Wednesday, 1:10pm
13 May 2009

OFFF goes to Lisbon

Born entertainers . . . the living legends of print and pixel

The OFFF festival celebrates its tenth birthday next year. Until last year, it was held in Barcelona, but it has moved to Lisbon for the latest (ninth) event, which took place at the end of last week, reports John Davey.

Why Lisbon and not Barcelona? In a word, growth. The increase in size brings good and bad with it. Barcelona was much more intimate, with a piazza outside of the venue giving attendees the option to catch talks, or simply hang out and sit in the sun, but all within the city. Should you want to skip a talk and not sit and drink San Miguel in the sunshine, you could simply trot off into the city.

Lisbon unfortunately does not have the same choice. The venue is a fair trek out from the centre of Lisbon. Food and drink outside the venue is in short supply. However the train station is a stones throw away, with the beach a little further. Which is better? Difficult one to say, as Barcelona was much more intimate, but Lisbon can take the growth. The Lisbon venue is enormous and can easily house the attendees, with plenty of space for sponsors, exhibitors and the very popular speaker installations.

OFFF (Online Flash Film Festival) brings together artists who are breaking ground and shaping new standards in media and design both digitally and in print. More that 60 speakers, including graphic design legends such as Neville Brody and Kyle Cooper, gave presentations this year, joined by some of the newer innovators of digital space such as James Paterson and Amit Pitaru (a detail of whose Hammond Flower we show at the top) and Joshua Davis.

James and Amit OFFF

Above: Paterson and Pitaru. Photograph by John Davey.

The festival runs for three days, and has grown into a fantastic success: the latest event attracted 3500 attendees. And though acoustics of the venue drew criticism, you couldn’t quarrel with the quality of the speaker line-up. This year saw many inspirational speakers grace the stage, two of which stood out from the rest: Stefan Sagmeister and Joshua Davis.

Stefan, originally from Vienna, by way of NYC, but now taking a year out in Bali, talked about what design made him happy, and what design made him unhappy. Anecdotes about an ear bud getting lodged in his ear being bad design and Ji Lee’s 15,000 empty speech bubbles being pasted around New York for the public to fill in, endeared the entire audience to him, leaving everyone smiling and inspired.

Joshua neck OFFF

Another hit was Joshua Davis (above). Joshua is a born entertainer and really knows how to work the crowd. Showing years of work, and what inspires him, his energetic style saw him running full length across the stage and sliding behind the speaker desk. The next day Joshua asked the cameramen to focus on his leg, showing off the battle scars of a completely skinned calf, all for the sake of the show.

Some may ask why attend an event like OFFF when many of the same speakers can be seen at other events such as the annual Flash on the Beach conference (full disclosure: this is my baby, and tickets go on sale next Monday)? The answer is simple, if you are looking for a regular fix of inspiration and insight, don’t just attend one event a year. Go to as many quality events as you can.

Festivals such as OFFF and FOTB aren’t just about sitting in a room and watching. They exist to enthuse, inspire, amaze, educate and re-invigorate, and OFFF last week certainly did all of those. Add to this the opportunities to network with people who have all attended because they have similar interests and are from design and development backgrounds, and you have the ingredients for an awesome three days out of the office! See the OFFF blog,

As to why Stefan was wearing a dress (below, in conversation with Neville Brody), I’ve no idea. The acoustics were so bad, we missed the first minute or so trying to find a better spot to watch and listen from.

twitpic: a whole new you

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions and single issues.