30 inspiring quotes from top designers' talks at the OFFSET London conference

Anna Mullin reveals what she learned from the likes of Erik Kessels, Mcbess, Tomi Ungerer and Vince Frost at the OFFSET London conference.

OFFSET has fast become one of the leading conferences for design and creative industries here in Europe. Although normally held in Dublin, it up-and-relocated to the heart of Shoreditch for its most recent installment (under the banner of OFFSET London) – set in the old, beautiful town hall with its impressive exterior façade, patterned tiled floors, ornate ceilings and marble walls.

Both newcomers to the industry and seasoned pros flocked in their hundreds to attend the event to hear presentations by a plethora of speakers in various fields – including design legends Erik Kessels of agency Kessels Kramer, political illustrator Tomi Ungerer, typography master Seb Lester and the ever-popular character artist Mcbess.

Two main themes emerged during the conference. Speakers spoke of creatives needing to become more immersed in the work that they do by being more deeply involved in the creative process through experimentation. Pushing yourself outside of your comfort zone and trying new things, different applications and approaches to working.

The second theme – which came out largely on day two of the conference – seemed to evoke a sense of needing to make work for the better. Vince Frost spoke about living better through designing our lives to be more functional, meaningful and fulfilling. Finding ways to better our lives, push our boundaries and our work to new levels. There was also an onus on doing good with your work — for causes and to make a point of an issue that concerns you personally.

So here I've collected the wisest words from OFFSET London 2015 from those speaking from Aisha Zeijpveld to Vince Frost.

Vince Frost

"The most important design project is yourself. We as designers make changes and find solutions for our clients — so we can design our own lives too."

On why procrastination is a killer – as well as part of the process: "We tend to do the smaller things first – instead of working on the bigger project."



Speaking about challenging himself: "I try to find a way to make the work a challenge, harder to draw."


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"There are three themes to my work: music, food and girls."


Tomi Ungerer

On how the themes in his work of racism, fascism, war and destruction had been set from a very young age because of his experience growing up in Franco-Germanic Nazi occupation: "There is no art without despair. It is something that gives you something to fight against."

On being arrested and suspected as a spy: "It all feeds your inspiration."


Tomi Ungerer

"Crawl first and then march. Do something, then do it well."

"For me, the essential discipline is to collect knowledge. The more visual knowledge you have, the more you compare knowledge between objects and elements."


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Erik Kessels

"Confusion and mistakes are an important part of the creative process today".

"Make an idiot if yourself at least once a day."

"If no one hates your work, then no one will love it."

On how to come up with ideas: "It's good to think about the impossible."

"Don't always stick to the brief – you can push it further. You can make something small, bigger."

"Hobby is a strange word — most people have a hobby when they have a working life. I do a lot of projects and integrate them into work."


Yasmeen Ismail

Speaking about inspiration: "Read. You can read everything, all of it. It can filtered into the work you do."

"Think about how you feel when you make your work. You have to please yourself."

"The more you draw the more confident you will feel drawing."

Yasmeen Ismail

"Play and do – you need to find time to experiment, it feeds your work. Try something else. It's about creating more and more — it's about fulfilling your soul. Be happy."

Speaking about working with a publisher: "It's hard to take criticism — it will sting and it will hurt, and you have to work around it and be more creative working around the restrictions. Suck it up."

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Aisha Zeijpveld

"I like to capture ideas – not everyday life – through photography. So research [on the subject matter of a photograph] is important as a source of inspiration to shape the idea and concept for the project."

On why she creates works by capturing a photo, printing it, using a scalpel to create the shape she then tears, then re-photographing the new physical artwork as the final image. "It all takes time to get all of the elements together but I love the end result with the dust on photographs, the shadows from the torn paperwork."


Graphic Thought Facility

"Figure out which parts of the design language are more important. Don't ignore the obvious."

"What are graphics? Visual observations."


Johnny Kelly

"Constraints are good. I like stop-motion animation because you are forced to make decisions."

"Don't overthink it — it's completely easy to over work a project."

"Terrify yourself."


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"I like to be clear about my typography – it's the message that's important."



On designing for social change and taking great pride in this transformation through design and campaigns: "It's the smaller projects – as opposed to the large commercial projects with large budgets – that can yield the greatest of creativity."


Ben Parker / Made Thought

"Clients become so expectant of your design after a long relationship – they want to know what's next."

"Try to make the work challenging. Don't look at what everyone else is doing — look upwards and forwards."


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Liz Silvester, head of visual identity for Liberty of London

On how they create window displays at Liberty: "More is more – layering more in, adding more in and creating something complex. [This means] finding creative ways to display the products, but also creating visual delight for the audience through something conceptual."


Chris Gallery, Mother

Talking about team spirit: "[It's about] giving a shit and caring about a company of creative people."

?na Burke, leather fashion designer

"Exhibitions of work bring more exhibitions and commissions."

Speaking about advice on working with big brands and advertising: "Get a credit or get paid."

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