Back from the Future

“I’ve seen The Future, brother, it is murder”. said Leonard Cohen. Crikey! Thankfully, there was a very different Future on show in the RDS last weekend. One of ideas, creativity, opportunity and, in the middle of the noise (both metaphorical and actual), a little bit of reflection too. After all, how can we face the Future without reckoning the past? A handful of Red Dogs had the chance to spend a couple of days in Ballsbridge taking in many different presentations and discussions across the event’s four stages. Here are a handful of their highlights.

It’s not every day you get to go to The Future. The Future, it turns out, was really great – and well done to Richard Seabrooke and his team for pulling it off. There was a lovely vibe throughout the venue….lots going on, great chats and lots to look at. For me I really liked Bleed from Norway and enjoyed MaryAnn Bolger keeping David Smith on track during their session 🙂 Michael Horsham from Tomato was really interesting for me in that we looked up to them when we set Red Dog up first – glad to see they are still going strong – albeit in a different format. With regard to the future for us… well, if you take anything away from the weekend, it’s that the future is optimistic, colourful and thoughtful – we’ll take that.

Space 10 showed how design can be at the heart of empowering people to drive social and environmental change. Ilse Crawford was simply Inspiring! Firstly, showcasing the young innovative thinkers and designers of the future before moving on to beautiful interiors where people and well-being are the focus of design. North’s description of how a rebrand goes so much deeper than just a logo and that future-proofing is just as important as the idea. And it’s always good to be reminded that you shouldn’t always take things at face value and not be a judgemental prick on Twitter! Johnny Kelly was great – not least for reminding me to think twice about getting a fern.

Techno Techno Techno Techno! Loved Pfadfinderie’s stuff. Typical Berliner – a lot of their work couldn’t ever have happened anywhere else. The Monolith bespoke video wall was amazing. Moderat and Modeselektor live visual work was great too. Very technical, very techno, very tall! Less tall was Lorna Ross, whose very fast explanation of what Fjord are up to was very interesting and covered a lot of ground in a short time. Tomato was my jam when I used to try to emulate them with my dad’s fax machine in the 90’s. Lovely stuff about not just adding screens to spaces and using more tangible interactive elements with installations etc. Finally, Astrid Stavro from Atlas was the only person I heard address the shite sound. Made jokes about it and turned something everyone was complaining about into a positive. She shared endearing stories of her childhood growing up with a children’s book publisher as a father, visiting famous illustrators all over Europe in a campervan. Lots of letterpress informing her work for the Teatre Principal in Barcelona. The elephant magazine spreads were lovely from a page construction perspective. Nice touch adding jazz music to rapid slideshows of images. This was one of my favourite presentations.

My favourite was Base Design’s frank and honest account of how their studio was basically in a state of chaos until they transformed it into a productive and enjoyable environment. More autonomy for designers and less traditional studio hierarchy with some home cooking along the way sounded like the dream! By contrast, Andrew Essex’s brief talk gave me goosebumps – the inevitable rise of voice activation for most user experiences will mean less visible design – food for thought on what design will mean to people in the future if they can’t ‘see’ it… Johnny Kelly was a delight as always: ‘do what you like doing and we’re all going to die anyway’ made me smile. Aad’s Scott Burnett said it best when he said we’re all saying the same thing. I liked his surface, substance, structure formula for what a successful design solution should encompass. For me, the future will be all about problem-solving and producing messages that can be packaged several different ways. Fluid skills and learning every day and maybe a snazzy new job title (synthetic personality architect, anyone?!)

I loved listening to David Smith, it was very interesting listening to his journey through various design cultures & his learnings from each. His dedication to the craft is inspirational. Elsewhere, Steve McCarthy’s delivery and presentation were excellent. He had the room roaring with laughter at several stages throughout his talk. DixonBaxi’s attention to detail, particularly through ‘Motion Theory’ and their immersive approach in understanding their audience was also very impressive. The Future was really great – I’d love to go back.

An early highlight was Triboro Design, whose work for Nike and L’Observatoire International was playful, innovative and charming. A little less charming, perhaps – but no less enjoyable – was Sean Perkins’ sardonic account of the process behind North Design’s identity for the Science Museum. A rare instance of an event speaker addressing negative feedback head on. Later, Base Design’s Thierry Brunfaut ignored his studio’s work completely, choosing instead to describe how a complete overhaul of the way Base operates led to better work, happier clients and more engaged staff. Architecture is something I rarely think about so Grafton Architects caught my attention through the impressive scale of their work and the engaging way Shelley McNamara talked about it. Can’t wait for the new City Library on Parnell Square! Finally, Nick Kelly’s account of how six wildly different stages of his professional life led to him becoming a first-time feature film director was every bit as entertaining as you’d expect from someone who’s been telling stories, one way or another, or 30 years. Nick’s talk ended on an emphatically optimistic note too – which, when you’re dealing with the future is never a bad thing to carry with you!

So that was The Future 2017. Lots of highlights to reflect on and things to carry forward. For now, this is our take home: The Future might seem scary but we’ve been through a load of futures already and made it out ok. What’s next?

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