Marc Thiele on giving design conferences a 'family atmosphere'

Popular event Beyond Tellerrand: Play & Make has been running for 13 years. We chat to founder Marc Thiele to find out the secrets of its success.

Play & Make is a creative conference that prides itself on being affordable. Currently gearing up for its 13th year - and no longer running under its previous moniker of ‘FlashForum Konferenz’ (or FFK) - the three-day event has been celebrating the fusion of design and technology in one way or another since 2001.

It’s come a long way since then, doubling in size, branching out in focus and pulling together an ever-expanding cross-section of industry-leading speakers and design enthusiasts from across the globe.

This year, Play & Make will be held in Düsseldorf, Germany, from Monday 9 - Wednesday 11 December. Tickets for the two-day conference start at €99 including booking fee, with tickets for the third day of workshops currently TBC.

So what do you get?

Play & Make offers three days of inspiring talks, intensive workshops and a healthy serving of good, old-fashioned face-to-face networking. But it’s more than your average industry event, as founder Marc Thiele will tell you: it's a community-orientated meeting of creative minds with a "family atmosphere".

Thiele – the "one-man-band" organiser of Play & Make and the brains behind Beyond Tellerrand (more on that below) – is currently busy putting the final touches to the workshop programme and speaker line-up, which so far includes the likes of Sara Blake, Evan Roth, Carlos Ulloa and Aram Bartholl, and is growing daily.

Computer Arts caught up with him to find out how his plans for this year’s event are shaping up – and what it’s all about…

Computer Arts: Who are your headline speakers at Play & Make this year – and who are you most looking forward to seeing?

Marc Thiele: Oh… that’s a tough one. Actually all the topics are so exciting that I can't really tell. But if I have to, I would say that I’m really looking forward to seeing Evan Roth speaking about the art of misuse, Florian Schmitt and his work with and around Hi-ReS!, and the wonderful Sara Blake. The good thing about running a single-track event is I have the chance to see all of the talks!

CA: What about the workshops you have planned?

MT: For the workshops I always try to get some topics that are more hands on than the talks. As well as a 45 minute talk you are able to learn something in a workshop that is running the whole day – check the website to see what is coming as soon as we announce it.

CA: How many people are you expecting to see through the doors?

MT: Hopefully we’re going to sell out with 500 people.

CA: How did the Play & Make conference first come about, back when it used to be called FFK – and what does it have to do with Beyond Tellerrand?

MT: I started FFK from my community ‘Flashforum’, which has around 120,000 members, as a community meeting in 2001. The first event already had 250 attendees! I realised that I liked the idea of bringing people together and wanted to do this regularly.

In the following years I switched the city where FFK took place and the attendee number grew every year. In 2005 Macromedia asked me to run a co-op with them, planning a launch tour through six different cities – Berlin, Hamburg, Düsseldorf, Munich, Vienna and Zurich – which was called the ‘FFK and Studio 8 Tour’. I loved it and wanted to do more events.

I was never just doing Flash through Flashforum – though people tend to put you in a drawer and sort you under a certain category. My aim for the event was always to spice it up with unrelated topics.

With the fade away of Flash, I decided to change the name and do something new in 2011. The name ‘Beyond Tellerrand’ was born – I'm trying to establish Beyond Tellerrand as a label for great events. Luckily people loved what I did, so I decided to go a bit further beyond the ‘tellerrand’ with Play & Make and shifted the focus of the topics.

CA: Thirteen years is a long time to run an event – what will be so good about Play & Make this year? Why should people book a ticket?

MT: When I started, I wanted to create a yearly meeting for the community with interesting and inspiring sessions, giving attendees the chance to meet some of the smartest and nicest people of our industry. With Play & Make I want to give the audience a chance to think outside of the box – to look a bit further than usual.

I think it takes everybody on a journey away from what they usually do. We tend to work in our small worlds usually, but putting your head up and having a look at other inspiring topics might give you a fresh dose of inspiration. And who knows, maybe also a different view on your work as well.

If you like a mix of tech and design-related topics and you want to attend two days in a familiar atmosphere with creative people: come and join us in December.

Words: Julia Sagar

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