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A grand day out at the Graphic Design Festival Scotland (GFDS)

Wendy and I set off early to get to Glasgow Royal Concert Hall in good time for the 10am start to TopForm, an all-day conference and panel discussion at GDFS. Bumping into friends from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design and Perth College UHI, we settled into our seats in the huge auditorium along with an estimated 900 people!

The first speaker was Paul Scharf from G F Smith who talked about paper and described the psychology of colour, always an interesting topic. It was also good to hear some positive news re sustainability from the industry, when he described ‘a dynamic combination of chemistry and artistry’ which transforms disposable cups into beautiful paper.

Then it was over to @KellyanaLondon who had been plucked from obscurity as a designer by getting commissioned by some big sportswear brands...fair enough, she hit an optimistic note and gave us a few tips about just getting your work out on social media.

Eike König from agency Hort was pretty entertaining, hitting the stage after a big musical build up (think Icelandic rock!) and shared his view that the role of the designer is to help communicate and push forward ideas and educating people. He claimed the creative work is done by the client and ‘if you ask the right questions they will give you the right answers’. Food for thought.....which was a good segway into lunch in the cafeteria!

I found Angus Hyland from Pentagram’s session really absorbing. He described the process of designing a book jacket for ‘Dreamer’ by Charles Johnson, one of his favourite projects. Talk turned a bit technical with a run through of the golden rectangle, rule of thirds and root-2 rectangle but returned to reality with a description of how he pays the bills by designing logos, such as for Eurosport when they were bought over by Discovery Network.

However, the best speaker for me was Stefan Sagmeister, legend of the graphic design industry and all round top bloke! The topic was ‘beauty’ and he talked a lot about architecture and how in the 1970’s 20% of the world’s population lived in little boxes, which were supposed to be super-functional but are now being dynamited as they don’t actually function very well!

He defined beauty:

And then he told us what we can do to promote beauty:

  • Recognise it (as opposed to perfectly functional space)

  • Collect it (he collects album covers)

  • Copy it (this used to be the way we learned...)

  • Create it (‘good work needs beauty as a goalpost’)

Did you know that apparently even when we lose our minds, we can still recognise beauty? Or that ‘beauty’ is the most translated word on Google? Neither did we!

He had us hooked on his every word, and so it was that he ended his presentation by inviting all 900 of us to stand up and singalong to his song about beauty! In an auditorium built for concerts, it sounded pretty uplifting and was a brilliant way to finish the day.

We left after picking up a few freebies (posters, paper samples and postcards), trying some innovative ‘virtual’ spray-painting on the Made Brave ‘wall’ and deciding that the organiser’s message that at GDFS you ‘exchange your ticket for happiness’ was spot on!


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