gardener, and use packaging and paper for their chocolate boxes and menus that has seeds embedded so that you can plant them when you get home and grow herbs. Quite lovely!

Top – photo of Frere-Jones from the fantastic Helvetica documentary (dir. Gary Hustwit). Bottom – this beautiful photo found at Michael Surtee’s Flickr – Michael was lucky enough to take typography tour of NYC hosted by Frere-Jones, and has blogged about it here (essential reading!).

Many of Frere-Jones own photos of classic NYC typography are currently on show in an exhibition at The Narrows gallery in Melbourne until June 6th. These shots of the Melbourne exhibition are from the Nevolution blog.

Typography guru Tobias Frere-Jones, he of the fonts used in the Obama campaign and the Martha Stewart craft magazine, gave us an in depth look at the amazing work, detail and thought that goes into creating the typefaces that many of us take for granted. Gotham, the font used in Obama’s political campaign, was inspired by public lettering on sheds, building numbers and the like. It’s unique because every letter is the same width, giving it a plain-spoken, accessibility and ‘every man’ quality. It was originally designed for the magazine GQ and Frere-Jones only realised the Obama campaign had picked it up when he saw their signage on the TV and thought it looked familiar. His photography linking to this font and others is currently on exhibition at The Narrows gallery in Flinders Lane.

The Obama campaign featuring ‘Gotham’ type by Tobia Frere-Jones
Sean Cummins – photo courtesy AGIdeas

Australian advertising giant Sean Cummins was everything someone who’s used to selling things should be: charming, charismatic, persuasive, down-to-earth and humourous. He’s created well-known campaigns for Virgin Blue (signage with tag lines like ‘Wanna Route?’ or ads like ‘If only you got Virgin Blue service everywhere’) and Tourism Queensland (‘Best job in the world’ campaign allowing one person to win a job as ‘island keeper’ for 6 months), as well as Nestle, Mars and Kmart. The nice thing about his presentation was that he wanted us all to embrace being creative and Australian. He felt that too many people idolised designers from New York and London and that being Australian gives us all a distinct view of the world and a different voice and aesthetic that we should embrace.

Etienne Mineur – photo courtesy AGIdeas

French born Etienne Mineur‘s energy for all his design work, no matter the client, was both inspiring and humbling. His work over 8 years on catalogues, look books and websites for Japanese fashion design Issey Miyake was a particular highlight. Creating websites that featured little user interaction and basically ran themselves to present an online fashion parade of that seasons goods, or on the other end of the scale, a user experience where blowing into the microphone on your computer would cause the website to change, or one that would slowly disappear as you were watching and recorded your IP so that you couldn’t revisit.

His personal projects were also intriguing, presenting prototypes he’s currently working on for a book that thinks it’s a video game. The book responds to movement and touch and could even include a special part to blow into that will only allow you to use it if you are drunk! While another prototype was for a book that only allowed you 20 minutes to read it. Using thermo-sensitive inks once the pages had been opened and exposed to light the text began to gradually fade and disappear, giving the reader the unique and seemingly stressful task of reading the book quickly and only once! Unfortunately he mentioned that due to Australia’s warm climate the inks wouldn’t work here but even the thought and premise behind such a product was intriguing.

There were many other highlights and all speakers had interesting and unique stories to tell, some more engaging than others. Design forums have the unenviable task of trying to please a large audience and AGIdeas as a whole succeeds with a great variety and line-up each year. Perhaps a few too many speakers and rather exhausting days due to not being able to select certain speakers only to see, but all in all a great event which provides Melbourne with a design forum of international calibre.

Thankyou thankyou thankyou Imogen! - Lucy x