The benefits of stepping outside the day-to-day

It’s easy during tough times to keep your head down and concentrate on the job in hand. It’s a laudable and justified approach, particularly if you’re running design businesses. With clients to service and staff to pay, who can blame you.

But while chasing your tail on the business front might be expedient in the short term, it isn’t likely to inspire you into generating new ways of doing things in future. Nor, indeed, will it tell you what your rivals are up to unless it’s a pitch for work. Yet, if you allow them to happen, these two factors are more likely to shape your future than any new business bid.

It is vital, therefore, to take advantage of events such as last week’s inaugural Grafic Europe conference, held in Barcelona, or next month’s Pan-European Brand Design Association congress, also scheduled for the Catalan capital and involving branding groups from across the Continent. What better way to identify global trends at a time when world markets are shifting.

British participants at Grafic Europe found the event thought-provoking at a time when ideas are in short supply. Several said that they had benefited enormously from getting away from the day-to-day. It will be interesting to see how that experience will affect them over time.

One of the themes to come out of Grafic Europe was how you can set out on a new course if you have the will, the creativity and the courage to do so.

Austrian-born New Yorker Stefan Sagmeister, for example, told of his decision in 2000 to quit client work for a year to refocus his tiny studio. He has since managed to balance his work, previously dominated by the music industry, so that a third is cause-related – not least the stunning Move Our Money campaign to redeploy 15 per cent of US government spending on the military to health and education. A third of the work is corporate ‘to pay for the cause stuff’ and a third remains in music, ‘which pays for itself’.

More poignant for British attendees was the contribution of Simon Waterfall of Poke, the group he co-founded in association with Mother following the collapse in 2001 of digital supergroup Deepend, of which he was a founder. Not only have Waterfall and company survived, they have changed direction radically, working now for the likes of Orange and Nokia.

Then, of course, there is the ultimate survivor Peter Saville, whose creative ‘drifting’ culminates next month in a book and a Design Museum show.

There is cause for concern at present, but there’s nothing like sharing your experiences with your peers. Immersing yourself in events such as these is a great way to reinvigorate yourself and have fun.

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