Cardiff Design Festival - 2011 a review - by me

Written by Julian Sykes

The first two weeks of October have gone by and with it, so has Cardiff Design Festival 2011. I managed to miss most of last years festival as I was busy working on a project. So this year I was determined to go to as many events as possible. Firstly I think from the year break it has really shown me that the festival feels a lot more solid and a great two weeks of events. I think there are levels of events now, within the festival. Events for designers and business, to social events for designers, right through to events that were put on by designers that attracted a public audience. Definitely from the 2009 event there seems to be a big progression. So I am going to give you a quick over view of some of the events I attended and give you an idea of what I thought.

I think I might go in reverse order. So the last event I attended was Design Wales' Service Design seminars at the Pierhead building. speakers were Ben Reason from Live|Work and Nick March from Sidekick Studio's. Both companies practice service design at different levels. Live|Work are a huge established service design company working with large clients from all over the world. Where as sidekick studio's are, (as the name implies) a much smaller studio working on smaller digital service design projects.

So what did I think?
For me the work Live|Work showed and how Ben described the way they felt design was going was bang on. But I don't think it gave me much insight into them as a company. I think for people just getting into this arena then I could see it being really interesting, but it didn't really hold the attention. Second up was Nick. Who discussed the transition sidekick studio's are going through right now. Instead of just doing client based work. They are now developing projects internally and then trying to sell them. The projects he discussed such as Buddy and the Amazings were really interesting and it will be interesting to see if they do manage to get this going long term. I think Designers have for a long time made off shoot businesses. It is nothing new. Elmwood for example have for many years had their own tea brand and more recently launched a boutique beer. Traditionally designers have often sold one off designs within the shop section of their websites.

What I felt was slightly different about Nick's viewpoint were the requirements of the project in the first place. A mini value set, or mini brief if you like. This helped them decide on whether the project should go forward. In a nutshell all the projects had to be "digital products that make money, change lives and put a smile on people's faces" with the aim to "make our society better". So for me with general interest in this subject it was interesting to see this type of model within a commercial company. Granted they do get a lot of their initial start up funds from research pots and other funding schemes, but long term it left me questioning is this the way we should look at developing projects and companies for the future?

This thought brings me nicely to another event I helped out in at the Old Library. EDC had for a few months now been talking to Llamau – a Welsh based charity that do great work with young people. For many years they have worked with them to develop social enterprises. So we worked them to try and develop their projects in a one day design workshop. Working through the business generation workshop diagram, we developed a number of small exercises that allowed people to explore their initial business ideas and hopefully get them to think about their potential customers, and also who would be needed to make the business a success. I guess looking back on both these two events. Design has a real opportunity to make a difference within lives for good and also generally across society in general. I think regardless of the client. We should be looking to advise about how to make things 'better'.

I will write another post about other events soon.