Design MCR: Design Now
Earlier this week a stellar line up of Malika Favre, Fred Deakin and Hudson-Powell got together for Design Now - an evening of creative conversation as part of this year's DM15.
Hosted at the Royal Northern College of Music, the event was part of annual creative festival Design Manchester which celebrates the city’s rich design culture.
The theme of this year’s festival is “Know How”, and this event was no exception with the panel taking us through their thinking, creative practice and how they got to know they were on the right path.
First up, and host for the evening, was Fred Deakin: one half of electronic music duo Lemon Jelly and co-founder of design studio Airside (not to mention Professor of Interactive Arts at the University of the Arts, London).
Humble yet hugely influential, Fred has always been at the cutting edge of design and music. He is testament to how bringing the two together can create something magical, using abstract pattern and shape as a perfect visual manifestation of sound.
What really struck a chord, though, is the way Fred talks about Airside (1998-2012) and the culture they strove to create. For him, it’s all about giving creative people a place that feels like home: somewhere safe where they can reach their potential and create something truly profound, together. The value of this kind of cultural mindset should never be underestimated when it comes to nurturing creative talent, and the lasting bonds between the Airside crew (which included fellow panelist Malika Favre) is testament to what a positive impact this can have.
Next up, brothers Luke and Jody, a.k.a. Hudson Powell who, after 10 years running their own collaborative studio, recently joined Pentagram as partners.
At one end of the spectrum you have a young Luke: busy skateboarding, creating zines and building his own ramps. On the other, Jody: into computer games, pulling apart hardware, building joysticks and creating his own programmes.
Even early on, what they both shared was a passion for active participation over passive consumption.
This hands-on, experimental approach continues throughout their work today as a continued manifesto to “get stuck in” and not be afraid to try out new approaches.
From the “give it a go” attitude that earned them their creative chops, the pair then went on to work in agency land, which taught them the practicalities of being a designer in a commercial industry. After a few years cutting their teeth “making logos spin”, they were inspired to set up their own collaborative practice (Hudson Powell) in 2005, off the back of a music video project for PJ Harvey. Never ones to be pigeonholed, what followed in the next 10 years was an incredibly varied portfolio of design, creative technology and immersive experiential projects, many of which invited the audience themselves to become co-creators.
Finally, Parisian-bornm London based Malika Favre took the mic. Her eye-popping illustrations are fun, beautiful and thought provoking in equal measure.
Warning against over reliance on looking to other people’s work for inspiration, Malika took us through the things in her world that get her creative juices flowing, speaking passionately about how great work comes from knowing what makes you alone tick and drawing on what you love for inspiration.
It’s no great surprise that for Malika these things are bold shapes, bright colours and striking patterns; all of which she sees in the world around her and uses to create impactful work with rich layers of narrative. Not to mention her fascination for erotica and cheeky or sensual (non-vulgar) depictions of the human body, to which she brings a refreshingly female perspective.
Couple this with a penchant for isometric grids, and imposing design rules only to break them, and you have a playful yet painstakingly crafted portfolio.
Perhaps less immediately knowable through her illustrations alone is Malika’s love for photography, which she uses as a way to “sketch out” her ideas.
Later (sometimes years later), these vignettes of detail find their way into her compositions, adding an emotional richness and vitality to her work.
All in all, Design Now was a thoroughly inspirational event that left us looking at the world in a new light as we departed into the dusky eve.