An Inspirational Break in Barcelona – What OFFF Gave Me

One of our core values at Yieldr is Legs Feed the Wolf.

In line with Yieldr's focus on office culture, there's a huge focus on personal development plans, which allow team members to attend conferences in order to improve their knowledge and skills, or just feed their creativity.

What Is OFFF All About?

OFFF Barcelona is a festival that hosts acclaimed international speakers, as well as workshops and other activities for the design community. It rolls around once a year.

OFFF's attendees are a combination of offline/online designers, motion designers, thinkers, sound designers, graphic designers, developers, professionals and students. The festival consists of lectures by renowned international guests, workshops, installations, performances, projections and multimedia exhibitions.

It's a very diverse design event - just like our small yet very international design team. We're composed of two digital product designers from Croatia and Sweden (Paula & Petter), one graphic/motion designer/animator from Brazil (Caio), and a graphic designer/illustrator from Portugal (me).

Considering the fact that Yieldr's design team is divided between Amsterdam and Barcelona, the stars were aligned for us to attend this year's edition of OFFF.

This event was all about "feeding" our minds with creativity - from inspirational talks, videos, work from amazing professionals, testimonials or just networking.

The venue was the beautiful Museu del Disseny de Barcelona (the Design Museum of Barcelona). What's better than 3 full days of a creativity boost and a sunny terrace by the water?

I can explain... The organization offered different areas for the lectures. Two of them were inside the building of the museum. The main stage downstairs (Roots) and a movie theater in the 4th floor (And...). There was still another one in a tent outside (Open Room). But in case you didn't want to wait in line to go to each different room (the big low point of this event), there was also a terrace outside with a big screen displaying what was going on in the Roots stage, right next to the refreshing water.

What Did It Mean to Attend OFFF?

Students and professionals from all over the world were inspired throughout these 3 days by creatives with decades in the game, as well as some newer talents.

But let's talk about my own highlights about this conference and what I've gained from it.

As a so-called "old school" designer working directly with young blood in a digital world, I must say that sometimes I can feel the gap between me and my fellow designers.

At Yieldr, we have a multidisciplinary design team. Every designer is focused and specialized in different areas and different teams.

There is the younger generation of product designers, working on the digital products, and there are the designers in the marketing team, which is where I work as visual designer and illustrator.

It's not always easy to find common design interests and events that can be so multidisciplinary and that can bring together the whole team. But OFFF made that happen!

There were speakers and talks for completely different disciplines of creativity and from different generations. The keyword for me was "inspiration". Inspiration from the displayed work, from life stories that I could relate to and from a new generation, giving me the opportunity to better understand some of the processes.

The 3 Monsters of Online

There were 3 big names in OFFF's line-up: Facebook, Dropbox and Twitter. They were all definitely on my list of lectures to attend.

I was happy I went because it helped me to go deeper into the digital side of things. Even though I'm currently working in the industry, sometimes there is still a gap for me. The talks turned out to be about much more than industry insights - I also learned career lessons and life hacks in the creative world, independent of being in the digital field or not.

Facebook's Director of Design Systems and Tooling

Facebook's Director of Design Systems and Tooling shared the challenges and their vision of designing at Facebook's scale.

This lecture was one of the most specific and maybe a bit too technical for me, but it was interesting to understand how design works in such a big digital platform. We heard about how systems were created and how they're constantly evolving, and we also covered tools being developed along with their necessities.

At Facebook's scale, the machine needs to run smoothly, and so all the tools are used by a team of over 600 designers. Everything needs to be optimized in order to maintain consistency among everyone's work at a fast pace.

Since product design isn't my area of expertise, it was very interesting to know more about these processes. It also confirmed that systems are a universal concept in design, no matter the discipline.

Tiffani Jones Brown, Editorial Director at Dropbox

Speaker Tiffani Jones Brown is a writer and creative director working with companies like Dropbox.

After the Facebook Systems lecture, I was expecting another very technical and digital-oriented presentation, but I was wrong. Brown used this opportunity to share her experience from a more personal point of view, leading into more of a motivational talk about how she recovered from a burnout and got back to work feeling more balanced and creatively energized.

In a very clear presentation, she shared her learnings about designing and a more enlightened way of working and offered some practical ideas.

It was a very good surprise!

"If you want to push beyond your limits, learn about your limits in the first place." Tiffani Jones Brown

Eleanor Harding, Senior Product Designer at Twitter

This was a very interesting talk. Harding gave us a clear explanation of how they approach design at Twitter.

She started with a basic introduction to different disciplines of design, which I believe is always good to refresh in our minds.

Harding also explained digital product design, talking about user interface and user experience. There was also a discussion about using systems among the big team of designers and how invisible the output in products such as Twitter can be. It's about going through all these invisible details to make a product easy to use for every single user all around the world.

The interesting thing for me about Harding's lecture is that she talked about different people's strengths inside a team, and how we should love what we do and what we are good at. She discussed processes in design, about iterations, about being rigorous, identifying problems and finding solutions, about understanding your audience, and about transforming an idea into a thing.

In fact, despite illustration, type design or art direction being the "loud versions" of design in contrast with product design, which is more invisible and intuitive, I believe that all these processes are still present in every discipline of design.

Overall, this talk was very clear and I could completely relate even without being a product designer.

"People will use what you design in ways you cannot dream of." Eleanor Harding

The Other Side...

Because OFFF is all about learning from all the diverse community of creative people, I also scheduled some lectures about other fields of design such as 3D and sound design. And they were very interesting!

Rizon Parein, 3D Graphic Designer

Rizon Parein is a master in 3D graphic design. He has come a long way, taking his graffiti from the streets of Belgium to the forefront of the design and advertising world.

Parein's unique 3D style is fun and colorful, while his digital works look stunningly real. His extensive portfolio includes the neon poster design for the film Drive, as well as work for many big names including Nike, Mercedes, Google, Facebook, Heineken, Vogue Japan and Huffington Post, and much more.
The Drive film poster

Parein shared stories with us about his experience since he started playing with 3D lettering for his graffiti artwork, to his never-ending neon series. It was very inspiring to see how his career evolved for him to become the big name he is today.

This talk was in the And... stage - one of the most comfortable ones, in the theater room. So it was all about sitting and enjoying the ride while Parein showcased his amazing 3D work.

Gavin Little, Sound Engineer at Echolab

Gavin Little is a graphic designer/cinema fan/music and electronics lover. In 2001 he founded Echolab, a studio based in Dublin. It focuses on creating audio for commercials, film trailers, films, brand identities, VR experiences and anything that moves. This has resulted in trailers for Gravity, Interstellar, The Martian, Mad Max and Ex Machina, and a client list that includes names like Nike, Sony and Apple.
The Echolab studio

Sound design was always something that was a bit unclear for me - I've found it hard to define and know exactly what it's all about. But Little made everything much clearer. He showed us that sound design lies somewhere where motion meets sound. It's an incredibly important element in the whole production of an advert or film and has a vital emotional layer. He shared with us his journey, his work process and his "Kubrick-esque" studio.

"Luckily I've mainly collaborated with people with a lot of respect and see sound design and audio not only as a craft but as an art form." Gavin Little

The Offline Inspiration

One of the things I enjoyed the most was to have the opportunity to hear awesome case studies and career stories from professionals with solid experience. They showed us that the print era and craftsmanship in the creative world is still alive and can coexist healthily with the digital world.

Luke Hayman, Graphic Designer at Pentagram

Luke Hayman studied graphic design in London, graduating in 1988. He joined Pentagram as a partner at the end of 2006.

During his career at Pentagram, Hayman has redesigned numerous magazines including TIME, The Atlantic and Stern, and university publications for The University of Chicago, Brown, Stanford Graduate School of Business, Princeton and Wharton. He has also designed identities for Mastercard, the World Science Festival and The White House.

At OFFF, Hayman showcased some of his most iconic projects in a very clear and captivating way. From the Maker Park project to the album campaign for the band The National, Hayman got my attention, admiration and curiosity to learn more about his work.
Sleep Well Beast, the 2017 studio album by The National

Pentagram's reputation wasn't new to me - I was already familiar with the design careers of Paula Scher and Marina Willer. But this lecture from Hayman reinforced my admiration for Pentagram as one of the largest design studios in the world.

Malika Favre, Illustrator

Malika Favre is a French contemporary illustrator. Her style is very clean and minimalistic. She creates beautifully bold vector illustrations and plays a lot with light and shadow. Her way of simplifying a subject in such a strong way is just amazing.

Her work has been showcased on billboards, magazines and book covers across the world. Her recent work with The New Yorker has raised her profile even higher, exposing her work to a completely new audience.
A preview of Favre's work on her website, malikafavre.com

This one was THE moment for me. I just loved her work!

Favre showcased her work, inspiration and work process while creating. She loves to travel and she told us that her travels have a great influence on her work.

On a more technical note, she works with Adobe Illustrator but using only the basic tools. She also works together with an animator to create what she calls "animated illustrations", which makes so much sense, since she plays with simple shapes and plain colors.

I am definitely following her work from now on!

"A good illustrator needs to observe the world and educate his eye." Malika Favre

Stefan Sagmeister, Graphic Designer

The cherry on top of the cake for this year's edition of OFFF was the eagerly anticipated Stefan Sagmeister. He was the rockstar of the event.

Sagmeister always brings something new to the table. He transformed what could have been just another boring lecture, into a super exciting and crazy talk. He talked about happiness and his most recent work. This time he presented his movie The Happy Film, an autobiographical documentary.

Sagmeister's presentation of a movie about happiness also showed us the other side of it. Although he had always meant for it to be introspective, he didn't expect the painful times during production. There were some upside-down moments. It started out as a design project, but then his mother passed away, his co-director died and relationships fell apart. All of this was captured on film.

"It's about what a mess life really is." Stefan Sagmeister

Overall this was a super captivating talk. He even closed this event by getting a room full of designers to sing about annoying clients. :)

Final Notes

As a visual designer, these events always give me the opportunity to see how other creatives showcase and explain their work. There were less captivating speakers with interesting work, and those with not-so-interesting work (at first glance) but super inspirational talks, who grabbed the audience's attention.

I also had the opportunity to analyze and have access to good keynotes, visually speaking. I got a lot of inspiration from it. It's not about the basic and boring PowerPoint presentations with tons of text, graphs and bullet points. It's about the "less is more" approach regarding what you want to communicate to your audience.

I'm looking forward to next year's edition of OFFF Barcelona!

Rita Ferreira

Rita Ferreira