On Friday we once again headed west for our third annual Here symposium at the Royal Geographical Society. A stellar line-up of international creative talents treated us to a day of insight and inspiration, shot through with honesty and humility.
The day was kicked off by Nalden, co-founder of our event partner WeTransfer.. He spoke about how the file transfer service/creative showcase aims to “remove the speed bumps” sometimes experienced day-to-day and explained why it’s the coders who’ll inherit the earth. Above all it’s important to be flexible he insisted, ending with the Alvin Tofller quote: “The illiterate of the future are not those that cannot read or write. They are those that cannot learn, unlearn, relearn.”
After Nalden came the brilliant German graphic designer Mirko Borsche. He told us about the culture in his studio where the whole team is encouraged to draw and where the day’s seating plan is decided on a first come first served basis. Mirko focused in particular on his work with the Bavarian State Opera, where everything from the posters to the programmes are designed to make the art form more accessible, and he showed us how everything from typographic choices to use of illustration works towards that goal.
After Mirko, illustrator Marion Deuchars whose thought-provoking talk questioned why so many children are discouraged from drawing by the time they leave primary school. “For children, a piece of paper is a place for something to happen, for adults it’s a thing,” she explained, and showed how her “play desk” space allows her to immerse herself in the messy business of actually being creative. Marion also encouraged us to reconnect with the enjoyment of actually making things, reminding us “Making art makes you happy.”
The final session before lunch saw The Gentlewoman editor-in-chief Penny Martin in conversation with our own Rob Alderson. Penny spoke with passion and candour about what the magazines wants – and maybe just as importantly doesn’t want – to do. “It’s such a responsibility to correctly represent these women who have fought so hard to get where they are,” she said, “The last thing we wanted it to be was having 15-year-old models spread-eagled on beds with giant handbags.” This respect for the women they cover, as well as the writers, photographers and stylists they work with, informs almost every aspect of the popular publication.
“It’s such a responsibility to correctly represent these women who have fought so hard to get where they are…The last thing we wanted it to be was having 15-year-old models spread-eagled on beds with giant handbags.”
After lunch the inimitable Dutch duo Lernert & Sander took to the stage. In an incredibly honest presentation they faced some of their creative failures, from shoe-cakes to an ambitious Valentine’s Day/Chinese New Year crossover. As well as showing some never-before seen work (through which the pair visibly squirmed!) they also teased out what they had learned from each experience, including this contender for the quote of the day: "Rely on your instinct, a bad brief means trouble. When you smell poo – there is poo.”
They were followed by architect Sam Jacob of the soon to close FAT architecture collective. His idea-rich presentation expired the very essence of what design could and should be: “Design is not just making a thing. Objects are culture; they show who we can be and the types of world we can create.” He looked at some of FAT’s projects down the years from the his-and-her toilet bowl to the British Pavilion at the current Venice Architecture Biennale, packed with references from Cliff Richard to Stanley Kubrick. His intelligent talk gave us a real glimpse into the ideas that shaped FAT’s work.
LA-based artist Eric Yahnker was up next with a talk that will lose much of its magic written down. Explaining that his work should be contextualised in “the connection between the heart, the mind and the loins,” he told us how lying about his basketball prowess got him a job on the South Park movie and how he wound up being an artist by unwinding a GAP shirt. He then shared ten important lessons about creativity; why it’s important to say no, why artists should have a trademark style (but don’t be a douchebag) and why artists should never, ever live with their parents while pursuing their creative endeavours.
The final talk of the second session came from revered graphic designer and filmmaker Marina Willer. The Pentagram partner’s main theme was about ceding control in design, letting fun and personality and the unexpected inform the aesthetic decisions we make. From the her Brazilian heritage to a love affair with Britain (via marrying a man from Bolton) Marina shared with us some of her passions and explained how anything from the amazing questions her kids ask her to pun-tastic shop names can be taken as design inspiration. A whizz through her work for the Tate and Macmillan Cancer support demonstrated her adherence to her “ideas first, rules later” motto.
“Rely on your instinct, a bad brief means trouble. When you smell poo – there is poo.”
Lernert & Sander
First up in the final session of the day were fashion design wunderkinds Agi & Sam. Admitting from the off they were “absolutely terrified,” their charming and disarmingly honest talk took us behind-the-scenes of their much-vaunted label. From their early attempts at branding (the duo wisely decided against calling themselves Edward & Adolphous) to their mentors (Paul Smith and their mums), they explained: “Our motto’s always been that we have to do what we can do, because that’s all we’ve got.” They also talked us through the “fashion maths” behind making their clothes; a rare insight into the commercial realities fashion designers must confront.
“It’s Friday 13th June, it’s 24 degrees outside and it’s a shit day to be a goth,” was the opening gambit of photographer Ewen Spencer’s talk. The supremely-talented Geordie talked us through his time documenting the music cultures that surrounded first Northern Soul Grime and UK Garage and explored his relationships with each of these genres. He then changed tack and spoke frankly about a personal project that took him to the immigrant communities of southern Italy, the baffled reaction of those close to him and how it eventually lead him back to photographing young people across Europe.
The final talk of the day came from the illustrator and artist Christoph Niemann whose exploration of idea generation and the potential pitfalls of the creative process was the perfect way to round off proceedings. His talk took in the difficulties of ruthlessly editing yourself to why dreams are annoying, whether his work perpetuates stereotypes to why he considers himself one of the world’s “foremost spooners” and yet still can’t work out to do with that spare arm. It was inspiring, honest and uplifting stuff and the perfect end to a jam-packed day.
Thanks to our event partner WeTransfer, all our amazing sponsors, everyone who came along and of course our wonderful speakers. See you at Here 2015!
WeTransfer is a file transfer service which was built to get files from A to B with no hassle, no stress and no charge. But it is much more than that; at its heart is a global exhibition of creative talent. In curating the wallpapers and experience you see on WeTransfer today, they have built an amazing network of artists, illustrators, entrepreneurs, photographers, shops and artisans. It has allowed WeTransfer to provide a free tool for their users, but also support the creativity of some incredible businesses and people around the world.