Something Good 2017: top picks from the festival

For its inaugural year, the Bristolian design festival saw speakers including Morag Myerscough, Wilfrid Wood and Brendan Dawes. We round up our favourite talks and what we learnt.

Making its debut on the design festival calendar, Something Good is a new venture from Bristol-based events company Thread. Held in an 18th century church turned music venue, day one of the festival was hosted by Intern magazine founder Alec Dudson and saw talks from the likes of Swedish creative studio Snask, multidisciplinary designer Morag Myerscough and print-making pro Anthony Burrill. Meanwhile, on day two creatives such as sculptor Wilfrid Wood and illustration studio Handsome Frank held hands-on workshops at a number of venues across the city. Here are Design Week’s top picks from the festival.

Morag Myerscough

North London-born designer Morag Myerscough has been applying her trademark, colourful design aesthetic to projects for over 20 years now. Since founding Studio Myerscough in 1993, she has worked on commissions ranging from the first permanent exhibition space at the Design Museum’s new site in Kensington to giving the rooms and wards at Sheffield Children’s Hospital a vibrant makeover.

During her talk, Myerscough showcased some of her biggest projects from over the last 12 months and shared her personal learnings from them. The designer’s recent public art commission for Battersea Power Station, Power, aims to celebrate the history of the iconic building, which is currently undergoing a largescale regeneration project to build new housing, shops, parks and retail spaces.

Sitting at the entrance of the former power station – which closed down in the 1980s – the installation has been designed as a colourful welcome to visitors and takes inspiration from the details on the original art deco doors seen in what was previously the directors’ board room.

But at one stage, Myerscough’s vision for the project was called into doubt when the client expressed concerns about the colourful nature of the design. “They told me it was too bright and they wanted me to do something monolith – so I said, do it like that or don’t do it at all,” Myerscough told festival visitors.

She added that it taught her about the importance of creating a personal, recognisable brand for yourself as a creative. “I learnt this year that if you’re a designer you have to listen to what the client says, whereas if you’re an artist you can actually say no.”

Wilfrid Wood

Self-professed “satirical sculptor” Wilfrid Wood cut his teeth on the set of TV comedy Spitting Image during the 1980s, where his friend got him a job as an apprentice head-builder. Based out of his studio in Hackney Wick, East London, Wood hand-sculpts all of his comical and often grotesque creations.

Some of his previous works have included a £500 commission for a young American girl who loved his work and paid for the sculpture out of her own pocket money, as well as famous figures ranging from Mark Zuckerberg to Paul McCartney, all of whom he was drawn to for their “personalities, expressions and ideas”. “Pretty people and children are the hardest to do,” he explained during his talk. “You need gnarly old men with lots of character – Boris Johnson made himself.”

Wood has not always taken such an absurdist approach to his art form. After being rejected from the Royal College of Art (RCA) – where his father and grandfather both worked – he studied graphics at Central Saint Martin (CSM), where he was taught by none other than fellow designer and Something Good speaker Morag Myerscough. “As a designer, I thought I was supposed to be doing serious, hard, time-consuming drawing,” he said. “What I learnt from Morag was that I could actually do something fun.”

Gavin Strange

Aside from being a senior designer at animation studio Aardman, which has brought us loveable characters such as Wallis and Gromit, Gavin Strange also spends a chunk of his time – three hours from 5am every morning after his newborn baby wakes up specifically – working on personal projects. These have ranged from small, self-initiated graphic design pieces to directing music videos for rappers.

While Strange is a keen proponent of passion projects because of the freedom it gives you, during his talk he also warned that personal work “doesn’t always work out” and advised being able to “take the hits and get hench”.

Strange talked about one of his own personal projects – an animated children’s show centred around a group of cats – as an example of this. After collaborating with a large number of creatives he admired for their own work, and spending countless hours developing the characters and storyline, the show ended up falling through. “I became so enamoured with the process that it wasn’t really me anymore – everything got a bit messy and confusing,” Strange said.

Brendan Dawes

Artist and designer Brendan Dawes’ work focuses on what he calls the “interesting space” between analogue and digital. He is the author of two books on interaction design, and has created commissions for the likes of Airbnb, Google and EE.

A large part of Dawes’ work deals with data visualisation, exploring themes such as what happens when we “bump into or trip over” data, and how it alters our view of the world. It was during the course of a data visualisation project for commodities and energy markets site Platts that he learnt about the value of trial and error and “happy accidents” for creatives. Dawes was asked to create an animated visualisation showing the journey of over 3,000 ships from five months of historical shipping data, to go on display during the London Oil Forum in London.

While playing around with the data visualisations, he created one version that didn’t take into account the ships’ routes avoiding land, resulting in jagged, neon-coloured lines being stretched across the map of the world. As it turned out Platt actually loved this interpretation, according to Dawes – so much so that the graphics were used as the main visual for the official invite to the event. Dawes’ advice for budding designers at the festival was to always “show your mistakes”, adding that “sometimes something good can come out of them” – a fitting link to the festival name, as well.

Something Good took place from 6-7 October 2017 at various venues across Bristol. For more information, visit the festival’s site.

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