The Future – RDS, Dublin. Nov 3 & 4th by Steve McDevitt see more by Steve here.

Design is currently having a heyday. It’s always been an umbrella term covering a wide range of professions but now it’s a 21st century buzzword. While areas such as UX and UI have mushroomed in the past few years design is also moving beyond its traditional role in the creative industries. It is being sought for its process, problem solving and strategic thinking highlighted by the likes of Accenture and Deloitte setting up design departments for their consultancy firms.

The Future was a two day event held in the RDS which billed itself as a festival of ideas, attitudes and innovations that will shape the future. With a series of talks, workshops and roundtable discussions rooted firmly with the creative industries its speakers contained designers, architects, advertisers, technologists and graffiti artists and plenty in between. Making up this mix of industries was a range of local and global industry heavy hitters, solo operators, small established studios and multinational corporations.

Design festivals often are lot of show and tell of the speakers work. This can be not only inspiring but enlightening to see how they worked through their process showing how they arrived to the work you saw online / in a magazine / at college. Tomato and Pfadfinderei walked us through their 20+ year careers while Dublin artist James Earley talked about the development of his epic scale murals and the connection to his grandfather’s stained glass work. DixonBaxi talked about how they have fostered their relationship with Eurosport and the Olympics into a 10 year partnership for the future, as did Detail showing how their Dublin specific illustrative work for Twitter’s HQ has now become a style that they are applying across their global offices. Field and Ouchhh showed their ground breaking generative and large scale installations, locals Bob Gray and Sharon Greene shared their perspectives and work alongside behemoths like Mother London and Pentagram. Stefan Sagmeister showed why, like a music festival headliner, he closed proceedings on Friday night with a talk on why beauty is not in the eye of the beholder and form does not follow function, ending with the audience on its feet to join him in a karoke singalong.

What made this festival more unique for me was it having a theme in its name. ‘The Future’ is a pretty big topic to take on and it gave a great starting point for the talks. It allowed speakers to open bigger discussions and share their thoughts on it, a chance to hear their take and where they thought we are headed which I found very refreshing and interesting. Recurring themes would appear across different speakers. Johnny Boyle from Modern Green talked about the ‘search’ and how we need to fight the need immediate Google answer, Guns or Knives ran a workshop on how to break free of this creative convergence thinking caused by the same search filter bubble. Likewise Boyle and Lorna Ross from Fjord talked about how the concept of time has changed, Boyle talking about how our expectations on the future and now have changed with the interconnected world while Ross discussed time poverty and the impact of impatience. The inspiring Dr. Nelly Ben Hayoun bombarded us with space vikings, underground universities and how content can be conceived and supported.

Themes of convergence, collaboration and the need for change reappeared, not surprising as the creative industries are grappling and shaping the changing digital landscape, a world where all the data can be collected and counted but what is to be made of it. It was enlightening to hear the speakers talk about the change that is occurring and their wish for more – from how they fit into the new era of design and how they work with their clients too. The inevitable topic of the algorithm, the humans and the machine, (and indeed machine and the machine) were discussed with Rothco not alone in their summation that the Future is Human, no doubt with a sigh of relief from some of those in the crowd.

The Future had a great range of speakers and genres for attendees to delve into and with four stages there was plenty on. There was a good mix of local and international speakers, small and big with plenty of meaty concepts and top quality work. It had production issues, most noticeably all the stages suffering from sound bleeding badly into each other but these are hopefully year one problems that can be resolved. It is aimed strongly at the creative industries, a market it shares with OFFSET the big brother of design festivals on this island, which curator Richard Seabrooke was previously one of the directors. How the two share that space is something that will have to be seen. The theme worked particularly well giving this festival it’s own slant, it will be interesting to see how this develops and I look forward to seeing what the Future will hold in year two.

Stephen MacDevitt is a multidisciplinary designer & director based in Dublin. When he’s not designing he can be found creating light installations. You can find his work at stevemacd.com

Twitter – @SteveMacDevitt

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