It was hard to leave Semi-Permanent and not feel full to bursting with creative awe and inspiration. After a slow start, it picked up momentum, particularly on day two, proving there's no shortage of creative talent and that collaboration really does yield better results.
All the while, Orcon’s Twitter spiderart bots were busy painting three canvases outside using directions tweeted in by people – two of which were won by attendees and the third gifted to CanTeen. And a team of six Massey University art and design students were similarly hard at work printing rapid-turnaround postcard mementos using quotes overheard at the conference, as well an event zine from their popup studio in the foyer.
Highlights from day one
Special Group kicked off with this highly entertaining video (compiled from stock shots, what's more) then talked us through some of the guiding principles they work to.
Special started out with next to nothing – a one-desk kind of setup (setting the theme for what would later turn out to be a bit of a thread among speakers, with the likes of Hi-Res bootstrapping its beginnings in a similar vein) but has gone on to win shedloads of awards and work with clients as diverse as TSB, Baileys, AUT, Freedom Farms and Kathmandu. They showed off a few of their top campaigns: Smirnoff, the Green Party's political campaign, and the famous one with the huge yellow rubber ducky for TV channel FOUR.
Most of Bradley Munkowitz's talk (aka GMUNK) went over my head – though I did catch the facts that he went to university in the Californian forest and was part of the team that did the kickass graphics on Tron:Legacy.
GMunk buzzing us with his techno graphics, animation and innovation.Love his geekyfunk lingo #spakl— misstahi (@misstahi) May 17, 2012
Swifty brought some of the old school vibe to typography, showing examples of work before cut and paste, and even spoke of plotting fonts by hand on a grid. He bemoaned the digital age a little bit: "It's not a craft anymore. You just go on your computer and create stuff...it's laziness." Physical art, he says, has a life of its own in a way digital does not.
Swifty makes us want to buy a letterpress set and go on a cut and paste power project marathon. #spakl— 96black Ltd (@96blackltd) May 18, 2012
Swifty has a personal project where he makes flyers for his fantasy jazz festival. Nice idea! #spakl— Maurice Melchers (@mephysto) May 18, 2012
The twins from creative agency Moffitt.Moffitt (who used Ms instead of speech marks in their presentation) uttered probably the most-tweeted quote of the day: "If you do nothing, nothing happens." While the saying traditionally dictates that 'knowledge is power', their take is that information is a commodity now as it's so easily accessible. It's creativity, they argue, that endows true power upon someone. "It's about more than just the product being shipped out the door ... sometimes selling a product is all about using it in interesting ways."
"Love & Hate are two great words. But Okay is forgettable" Moffitt.Moffitt. #spakl— Shea (@5hea) May 18, 2012
Paper engineer Benja Harney started off encouraging us all to make our own paper fortunate tellers with the sheets that had been placed on our seats, and ended by getting us to hiff paper planes at each other. In between, he showed off some of his most impressive paper creations: popup books (including one for Kylie Minogue), a high tea scene ... and the crown jewels. Seriously.
Design studio SouthSouthWest think it's our responsibility as creatives to contribute to culture in a meaningful way. And they're "brutally honest", both with each other and with clients. '
Spaniard Alex Trochut had a fiery presentation: "I am a thief, and I am here to tell you about my most beloved discoveries". Imitation is a huge part of creative endeavours, he believes. "Collect and connect ... It's like cooking. Of course, there's a difference between a good copy and a bad copy, a photocopy." Of course, if you stay in the imitation stage too long, you'll never grow. So stop following and start creating.
There's good copying and bad copying. It's all good as long as you're giving something back. - Alex Trochut. #spakl— Daniel Watson (@CopywriterDan) May 18, 2012
The Monkeys reminded us that it's vital to connect with your audience, whatever you're doing. They also believe we're in an age of convergence where advertising doubles as bona fide creative content that stands in its own right – books, films, songs.
Nice - The Monkeys created a book rather than an ad campaign for a charity - it continues to provide returns. #spakl— *experience (@real_experience) May 18, 2012
If you don't like your industry, change it. - The Monkeys #spakl— Danelle Bourgeois (@danelle_b) May 18, 2012
Stolen Girlfriends Club took the stage and were more than a little polarising. Nonetheless, you can't deny their success. That's largely down to their brand-building efforts. It's not just about the clothes for them – there are too many talented designers already – but entertaining audiences at fashion shows, and creating ideas that resonate globally.
New Yorker Kelli Anderson, who designed the current look of her website using Google Maps as a template, was a hit. "You don't need permission or credentials to create tools and make things," she says. And while we often approach different media with assumptions about their properties and what's possible, she urged us not to be constrained by the limits we perceive (Anderson hit headlines recently by creating a paper record player).
Making design = Making experiences. - Kelli Anderson #spakl— Danelle Bourgeois (@danelle_b) May 18, 2012
Wallpaper's art director Meirion Pritchard explained how the magazine is pushing both analogue and digital boundaries, integrating its print and online products – inspirational stuff for anyone in the publishing industry. As long as you have a strong brand, he says, people want a part of it across various platforms.
Because at the end of the day we have to make money, just want to have fun doing it Meirion Pritchard #SPAKL ll— Naomi (@Nomes_nz) May 19, 2012
Merion Pritchard from Wallpaper: "Cool happens when you don't take yourself too seriously". #SPAKL— Ben Fielding (@benfielding7) May 19, 2012
According to another creative studio, Hi-Res, we focus too much on technology. "If that's your starting point, you're doing it wrong. It starts with an idea." Other notable lines: "Learn to separate sense from nonsense / Learn to question, but don’t question as a reflex / Life is trying new things to see if they work / Experience is something you get just after you need it."
Stefano De Luigi got cut short, but he sure has worked on some interesting projects, including one on the porn industry and one using Hipstamatic.
Australian artist Bec Winnel may only recently have found her creative calling, but her work spoke for itself. While obviously nervous, she soldiered through her story (peppered with plenty of photos of her pets), reminding us of the importance of creating a nurturing work environment and also of promoting your own work, be it through entering competitions, starting portfolios on various online networks or taking part in blogger giveaways.
At Industrial Light & Magic, a Lucasfilms division, they get to be kids all day. Working on VFX for blockbusters like Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, Rango, etc ... it's a tough job. And it's definitely an egalitarian environment; their top creature modeller started out there as a janitor.
Finally, controversial artist Ron English opened his session with a clip of a bunny getting run over, before wrapping up with stories about everything from painting his kids as the members of KISS to adventures with guerrilla billboard hijacking groups and shaving horses. You really had to be there.
No one can say "and there I am on The Simpsons" more casually than Ron English. #spakl— Daniel Watson (@CopywriterDan) May 19, 2012