Blog 53

Last Friday, the design team attended the Design Manchester Festival at the Town Hall, a celebration of all the different disciplines within design, and all things aesthetic. It was an opportunity for us to hear from leading industry professionals including Peter Saville (Factory Records, Selfridges, EMI), Michael C Place (Designers Republic, Virgin,, Rejane Dal Bello amongst others. It was a great chance to network with other designers from across the North West, as most of the big design agencies were in attendance.

The central topic for the conference this year was, “The Science of Imagination”. Malcolm Garrett, the MC for the day, explained that this title was “open to interpretation” and could be applied to any design discipline. The title describes the genesis of an idea, how ideas are formed, and how they’re explored and finally executed. This title was the theme for all the speakers on the day and they all took the opportunity to express how they applied it to their particular discipline. We all left feeling inspired, sharing similar as well as, personal highlights...

speaker on stage at design conference

ANTHONY - Designer

“Down with Gravity!” - Rob Lowe cracking up the audience at the Design Manchester Festival! No, not THAT Rob Lowe, rather Supermundane. To me, this gent was the highlight of the talk. Not only could he produce some truly amazing visuals, but he had the crowd in the palm of his hand. It must be comforting for him to know that, if it all went south, he could quite easily be a stand up comedian!

Rob Lowe, also known as Supermundane, is an artist, graphic designer, typographer, illustrator and writer. His signature mesmeric drawings have been published and exhibited worldwide. These mesmeric drawings certainly caught my eye. At first, one could mistake them for doodles, but as you look closer you can see that they are anything but. Repeated patterns and forms, so intricate, that one might think he produced these designs in Adobe Illustrator. However, his work is purely hand produced, which when you see it, is astounding. He also only takes on work, depending on whether he would enjoy doing it, rather than how much he is paid. He himself admitted that this approach only really makes him enough money to pay his bills and not much else, such is his love for his craft.

Supermundane graphic

Rejane Dal Bello is another that stood out for me. Similar to Rob, her passion and attitude for design shone through. Of particular interest, was her unpaid work in PAZ Holandesa Childrens Hospital in Peru, designing, with the hope of making it a much more welcoming and less-scary place.

Both Rob and Rejanes work and passion for design is truly inspiring!

LEANNE - Junior Designer

Friday, was the first time I had attended the Manchester Design festival talk. In previous years I have attended the odd event taking place in the Manchester Metropolitan University (where I previously studied). I was excited to hear the views of leading designers, from different disciplines discuss ‘The Science of Imagination’.

As I had hoped, the guest speakers came from a variety of backgrounds. Rejane Dal Bello particularly resonated with me, her portfolio of work was amazing both in breadth and talent. She comes from an art school background and spoke about how she developed her typography skills over time and how each new project she took on, developed fonts which she created which inspired her to look at type in a different way.

Two projects from her portfolio that particularly stood out for me, were the Paz Holandesa Hospital Visual identity and the Alzheimer Nederland Visual Identity. I think great design makes you feel something. I was particularly fascinated by the way the Paz Holandesa Hospital identity artwork transformed the hospital into warm and welcoming place for children to feel safe. The Alzheimer Nederland visual identity, clearly portrayed the feeling of loss through bold typography and depressing imagery. The project didn’t shy away from what the core identity was, and this is what makes Bello’s work so impressive and inspiring. Her artwork definitely catches the essence of the person or the brand.

Rejane Dal Bello iconography

Here at Degree 53, we are sponsoring the Behance Manchester portfolio review 2014, to anyone attending I highly recommend checking out Rejane Dal Bello’s portfolio for inspiration.

JADE - Head of Design

The Design Manchester Festival was an absolute hit! It had such an impact on how I look at design and embrace ideas, it couldn’t have had a better setting than the inspirational Manchester Town Hall. For me, the whole experience was very eye-opening, as a designer in the digital arena, the festival gave me a new perspective on different disciplines within graphic design.

It was amazing to hear each speaker’s insights into their chosen field, to hear their passion and their dedication in achieving such amazing pieces of work. The two designers that stood out the most for me were, Tony Brook and Adrian Shaughnessy of Unit Editions.

Unit Editions produces books for designers, written by designers. They are not constrained by the restrictions that modern publishing companies enforce, because of this they are able to design in any format, to any extremity they like and I love this approach. This to me is dedication on a whole other level!

Creating each book is an immense, painstaking task, but one which they suffer gladly to produce the best product. From what Adrian was saying there is an amazing amount of research that goes into every book, research that takes them around the world to bring the reader the best experience. One example was for their book on Graphic Designer FHK Hendrion, in which they went to New York for a week to photograph his entire back catalogue and collections.

Graphic Designer FHK Hendrion book

“…the notion of the book as a highly designed artefact with rich visual and textual content to an international audience of design professionals” - Adrian Shaughnessy

Brook and Shaughnessy went on to talk about the cost implications of producing a self published book had been on the company when producing their first book, the fact that if this book didn’t sell, it would have ended their venture. I have so much respect for Unit Editions, the fact they dedicated everything to their product, and had so much confidence in it, that money was never going to be an issue.

MARTYN - Designer

I’m sure all of the team will agree that all of the speakers had some impact on the way we look at design. From where an idea starts, how they eventually develop an idea, also how they deal with everyday tasks such as client communication and interacting with their team.

One of the speakers who stood out for me was Ross Phillips, Associate Design Director of Digital at Dalziel & Pow, the way he and his team create bespoke, state of the art interactive experiences for users and customers was jaw-dropping! He embodied the whole concept of the design festival for me. The genesis of ideas on a small scale and seeing them realised in astounding, articulate ways.

Phillips is a testament to how we are now bridging the gaps between design and digital, something that is a subject of interest for me.  Originally from a development background, creating installation based developments for art galleries, he has now brought this interactive experience to his agency and in turn, the retail sector. I strongly recommend looking at how Ross and the agency create these digital experiences -

Digital Projection Mapping

Ross went into detail about how clients are dealt with on a day-to-day basis, the importance of prototyping and how this is the best way to let the client into the design process. He also gave insight on how they successfully pitch to a client. Presenting them with small details about potential design direction within a mood board. He emphasised how this non-committal approach is not time consuming for the team, and serves as a taster for the client.

Rejane Dal Bello a Brazilian Graphic Designer based in London, stood out for me. Her tireless passion for design really shone throughout her talk. None more so, than when she was talking about the work she did for a children’s hospital in Peru, at no cost!

Her desire to make the hospital a much more child-friendly, welcoming place, really comes through within her artwork. She progressed this idea, when she wrote a children’s book and created a small animation based on the branding work she had done for the hospital. This project can be seen here -

JONNY - Senior Designer

As we queued up, and then found our seats alongside a couple hundred other Manchester-based designers, one thought struck me: we’re incredibly fortunate that we get to do this for a living. The room was full of designers from various fields. Some students, some freelance, others working for larger companies. All love design.

I thought that each speaker was terrific in his or her own way. The theme (The Science of Imagination) was suitably broad and rather than speak on a particular topic, each speaker took us through samples of their previous work. Daniel Hirschman showed us how you can bring a simple grocery store to life with great design, and Ross Philips showed how to delight users with simplicity. It was Rejane Dal Bello thought who touched on a subject that is really close to my heart; we should care about what we put into the world and what we leave behind.

The children’s storybook that she made called “Dr Giraffe” was a genuine risk. Even without financial backing or any kind of sound business plan, she believed in a product that would help sick children, or children with sick parents, come to terms with the medical care they need. It was a small and beautiful project with a great reach. Part of the legacy that Rejane Dal Bello will leave behind is one of comfort, hope and in her own small way, she’ll have changed the world for the better.

Whilst the other designers did not speak explicitly on that subject matter, it still came across in each of their presentations. They want to do work that inspires them, that is worthy of their time and devotion. They obviously need to pay the bills too, but ultimately they want to make products that they are proud of and that they’re happy to leave behind once they’ve gone. It’s a great call to arms for us as designers. Personally, I found the whole day to be challenging and inspiring. Roll on Design Manchester 2015.

In Summary

We have come away from this event, with a number of different perspectives from those who have made their mark in the design industry. The amount of inspirational work and people we saw at the conference was infinite and hopefully we can carry this through into our future projects at Degree 53.

“Process” is an evolving and dynamic entity. How we develop ideas will always change based on external factors e.g. clients, timelines, etc. The main thing is that we respond to these factors and allow the creation of ideas to be central to our design and the overall project success.

Unit Editions @uniteditions

Michael C Place @wearebuild

Rejane Dal Bello @RejaneDalBello

Rob Lowe @Supermundane

Ross Phillips @DalzielandPow

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