Each year at OFFSET the Grand Canal Theatre fills with pioneering creatives inspiring audiences as they show their endeavours and give insights on their process. Now in its ninth year the range of topics grows annually with this year being no exception. Originally it predominantly featured more traditional strands of the creative industries such as design, illustration, photography and advertising agencies and year on year these topics have expanded, reflecting the industry itself. This year saw talks and workshops from game designers and storytellers, emmy award winning costume creators and Oscar nominated animators to artificial intelligence designers and creative coders.

Talks by Ivan Cash and Stephen Doyle proved very popular as was Chris Ware, best known for his New Yorker cover illustrations. Indeed Chris’s Q&A on the second stage on Sunday could barely have fitted more people and he proved a wonderful speaker, incredible warm and self depreciating for such a talent. Running concurrently with the talent on the main stage the second stage hosted many interesting topics, from a live comic reading by the Straylines collective to designing cities for play and interactivity by A Playful City. These second stage talks often featured the speakers from the main stage and gave a deeper insight to the work & methodology behind the 45 minute presentation. A recurring theme is that personal work leads to being hired for that work, get out and do what you want to get hired for. Back on the main stage a walk thru of the work behind the Oscar nominated animated film ‘The Breadwinner’ by Cartoon Saloon showed the scale of the work behind it, UsTwo Games talked about get outside to seek ideas while heavy weights like Pentagram and Gail Bichler, Design Director from the New York Times brought their international flair.

“e-books are like someone breathed into your mouth – Uugh, please don’t do that again..”

Chris Ware on the Second Stage @ OFFSET

New features such as OFFSHOOTS, four ten minutes slots for by Irish creatives talking about a project or inspiring subject, were well received and gave great bite size pieces. The OFFSITE workshops returned expanding the festival dates well into the preceding week. These again covered a diverse range of events, from IBM running AI workshops, introductions to creative coding and it’s possibilities by Joshua Davis to the launch of the 2017 Archive 100. There were in-depth masterclasses such as colour grading or audio for motion by Windmill Lane as well as ones on how to get hired and make the jump from student to professional. These smaller sized groups get to interact much more closely with the speakers and organisers and get an in depth and personal view on the work. It’s one of the great benefits of the festival that both attendees & speakers mingle with each other.

“Make weird shit” Joshua Davis

Some on the speaker circuit are naturally very entertaining and can hold the stage incredibly well similar to headliners at a music festival, others have incredible work but their personalities are better suited to smaller groups rather than a huge packed auditorium. What I’ve found having attended design conferences for several years is that I am much more excited when the speakers talk about their process, walk the audience through a project or frame their work in a larger picture rather than seeing a slideshow of work. I think this is a natural development having seen years of incredible portfolios that we look for something new and more insightful, something that gives us a peek behind the curtain to see how they got to the amazing work.

OFFSET as an event is evolving as is it’s audience and this is great to see. OFFSHOOTS & OFFSITE are strands of this development as is it’s increasing range of topics and speakers giving us views into new areas we might have seen but not heard in depth before. These are part of the reason why the festival is so popular, not just in Ireland but internationally and takes it beyond the weekend at the Grand Canal. Competition is getting stronger in this market with newcomer The Future (organised by former OFFSET founder Richard Seabrooke) having arrived on the scene as well as other festivals overlapping such as Inspirefest. One of OFFSET’s strengths is it’s personality which is a manifestation of the husband and wife organisers Bren Byrne & Lisa Haran and their team who run it. Ireland’s creative scene is small (and growing) group and many professionals meet every year at the event and indeed use it as a get together and networking, a reunion of sorts. Students from the many art colleges attend, soak up the work and see what possibilities lie ahead not to mention travelling international groups from the UK, continent and further afield. This strength of personality is reflected with the speakers too and go to some extreme lengths to attend – this year one had their international flights cancelled due to the wintery weather and had to get four connecting flights to make it rather than cancel their slot. They want to speak here which is a great thing not only for Irish based designers but for Dublin as well. The creative industries are expanding and it seems this is reflected with OFFSET.

Next year is OFFSET’s 10 year anniversary and I for one am looking forward to seeing who and what it will hold.

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