What we learnt from Pentagram, Moving Brands and others at Offset Sheffield

An array of speakers took to the stage at Offset’s first ever Sheffield conference in October, including Moving Brands, a pair of Pentagram partners, and Pip Jamieson, founder of creative job site The Dots. We sum up their valuable advice.

Go on a digital design or UX course

Pip Jamieson © Adrienne Pitts
Pip Jamieson © Adrienne Pitts

Pip Jamieson is the founder of creative job site The Dots, which now has 100,000 job-hunters who range from graduates to experienced designers, and 4,000 companies advertising jobs. One of her pieces of advice for designers of any experience level is to get skilled in UX and UI design – because that’s where the jobs are. “The biggest shortage of talent in creativity is digital designers,” she says. “Everyone is desperate for them, and freelancers can take away £500 – £1,500 a day. If you can skill up in UX and UI, you’ll be set.”

Integrate your hobbies into your work

© Offset Sheffield
L-R: Luke Powell and Jody Hudson-Powell © Offset Sheffield

Luke Powell and Jody Hudson-Powell are two brothers who last year joined Pentagram as partners. They previously co-founded London-based studio Hudson-Powell, and class themselves as “multi-disciplinary”, working across brand identity, exhibition, print, digital and animation.

At Offset, they spoke about how their fascination with gaming when they were children informed their relationship with technology from an early age. “We used the STOS programming engine in the 1990s to make – and play – games,” says Jody Hudson-Powell. “We’d fix joysticks, and make flight controllers and steering wheels. We saw technology as something to open up, not just consume.”

Now, the pair design and test games for apps regularly, based on ideas they fabricate from their imagination. While most of these don’t make it to market stage, it’s a springboard for ideas for other digital projects and shows they can take on work that is “void of any client”, says Hudson-Powell. “Be aware of your hobbies and how to introduce them into your work,” he says. “Ridiculous ideas might not seem so ridiculous in five years time.”

Pip Jamieson, founder at The Dots, echoed this idea in her talk, where she spoke about how “personal, passion projects” and self-initiated work help to impress employers in a graduate’s portfolio.

Let clients in to your creative process

BBC iPlayer Kids identity, by Moving Brands
BBC iPlayer Kids identity, by Moving Brands

Consultancy Moving Brands has completed projects for big-name clients such as Apple, Virgin, Google, BBC and Barclays, bringing branding to life through animation. Executive creative director Darren Bowles spoke at the conference about his experience working with high-profile companies. It’s better to collaborate and “let your clients get messy”, he says, rather than hoarding all the creativity for yourselves. This is a particularly good idea if the company already has a strong creative team, Bowles says, speaking about his time working with the BBC’s UX design team. “The project should be a cacophony of skills you join together,” he says. “If clients are creative too, why not bring them into your studio? Augmenting teams is a good thing.”

Work with bright, young people

Andy Altmann © Offset Sheffield
Andy Altmann © Offset Sheffield

It’s not just clients you should be collaborating with – Andy Altmann, founder at Why Not Associates and Andy Stevens, founder at Graphic Thought Facility, spoke about their current project, which is a new wayfinding system for the Sheffield Institute of the Arts. But the art college won’t see a permanent design display installed – the purpose of the project is to collaborate with the students, and allow them to continually paste over wall graphics with exhibition posters, doodles, illustrations and 3D sculptures. “We came up with a graphic system but then realised we were being too sensible,” says Altmann. “This is an art college – it’s radical. When I was at Central Saint Martins, I wanted to scribble all over the walls. An art school should be in a mess, and should show layers of life.” The project will continue to change and evolve, Altmann and Stevens say, and shows how experienced designers can trust in and learn from bright young creatives.

Don’t forget traditional craft

gfsmith_05_lr_0

Print company GF Smith has a 130-year heritage, and produces its products through traditional techniques, showing that the print industry can still apply care, precision and beauty to making paper. Paul Scharf, specification sales manager at the company, spoke about the history of the brand, and showed films demonstrating the arduous, lengthy processes – such as letter press and dye cutting – its paper goes through to get its bright colours and luxurious finishes.

He also showed how the company is being inventive in the field to make paper production exciting, through products such as concertina-style swatch books which require precise engineering, and still-motion photography of coloured dye being dropped into water. He demonstrated how the quality produced through human skill and craft cannot be replicated by machine manufacturing. “Quality of printing is not an indulgence,” Scharf says. “It is a necessity in advertising.”


Offset Sheffield took place at the Crucible Theatre, 55 Norfolk Street, Sheffield S1 1DA on 21-22 October. The conference also has branches in Dublin and London, and provides talks from designers, illustrators and entrepreneurs in the creative industries.

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