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Semi Permanent 2015

I love Semi Permanent. I loved it the first time I attended as a student, and I still love it now after attending for the sixth time.

For those who are not familiar, Semi Permanent is an annual two day design conference, where speakers from various creative industries are invited to come and shower us with inspiration by showcasing their work, design ideas and stories.

Our art director Anne and I attended this year’s Semi Permanent, and we were not disappointed. Possibly my personal favourite. This year Semi Permanent moved to Victory Convention Centre and what a brilliant venue for a design conference! The theatre features beautiful timber frame construction with a ceiling that reminded me of ribs of a fishing boat. The venue was already an inspiration, how appropriate.

Now onto some highlights!

Hege Aaby and Matt Rice from Sennep reminded us of importance of feeling and passion in designs. They believe that designs need to be emotionally driven in order to engage with people’s feelings, before worrying about rationality. In a world where anything and everything can be tracked and measured, could we lose the soul in our work when it is entirely a data driven?

It was refreshing to see how the analogue world and nostalgia fuel their modern designs like interactive installations, apps and websites

Tomas Libertiny inspired us to see design and nature differently by exploring the relationship between the two. He shared his curiosity about the world around us, and his passion for pushing conventional designs by manipulating the inner workings of nature.

Always be curious

Tomas Libertiny

In one project, he collaborated with bees to create what would normally be recognised as man-made products. His honeycomb structures would start off as computer printed beeswax moulds, then bees were encouraged to build a hive following the shape of these moulds. Breathtaking results.

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Honeycomb Structures by Tomas LIbertiny

Like Hege and Matt, Libertiny proposed that we don’t need to always justify our gut feelings. Sometimes we focus too much on the function of design we neglect to free ourselves to explore emotions and sentiments. I loved his example of the grand piano. It is created for us to play music, but what is the function of music?

Evan Roth made us question our freedom on the internet. With our data being monetized and our preference for convenience we are becoming just internet consumers rather than internet creators. Is this a good thing? Are we even conscious of this happening? Evan challenged us to look twice and understand how we use the internet through his work where he would often misuse technologies to create interesting results.

Gavin Beck believes agencies could learn a lot by letting go of old ways and embrace fast iterations, and be more customer-centric like startups. He shared how he felt more productive when he didn't work in agencies because there were fewer obstacles to innovative thinking and decision making.

Do it, ship it, do it again but better

Gavin Beck

Every year Semi Permanent loves introducing us to one or two very unconventional designers. Yuri Suzuki is an artist, and sound design experimentalist. It was an absolute delight to see him turn a steaming kettle, 1970s printer and a spinning globe into musical instruments. My favourite being the Colour Chaser; a device Yuri created to help dyslexics read music through the use of colours.

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Kettle Instrument and Colour Chaser by Yuri Suzuki

One of the speakers I really looked forward to seeing was Jessica Walsh from Sagmeister & Walsh. What a vibrant and playful presentation full of animated GIF goodness, delicious slow motion videos and whimsical typography of powerful quotes. She shared the importance of setting ourselves rules. In a world where possibilities are endless, it is easier to do brilliant work if we set limitations and allow rules to guide us, then break these rules when we need to.

Make more stuff with heart, soul, and voice

Jessica Walsh

I was especially intrigued by her expressive personal work: 40 Days Of Dating. She used all types of media imaginable to share this personal experience: Blogging, video, photography, social media, and now she is even working with Warner Brothers to turn it into a movie!

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40 Days of Dating by Jessica Walsh

I really appreciate it when designers share their processes and client stories; their successful work as well as their failures. Michael Beirut from Pentagram admitted that sometimes we need to really just listen to the clues clients give us, because we can often get too caught up with our own ideas. I found that to be quite a valuable reminder. 

Michael also taught us how to save the world with graphic design. No matter how boring or unpleasant a design job is, we must strive to do our very best. Because you never know how important your design might be for someone out there.