Designer Shrenik Ganatra during the 'Designing DFF' talk
Day 3 of DFF began with a talk by ‘Designing DFF’, with talks by the designers who created the identity for the festival. Shrenik Ganatra and Ninad Kale took the audience through where the theme of trains from, how they used the stripes as a graphic element, playing with directions and dimensions to create a system, and how they incorporated typography into it. “We applied the system on creatives and when the motion graphic element came in, it was time-intensive but fun to play with the tone and speed to create a cohesive experience,” explained Ninad.
Shiva Nallaperumal, a long-term DF collaborator, who shared how his typeface Oli Grotesk was used in the making of the DFF identity. On working on the screen titles for speakers, he said, “The process was to understand 3 elements - speaker + Bombay + Interpretation. Like for Katie Rodgers, I used brush-like strokes because her work is delicate; for Sameer Kulavoor, I created a fluid movement of the letters in his name; for Sanjay Garg, I wanted to keep it traditional but modern.” Adding to this, Nikunj Patel aka Moebius talked about animation these letters, and how he asked himself the questions - How do I move this? How will it behave? Where did the type come from? “To create a world around the type, I imagined materials, form, function and the environment it is created in and worked with the restraints like colours, branding, fixed shape and 2D and brought it to life. All these little things came together to package the festival together,” he said. Lastly, set designer Aaqib Wani who designed the space for the festival spoke about colour moods, materials used, and how he used the train as an abstraction for the structures.
Hanif Kureshi and Giulia Ambrogi - the force behind India’s biggest street art movement St+Art India were next. Hanif started his talk with the shift in his career from sign painting and graffiti to wanting to change the scene and make the government see street art in a different light. He predominantly focussed on their efforts creating open-air art galleries in the form of art districts around the country - including Lodhi Art District, Delhi; Mahim (E) Art District, Mumbai; and Maqtha Art District, Hyderabad. “Each mural is site-specific and tells a story. We love that hundreds of kids living in this area are seeing art so differently growing up. It’s really changed the space and its dynamics.”
Giulia took the audience through different murals and projects done by the team, from WIP in New Delhi’s Okhla using containers as their canvas to the recent Sassoon Dock Project where Mumbai’s oldest dock and fish market was given an artistic makeover. “We really like to dig into the smell spaces. We chose Sassoon Dock because it felt like the perfect place to grab stories and forgotten mythologies. We pushed the artists to discover local narratives and reimagine what already exists,” she said, adding, “We don’t invade spaces. We tiptoe in and start conversations.”
Clockwise: Hanif Kureshi and Giulia Ambrogi of St+Art India
German designer Peter Zizka was next, and his presentation covered his work at Heine/Lenz/Zizka Projekte GmbH, the working of the studio, and then the work he has done designing camera, curating museum exhibitions and working on films and book covers. “Design is an important discipline. It’s not about money making,” he shared, going on to talk about his childhood and growing up in a German household and a neighbourhood where everything was uniform except people’s doors. He spoke about specific projects, like redesign wall plates,knuckle dusters, iPray with the nativity scene in a box much like an iPod, typography interventions he has done, and the Virtual Minefield, that created awareness on the cruelty of war.
Make In India’s V Sunil spoke next, sharing his policy of ‘50%Science + 50% Art = 100%magic. He talked about conceptualising the Indigo Airlines’ campaign - right from the carpets on the aircraft to the food design; the successful Make in India campaign for the Government of India to bring in large investments; and finally the Incredible India campaign, the idea of which was “to showcase our culture and let it translate to business”. “We had to switch the image of india from snake charmers to our own modern reference points. We had to bring in contemporary India without losing the traditional sensibility of identity that the world identifies us by”, said Sunil. He also spoke about two ongoing projects he’s working on: the Jodhpur Urban Regeneration Project to restore the city to its former glory and the Oyo Townhouse, where simple design thinking is creating a new brand identity.
Clockwise: V Sunil and Peter Zizka
The first half ended with an insightful panel on Indian Heritage moderator Ayaz Basrai of The Busride Studio and conservation architects Kruti Garg and Sameep Padora. The panel made some very strong points about the relevance of architects, individual practises and their influences, how design affects culture and vice versa, and the problem of being stuck between the past and future. “As architects, we see ourselves at the bottom of the structure, as a part of a much slower profession. But the problem is that while we are seeing a massive flowering of culture, we are torn between the past and future. We are standing at the end of a legacy and in front of a revolution,” said Ayaz, to which Kruti added, “At our studio, the concept of Indian heritage is recontextualised. Going back to the grassroots of how a project began and these forms came together is important. When you use the word ‘heritage’, people think Taj Mahal or Qutub Minar. But in Mumbai, you are actually living it!” From his own experiences, Sameep said, “Craft is a function of its time. It needs to be qualified with the tools of the time you’re living in.”
Post lunch, the second session of talks started with graphic designer and printmaker Anthony Burrill being his funny self. In a wonderfully honest presentation, he walked the crowd through his childhood and education and early days of the career when he was playing with the photocopier and working on simple imagery as an independent designer. “Back then, the norm was to work professionally in studios. But I wanted to create my own practise and work with interesting collaborators and clients, not work with idiotic art directors” he reflected. Anthony spoke of his discovery of Adam’s of Rye, a letterpress with whom he started working, and honed his skills andstyle; his Archive of Collected Ephemeral & Printed Material; and collaborations with designers who “bring out the best in him”. “It’s important as designers to say things we want to say through our work. It’s the best way of communication. So I say it work a single colour and keep it direct,” said Anthony.
Clockwise: Ayaz Basrai, Kruti Garg and Sameep Padora
Berlin’s Color And The Kids (CATK) studio Maik Bluhm and Sebastian Gerbert shared their journey as designers, from the love of Terminator that united them to work on illustration, design and motion graphics for specific projects like MyKita, Windows 8, Signature, and 20 Before 17 among others. ”In design, there are always rules and asking the question why one thing is connected to another. But for us, it’s important to ask why not, bring down the rules and define new rules for what we’re creating. We’re trying to navigate the space between real and computer-generated images,” said Maik. The duo wrapped up the talk with Visions of Places, a personal project to show how little one can do to tell a story.
Mitch Paone of DIA, a New York-based design agency specializing in kinetic identity systems, gave a fascinating talk about how his love for jazz and the piano meet in the form of dancing words and motion graphics. “With music, there’s an emotional connect and a magnetic energy of expression, which has found itself in my design. There is a gesture and rhythm to everything, and the biomechanics inspires different animation by borrowing the natural gestures into our work,” he said, highlighting how screens of any sort, AR/VR, 3D and holograms are the new medium of the future. On the instruments of creativity, he added, “Technology has become important in the evolution of tools. It’s difficult but freeing to go from controlling your tools to picking designs from a system you designed. We allow the generative tools to make mistakes for us and want to continue making stuff without worrying about how it turns out. Being less attached to crafting allows one to make objective decisions.”
The second panel of the day was sponsored by Red Bull Music Academy and brought on stage 4 Visual Jockeys (VJ)- Aniruddh Mehta aka The BigFat Minimalist; Varun Desai aka varundo; Nikunj Patel aka Studio Moebius and Dhanya Pilo aka Decoy, with moderator Kenneth Lobo. After each VJ introduced their style, inspiration, ongoing projects and processes, the conversation steered from the history of VJing in India to the current trends in the profession to the potential it has. “I do video art. VJing is a grey area. A VJ takes someone else’s work and plays with it,” said varundo, explaining the nuances of the profession, to which Nikunj added, “A lot of people think VJs are meant to put the logos in the background. People need to be more sensitised to the profession.” On the need for a supportive environment to experiment freely and grow in, Dhanya said, “In the industry of art and music, solidarity is important and we need to come together and do it”, to which Varun quipped, “VJS need to come and claim their territory and make it their own. The scene needs more people with strong visual identities.”
The last three sessions of the day were sponsored by WeTransfer, who brought down Barcelona’s Hey Studio and New York-based artist Christoph Niemann down to DFF. Speaking at the conference, Rob Alderson, Editor-in-chief at WeTransfer and former Online Editor at It’s Nice That, spoke about creativity, the curation process behind WeTransfer’s art backgrounds feature, and how design and culture influence each other. “Creativity is weird and awkward and often doesn’t make sense. We’re interested in how ideas work. The worst question in the world is ‘where do you get your creative ideas from?’ None Of is get them between 8 and 9 on a Tuesday. It’s a not a safe, linear process. It’s mysterious, which is what’s magical about it,” he said, adding, “Inspiration is meaningless until you do something with it!” Rob also spoke about specific artworks they curated to help people around the world discover artists; about the Baltimore Dance Project with FKA Twigs; and about their recent project for March For Our Lives.
Kenneth Lobo, Aniruddh Menon, Varun Desai, Nikunj Patel, Dhanya Pilo
Hey Studio was up next, with the adorable and inspiring duo of Verònica Fuerte and Eva Vesikansa, sharing their journey, love for food, and the importance of teamwork with the audience. They went through specific projects they’ve worked on like Arrels, Braun, Helvetica, and Cruz Roja alongside personal projects like EveryHey, where they created 400 geometric, vector characters over 18 months. “To us, graphic design is originality and doing something never been done before but at the same time, something that resonates with brand identity. We want design to be for everyone, not just designers,” they said. The two joked about their amusement with the copy machine when they first got it, showed some awesome videos on how they work and the many, many tests that go into the making of their work, and reminded people to keep working on side projects, which is where “you can do whatever you want, experiment, create new styles, and have no limit to what you can do”.
Finally, the most awaited talk of the entire festival began, by the one and only Christoph Niemann. With an audience that was hanging on his every word, the New York-based artist and designer spoke about “everything I know about design”, which happens to be painfully difficult. Shattering the idea of creativity being sexy and waiting for the ‘Aha moment’, he spoke about the importance of knowing who one is designing for, working with clients and building trust with them, and managing expectations, be it by creating realistic portfolios that reflect one’s work or realizing that a craft takes time and practice. “People forget that it takes forever to become good at it. It’s frustrating and exciting to have that feeling of wanting to do whatever is needed to make your career.” Christoph spoke about the importance of looking after one’s health and inputs like books, art, music, travel, all of which aid the creative process. “You have to keep filling the valve or you’ll run empty,” he said. His delightfully authentic presentation full of charts and illustrations also threw light on abstraction as a way to “engage the viewer and make them start filling the blanks”. Finally, he spoke about how “creativity cures a pain we didn’t even know we we were suffering from”. “We are all capable of doing things that are impossible to plan. All we can do is create a supportive environment to make it happen,” he said.
The talk was followed by a short Q & A session with Christoph and Hey Studio, followed by a performance by Princess Pea, with students sitting with their backs to the audience, P-A-R-A-C-O-S-M written on their tshirts, and reciting lines about being oneself, aspiring to be someone else, and the idea of performing roles versus being “real”.
To end the festival with a bang with the after party at Flip, with a mad set featuring global beats by DJ Kaleekarma / कलीकर्मा (Harshita Kalee) with a VJ set by varundo. This was followed by a DJ set by Sandunes (Sanaya Ardeshir), who collaborated with VJ Decoy for the first time, with the latter using random Whatsapp forwards to create a visual language for the set. Wrapping up the night and festival was Bangalore’s journey DJ Unnayanaa (Prashanth Pallemoni), who played a funky set using South Asian and African influences in electronic music, and visuals by varundo (Varun Desai).
Photographs by Devpriya Mohata and Michael Dengler.