Design Manchester 17

Having drawn inspiration from last year’s Design Manchester event, Planit-IE’s graphics team couldn’t wait to attend this year’s Design City Reframed conference.

Design Manchester is an annual festival showcasing the best of design through workshops, exhibitions, talks, and fairs held in venues across Manchester. The Design City Reframed conference is a daylong segment of the 2-week festival, celebrating a variety of influential speakers as they share insights relating to their creative work.

Designers from a wide variety of disciplines, including Pentagram’s Naresh Ramchandani, Narrative Designer Alex McDowell, Creative Review’s Patrick Burgoyne, designer Tash Willcocks, and Architect Ellen van Loon, were all involved.

Louis Mikolay of North Design was a last-minute addition to DM17’s speakers’ panel. His attendance at this year’s conference provided an opportunity to give his thoughts relating to his controversial brand identity redesign of The Science Museum group. The redesign went live only 2 weeks prior to DM17, sparking online debate and drawing criticism from designers. Louis began by touching on a subject which seemed to be prominent throughout a lot of the day’s talks – the digital age. ‘Peer popularity from social control in a digital age’ to be more precise. Before giving us an in-depth insight in to the process of creating the brand identity for The Science Museum Group, Nikolay hit back at his critics (including previous designer Johnson Banks) by comparing the response on social media to ‘Teenage Games’ and declaring that knowledge within the digital age is crowd fuelled. Overall, it was clear that the main focus throughout the whole design process was the importance of consistency, ‘groupness’ and recognition.

Lawrence Kitson is a product-led, service and interaction designer for Co-op Digital. His talk focused on explaining what exactly the design of a service entitles and the role it plays within the design industry. However, it was his discussion beforehand which laid out where the title came from and its role within the Co-op that particularly caught my attention. Lawrence began by touching on the industrial revolution and how it spawned industrial design. With a strong focus on Manchester and the need of form and function, he related a real sense of pride when explaining how and why the Co-op was created – from the need for a service. This led him to talk about the role which service design plays within the Co-op as it is today.

Jane Murison is Head of User Experience and Design at the BBC and spoke about designing the ‘Right Things’ for the internet. Her talk shone a light on the ‘bad side’ of the internet and how we, as designers, are on the cusp of digital enlightenment to make the internet a better place. Once realising that too much time online is an advocate for poor mental health it’s clear to see that the internet has no solace, forgivingness, humility or clarity. Jane questioned how this can be fixed and went on to explain how good design can be innovative, useful, honest and understandable. Could design be the answer?

Overall, the day’s speakers emphasised the importance and power of design, whether it be in architecture, cinema, brand identity, song writing, or digital experience. If I was to take one thing from the whole conference it would be an appreciation of the ever-growing importance and influence of social media and technology – both for good and for bad.

Written by Molly Deakin, Graduate Graphic Designer