Fush And Clicks

A Blog On All Things Digital (And Not).

Semi-Permanent 2012

on May 18, 2012

A couple of us were in attendance at the annual Semi-Permanent on Friday, a design conference of some of the world’s finest typographers, fashion designers and advertising creatives keen to share their ideas and lessons with the public.  The conference, now in it’s 10th year, celebrates individuals and agencies in the fields of film, fine art, illustration, digital design and more and has been hosted 29 times in five countries with over 200 speakers and 50,000 attendees.

This year’s show saw local comedian Te Radar as the MC for the day, with Special being the first speakers (and only kiwis) to take the stage. For the most part, they let the material (videos) speak for itself, the client campaigns demonstrating their steps to creative success. Being closer to our industry, it has been interesting to watch them develop from a semi-blank ad in the paper to a 20 person agency. One of their pieces was (of course) the Orcon/ Iggy Pop campaign, which I have always found controversial –  despite its success as a content generation and outstanding ad audience engagement, it didn’t lead to sales success to the point where Orcon moved to another agency. Also their rebranding of Ecostore directly contradicts the findings of my (sound, if I do say so myself) thesis on the topic… One of their lessons I thought was interesting was “turning weaknesses into strengths” demonstrated by channel Four’s rebranding as “home of not rugby” which helped lift viewership over the RWC time. Their Green Party campaign showed simplicity at its best, whilst the Smirnoff Night Projects showed how they could utilise the target audience’s own creativity to transform a campaign to a full TV show and media event. Here are their “8 special things” in its entirety:

  1. Think bigger than you are
  2. Don’t play by the rules, use deception
  3. Keep it simple
  4. Tell something interesting
  5. Back Yourself
  6. Collaborate
  7. Use the force to turn weakness into strength
  8. Have ludicrous self-belief

American designer Gmunk gave a very different presentation, almost narrative in structure with the first half covering his background leading to his achievement in being contracted to work on the recent Tron Legacy films. His journey was interesting to watch, seeing him develop from an illustrator to animator to video director and whatever he found himself in/ felt like. He had a variety of techniques and mediums  that showed his versatility while demonstrating common design elements and personality. There was also a lot of trends (e.g. geometry) appearing over some phases of his outputs. His work in Tron Legacy was much more technical in nature than some of his earlier work and served as a great reminder of how much work and thought does into a few minutes of animation. His personal site could do with a little SEO since it lacks indexable data!

The “godfather of sampling” Swifty spoke after our lunch period, and possibly due to personality or  organisation (or lack of) it wasn’t quite as structured or as easy to follow as the others. He showed various key pieces of his work and development, but we found it a bit harder to understand his creative process and over the second half, it felt like someone was flicking through Instagram reels telling us about an event that didn’t seem nearly as interesting as the success as he has achieved in his area. Some of the references don’t seem to work with the local audience and ultimately we didn’t walk out with a sense of how he managed to achieve the success he clearly has in the field. That being said, I think I do remember collecting Garbage Pail Kids when I was younger…

Twins Andrew and Mark Moffitt, founders of the agency Moffitt: Moffitt started their creative agency only 18 months ago but have quickly made an impact on the market over there. What surprised us was their devotion and time spent to their side projects such as a poster magazine called Demo where they collaborated with photographers and up and coming artists and Mart, a gallery where they even exhibited themselves. They also had some great fashion shoots of themselves. No shame in vanity.

Our favourite speaker of the day was Sydney-based paper engineer Benja Harney who demonstrated his passion which he was able to translate exceedingly well to a commercial environment. This included a window display for Hermes, promotional material for a TV show/network and the final project shown was a pop-up-book for Kylie Minogue. He detailed all steps of his creative process for this book, including errors encountered, ending with a trip to China to visit the factory where they were handmade. Each individual piece had to be cut with a custom “knife” and it was only at this stage if he knew the design was capable of being mass-produced. At the end, audience members made paper planes, which were thrown into the centre of the auditorium which made for a very cool spectacle (messy too!). I am a huge fan of paper engineering and love seeing how the simplicity of the medium can be translated to such captivating pieces. For anyone keen, here’s one site we’re really enjoying at the moment in this area, where great designs can be made through the patterns and instructions provided.

SouthSouthWest, a branding and design agency from Melbourne reminisced about how they developed from university students to develop their own agency and created projects for Nike, BikeFest as well as a brand new cider brand. The session didn’t quite stick out as much as the others hence while I can’t recall anything else.

Alex Trochut, a designer from Spain, gave us an interesting insight into the area of typography design and we quite appreciated his description of his approach to a new brief. It was different to see how he applied geometry and design rules to develop new and intricate typography to ensure not only that it was aesthetically pleasing but it also made sense. His session started by proclaiming he was a thief (and there is no such thing as originality without references) and in discussion of his pieces, he referenced a variety of other work to demonstrate what inspired him. This helped the audience to establish connections between the source work and how he ended up with his work (after a few different trials). He definitely came across as the type to test things and see what other approaches could work. Ultimately, as he puts it “It doesn’t matter where you get things from, it’s where you take them that matters”.

Scott and Justin from Australian ad agency of the year two years running, The Monkeys, closed the show after literally getting off the plane from Sydney earlier that day. Originally from Saatchi & Saatchi, they branched off after developing an original tv series and then later became a proper creative agency (whilst also still creating new tv series on the side). Recently, they did an interesting data visualisation for GE where users would either enter two keywords (of what concerns them the most in the future) and the data could be translated into a eye-catching and always changing light show. Made us think – what kind of visualisations could we do with our search data we have? They had our favourite video of the day, repositioning the Sydney Opera House using word, sound and power to tell a story that stays with you long after the ship has sailed.

verall, we had a ton of inspiration from great people from a varied number of industries all with something interesting to share about how they got to where they are today. One key theme across all the speakers was collaboration – whether this meant working with people who were more skilled in particular areas than themselves, such as in graphic coding, data visualisation or rubber duck building or collaboration in getting leads and projects from people they have networked with. It certainly applies in our industry with people certainly making (all) the difference. Another common theme across speakers was commercialisation. The agency speakers naturally geared towards commercial outcomes but others deviated either being opposed to ‘advertising’ or accepting bankable projects and exhibitions readily. Creativity can come in many forms and its great to see such different artists using their ideas in such different and exciting ways – despite this – all creativity ultimately works to evoke feeling and emotions from those that experience them.

In a nutshell: Knowledge ≠ Power. Creative = Power!



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