Computer Arts

OFFF: a designer's diary

Designer Johann Chan attended this year's OFFF event in Barcelona. Here's what he made of the post-digital creation culture show.

This year's OFFF took place at the CCCB, a convenient venue five minutes walk from La Ramblas in the heart of Barcelona. This annual festival of creativity features digital artists, web and print designers, motion graphics studios and, unusually for design shows, avant-garde musicians.

On entry I was greeted with the market area known as the Mercadillo. Here independent artists could be found displaying and selling not only artwork, but also merchandise. Moving underground, I came across the main stage 'Roots', where over the three days of the show scores of cutting-edge industry leaders gave presentations of their work with accompanying screen projections.

As an example of the diversity at this year's event, you could see Big Spaceship, who showcased work on the Da Vinci Code website that demonstrated new levels of interactivity, and title design legend Kyle Cooper showing off legendary title sequences from hit movies such as Dawn of the Dead and Seven.

It was also a great opportunity to catch up with some of our friends, such as long-time Computer Arts collaborator Chuck Anderson (No Pattern), who demonstrated a variety of beautiful print work and talked about aesthetic-driven approaches. He also disclosed the irony of winning a commission from Absolute Vodka at the age of 18 (the legal drinking age in the US is 21). Scott Hansen aka ISO50 was also in attendance, showing off a nice range of work completed for our very own magazine.

Elsewhere, Florian Schmidt from Hi ReS! and Andreas Mller from Nanika proved how conceptual-driven approaches to interactivity can result in some truly creative work. After Florian showed some entertaining and original website designs, Andreas gave some mightily impressive motion tracking demonstrations in real time.

While I was disappointed that Bradley Grosh (Gmunk) couldn't make it, I was thrilled when his replacement turned out to be none other than Joshua Davis, who delivered an excellent talk about Z4 by JD, his recent collaboration with BMW. Davis's excellent rapport with the crowd had everyone in stitches and a hilarious sequence where he used generic sign language to interact with himself on the big screen offered clear proof that design has room for some rock star charisma.

Rob Chiu (The Ronin) may have had his laptop, luggage and new digital SLR stolen after exiting the airport, but a special UPS delivery of his hard drive from the UK meant he was still able to give a kick-ass talk about his amazing motion graphics projects, including Psychosis and Black Day to Freedom.

Nando Costa used his slot to demonstrate music's role at OFFF by teaming up with The Plastiq Phantom, who played live digital music during his talk. Costa talked about Influences of Brazil, a collaborative project with his wife, and showcased some mind-blowing work past and present, including his first After Effects project, which was awesome.

By sampling the audience live at the end and turning it into a tune Costa utilised a great opportunity to interact with the crowd. The combination of his laidback Brazilian style, exceptional artwork and the handing out of a truckload of freebies made his talk one of the highlights of OFFF 2006.

In addition to the Roots stage, I also checked out 'Cinixin', a screening room showing finalists of the 6th OFFF Film festival and 'Loopita', a theatre playing avant-garde electronic music. Attendees could also try out new interactive media in the 'Extend' workshop areas, a collaborative workshop based around processing.

There was also the chance to play on Zach Lieberman's musical drawing machine, which changes the act of drawing into a musical performance, and join Joshua Davis in a collaborative illustration. The latter involved a compilation of sketches from anyone wishing to participate, the end result being a beautifully compiled single illustration with over 60 independent drawings from OFFF visitors.

Overall OFFF was a great event. The impressive line-up meant designers could see an excellent cross-section of industry leaders giving valuable insights into artistic approaches, conceptual idea development and professional practice.

With most designers using print and web forms of communication, OFFF also provides a nice and intimate alternative where designers can meet up and communicate verbally. The show is a must for aspiring designers, students, disciples or practitioners of computer art, and a great place to mix with fellow artists and heroes to absorb information offline.

See you next year.

OFFF BCN 2006 took place on 11-13 May in Barcelona. For more information and details of future events check out http://www.offf.ws

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