Why OFFF By Night will change how you think about design events

Barcelona-based design extravaganza OFFF celebrated its 16th year in 2016, teaching us everything from finding stability as a freelancer to taking your artwork in new directions.

While Barcelona will always be OFFF’s spiritual home, in recent years the brand has visited cities around the world as OFFF On Tour, from Mexico City to Cincinnati, Quebec to Moscow.

Regular Nike collaborator Rizon Parein is curating the event, as well as speaking

Regular Nike collaborator Rizon Parein is curating the event, as well as speaking

But its first ever outing to Belgium is a little different, in more ways than one. Curator Rizon Parein explains the thinking behind OFFF By Night, coming to Antwerp this September...

Most design conferences happen during the day. Why do it at night?

"It was originally a consequence of the space we have, which is an old train factory, an immense space – half a football field big. The cost of blinding it would have been half our budget," admits Parein. "So I was like, why don't we do it at night? I could easily see the community enjoying keynotes in the evening."

OFFF By Night has an impressive roll-call of speakers

OFFF By Night has an impressive roll-call of speakers

By this point, he had already reached out to his dream roster of inspirational speakers – including ManvsMachine, Alex Trochut, HORT and Craig & Karl – all of whom agreed to take part much more quickly than he expected. "I was like, wow, this is already a big festival," he grins.

How do you plan to help attendees relax and have fun during the evening?

"What's always been on my mind was creating a nightlife – not like a club, but a lot of people at events like OFFF hang out drinking beers, for a lot of people that's half the event. I wanted to create an interesting space for that to happen."

On a recent trip to New York, Parein found himself at the Brooklyn Night Bazaar – a factory space transformed into a flea market and farmers market by night, complete with games and activities. "Giant Jenga... air hockey... everything," he adds.

"We ended up in that space with a bunch of designers and had such a great time, and I thought – what if we could combine that experience with keynote talks? So that's what we're doing."

So are the market and the games almost as important as the talks?

"My team are getting really excited about the night market, but the keynotes are just as important – that's what people are paying for. The market is a fringe event," insists Parein.

But the two will be closely linked, with high-resolution XXL screens and projections, LED and plasma screens relaying the latest from the main stage, as well as a smaller, more intimate 'soapbox' stage in the middle of the hustle and bustle.

"It'll be like in the Roman Empire, when people used to stand on a table and just start speaking," he explains.

What’s your advice to anyone attending a design event to get the most from it?

"Relax. Chill. Don't be intimidated – just walk up to people and talk to them," advises Parein. "I used to be more shy when I was younger, and if I recognise that behaviour in someone I just go up and give them a hug. You know, we're all human beings."

For Parein, extra ice-breakers like giant Jenga are also invaluable to help meet new people and potentially forge exciting collaborations over a beer afterwards. "It helps you not take it all too seriously," he adds.

OFFF By Night takes place in Antwerp from 22–24 September 2016. Early bird tickets are on sale now at www.offfbynight.be

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Nick Carson

Nick is a content strategist and copywriter. He has worked with world-class agencies including Superunion, Wolff Olins and Vault49 on brand storytelling, tone of voice and verbal strategy for global brands such as Virgin, Pepsi and TikTok. Nick launched the Brand Impact Awards in 2013 while editor of Computer Arts, and remains chair of judges. He's written for Creative Bloq on design and branding matters since the site's launch.