Work / Miscellaneous

Lessons from Offset 2012

I just returned from a jam-packed weekend at Offset in the lovely city of Dublin. Libeskind’s Grand Canal Theatre provided the backdrop for three days of heady talks from the likes of Sagmeister, Erik Kessels of KesselsKramer, Pentragram’s Paula Scher and Michael Beirut, Johnny Kelly, Shepard Fairey and Jessica Hische. Having had a day to digest all the discussions and ideas, here are the key themes that stood out…

Be brave and take risks

Sagmeister’s talk on challenging yourself and getting out of your comfort zone resonated with me. It was humbling to see that even Sagmeister has personal obstacles that he needs to force himself to overcome. Don’t play safe, having guts can ultimately be very rewarding.

Keep making and creating

In Paula Scher’s words: “The more you make, the more you want to do.” Give yourself a break from the computer and embrace making things with your hands.

Evolution and change are good

Johnny Kelly talked about feeling the need to grow and push his work in new directions. It was great to see people continuously experimenting and testing out new practices, processes, ways of approaching a problem, and embracing this process of discovery.

Find a balance

Balance kept getting referenced in relation to work, happiness, focus. This needs fine-tuning throughout your life, and it seemed that the speakers were all aware of this to varying degrees.

Pursue your passions

Scheduling time for things that you are passionate about was a re-occurring theme. Not only will you feel more inspired and happy but it can inform your work and sometimes directly impact on your career. Paula Scher’s mind-boggling map paintings started out as something she did in her spare time -they’ve now become another income for her. She works at Pentagram from Monday to Thursday and paints Friday to Sunday.

Find inspiration in things outside of your discipline

This leads on from the last point – fuel your creativity with stuff outside of your discipline. Taking an active interest and engagement in wider things is important. Shepard Fairey was extremely passionate about people needing to constantly critique the world around them.

More successful women in the creative industries

We need more intelligent, successful women like Paula Scher talking about design and creativity. There were 24 main speaker slots and only three women in the program. I don’t think this was intentional programming from Offset but we really need to address this imbalance and give inspiring women a platform.


It takes hard work and dedication to be successful – generally there isn’t an epiphany moment and one idea that gets you to the top. It was clear that most of the speakers had a slightly obsessive, unrelenting desire to produce work and got to where they are now by determination.

Never stop learning

It’s a lesson that Jessica Hische has learnt and it’s been an important realisation for her. The more you know, the more you realise you have to learn.


Failure is a universal experience. Even inspiring creatives at the top of their game produce work that isn’t realised, they aren’t proud of, or ideas clients reject. Use these failures as an opportunity to learn and evaluate.

Be ambitious

In the words of Friends With You: “Dream gigantic because you can accomplish it!”