Design Week picks: 5 speakers to see at Offset 2020

Our guide of what to catch at the Offset Dublin conference, which has just announced a line up including illustrator Laura Callaghan, Pentagram’s Rory Simms and Lego’s Jen Kronvold Frederiksen.


Over the last 12 years, Irish collective THISISPOPBABY has created events that stand at the centre of pop, queer and counter cultures. With a style that is distinct and eccentric, the team have designed and produced theatre shows and festival sets for more than 250,000 people, on stages across the world.

In this talk, co-director of THISISPOPBABY Jennifer Jennings will be joined by one of the organisation’s associate designers, Niall Sweeney of Pony Ltd., who has worked with the team for the last decade on shows including the international RIOT theatre tour. Described as a “disorderly cocktail of wild theatre and eye-popping circus”, the show broke box office records at Dublin Fringe Festival 2016.

Sweeney has long fused art and design with experience and events, frequently working internationally across print, theatre, film and installation projects.  The two will discuss their lengthy collaboration, highlighting how Sweeney’s cross-disciplinary approach to design has been key to the outfit’s continued success.

Product design: Jens Kronvold Frederiksen

Jens Kronvold Frederiksen has tread the path many Lego fans can only dream of, going from a hobbyist model maker to a 19-year career at the toy manufacturer that has culminated in him becoming design director of the Lego Star Wars range.

For Frederiksen, bringing space ships, sets and characters to life requires a lot of old-fashioned brick-building. “We can build digitally, but most designers prefer to work with physical bricks, as it may be the only way they can check stability or functionality on the model,” he says.

In this talk, expect to learn all about the culture of design at Lego, what it takes to become a Lego designer and how the team take inspiration from all areas of life.

Graphic design: Rory Simms

A visual design communication graduate from Ireland’s Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design  Technology, Rory Simms currently works as an associate Pentagram partner alongside Paula Scher in New York.

Simms has worked across multiple disciplines with Scher since 2014, including projects in typography, installation and graphic design, for clients like The New York Times, streaming service Hulu and the National Centre for Civil and Human Rights. His most recent project has seen him create an identity for the Atlantic Theatre’s 2019-2020 season programme.

Alongside his work with Pentagram, Simms also teaches design at the School of Visual Arts in New York. With this in mind, visitors can expect his talk to navigate his own career and the industry as a whole.

Illustration: Laura Callaghan

Another Irish-born talent, Laura Callaghan currently works in south east London where she produces her characteristically self-conscious and maximalist illustrations. Her work is largely hand-painted using watercolour, gouache and isograph pen, and occupies a “part fashion illustration, part satire” space.

Callaghan’s subject of choice is often women, to which she says: “I like to draw women with strength, but that’s not to say they are perfect and together characters.”

Callaghan boosted her early career by becoming the illustration editor of Oh Comely, a bi-monthly women’s magazine. From there, she developed her own identifiable illustration style, which has earned her clients like the V&A, The New Yorker, The Body Shop and the Tate.

With these experiences in tow, Callaghan will take to the main stage of Offset 2020 to talk about her career, developing her signature style and creating a strong personal brand.

Branding: DixonBaxi

Having worked for clients like Channel 4, Netflix and the Premiere League, DixonBaxi is a studio that prides itself on brave, impactful branding. The consultancy was established by friends Simon Dixon and Aporva Baxi in 2001 in an attempt to “challenge the status quo and rethink branding”.

The studio claims to have reached some three billion people through its various projects and work, both in the UK and internationally. As the studio approaches its twentieth birthday, founders Dixon and Baxi themselves will take to the Offset 2020 stage to explore their studio’s past, present and future.

Visitors to the talk will benefit from the pair’s combined knowledge, which will focus around the DixonBaxi mantra: “be brave”. The team say this has helped them produce consistently relevant work over nearly two decades.

Also catch:

Andy Gent: With a filmography that includes Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Corpse Bride and Isle of Dogs, puppet maker Gent will deliver a talk informed by his extensive work on films and with stop motion.

April Greiman: Throughout her extensive catalogue of projects, Greiman has explored how colour, image and word inform graphic design. Her main stage talk in 2020 will span her 30-year career, which has earned her four honorary doctorates and coverage from Newsweek, CNN and The New York Times.

Offset Dublin takes place on 3-5 April 2020 at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. Ticket prices start from €150. 

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