Category Archives: Design

The Rural Ambassador

From a small farm in Wales, the phenomenally sunny Anna Felton, runs two businesses as well as the occasional marathon. The title of her recent Do lecture says it all: “How do you manage 6 brands, a knitwear company and a flock of sheep? And still have a life.” As someone who grew up on a sheep farm in Cornwall, I’m in awe of her efforts to build vibrant rural economies: with Monkstone, she uses wool from her boyfriend’s family farm to make gorgeous knitwear (who knew it was possible to salivate over a sweater?), while with Dewberry PR, she spreads the word about all the good, beautiful things happening outside of the metropolises. So milkmaids and farmboys, here she is, the one, the only, Anna Felton.

THIS YEAR’S LESSON
That you can never sleep. If you want to make your business work you need to be 100% focused on your brand and ideas. I want to tell the story of farmers and the wool industry even more. You need to think outside the box to be different, personal and beautiful. People remember stories and not facts and this is something I try to work out in marketing strategies all the time.  There are so many new brands, you need to stand out. It’s a challenge. But one I love.

THE BURNING QUESTION
I have taken to bread making and I am trying to bake the perfect loaf. But on a work level, my burning question would be to crack time management and to allow myself to be as creative as possible, but not to scare people away. I try to question all that I do, so that I can get better.

THIS YEAR’S MOSTINSPIRINGTHING
It would have to be  Sean Carasso Founder of Falling Whistles. At the last Do Lectures, he totally blew me away with his drive and passion. Passion to make a difference by using an incredible brand identity and vision, being supported by friends and creatives, and spreading his love for what he does and the changes he wants to make.  It was just awe inspiring.

MAKING THE WHAT-NEXT DECISION
Most of my ideas come to me when driving, something I do a lot with my PR agency. I am lucky as I work for many beautifully minded companies that inspire me to think differently. I pick my projects based on the teams I am asked to meet with and the stories they tell me. I only ever work for companies that I believe in.

In terms of Monkstone, I want to bridge a gap between farmers and creatives. I want to talk to as many UK brands to make them understand the importance of manufacturing in the UK. Later this year, I am launching For Flock Sake; an exciting co operative of farmers, manufactures and businesses. I want to give the wool board a run for their money!

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The Gallerist

Here’s Umer Butt negotiating with a taxi driver to take me from his Lahore gallery to the Indian border. This is typical Umer, always the amazing host, whether of people, art or ideas. In 2007 he set up a virtual gallery and was so overwhelmed by inquiries from people who thought it was a real space, that he quickly set up its offline bricks and mortar equivalent in Lahore; Grey Noise. After four years of championing Pakistani contemporary art from inside the country, he recently moved his HQ to Dubai with collaborations planned with galleries from London, New York, India & Germany. Bad news for my Lahore visits, but very good news for the creative industries.

THIS YEAR’S LESSONS
1: Good shoes buy art!!
2: I need to start taking care of my health.
3: I should speak at least two European languages.
4: Life can be so much healthier and positive if you stay away from Politics of Pakistan.

THE BURNING QUESTION
When will the UAE Government invest in launching a ‘real’ art school, which is more financially accessible to its non-Emirati majority? It hurts when I see teenagers going to school with their glossy Chevy Camaro’s and their American accents, when I personally know some very talented artists who are really struggling with finances.

THE INSPIRATION
I visited Sicily, which was super inspirational… the parallels it has with Pakistani life; the importance of Mama cooked food and never-ending conversations over dinner. And I started listening to Arcade Fire… INSPIRING! INDEED.

MAKING THE WHAT-NEXT DECISION
Firstly, look at my bank account ☺ & then ask why I should invest in a particular project. How ‘cooked’ it is to be represented though my gallery — i.e. how well resolved is the artist in terms of maturity/ intelligence/ awareness? Does it fit the gallery aesthetic (and is engaging)?  Gambling really! At times the most innovative project gets the least attention! The Mysteries/ Miseries of the Contemporary art world!

 

The polymath

James Bowthorpe does. Always has done. He does things like set a new world record for cycling round the globe, building a boat out of salvaged wood and sailing it up the Thames, making music videos, designing sets for Florence & the Machine and passionately campaigning for Parkinson’s research. A proper polymath. I saw James last month and returned a mini-disc player he’d lent me 10 years ago, complete with a little wooden holder he’d crafted for it. Reckon that just about sums him up — craft + tech + generosity.

THE LESSON: 2011’s big lesson is, give it a go, you never know. This is not a new strategy for me but the lesson has come through the range of results, some good some bad, and it’s helping me to whittle my pursuits down a bit.

THE QUESTION: I don’t really have one constant burning question that consumes me; in many ways I wish I did. I am looking for that question though – my question is, what’s the question?! Frustrating for everyone.

THE INSPIRATION: Lots of inspiring things happened to me this year, here’s a couple. Lake Tear of the Clouds in upstate New York blew me away, twice, with its understated portent and dignity. I didn’t know a little lake could do that. I was also inspired by the documentary film Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo. Lastly I’m doing some work with a company called Finisterre down in Cornwall – they are an inspirational group of people and no mistake.

The design storyteller

Leonora Oppenheim- where to start? She’s one of them with many strings to her bow. One of which is Creative Data, which is all about experiential storytelling. Twang. Another one of which is Elio Studio, a design communications practice. Twang. And then there’s her journalism for Treehugger and Coolhunting. Twang. Twang. Twang. I’ve worked alongside Leonora and love the craft of her storytelling and the way she approaches journalism as design.

THE LESSON: Listening to my instinct without trying to rationalise it. I have a tendency to over analyse questions in both my professional and personal life. Something I’m working on is listening to what kind of feeling I’m getting from a situation. What is my instinct telling me? In the past I have often overridden a sense of unease because I couldn’t translate that feeling clearly in my mind. Now I realise I don’t need to intellectually understand why I do or don’t want to do something. Our instinctive reaction is inherent knowledge, so rather than ignoring it and getting myself into trouble, I’m listening. Basically I’m learning to say no, which is a pretty vital skill if you want to stay sane and healthy.

THE BURNING QUESTION: Scale. How much is enough? There are loud voices in the field of sustainability who are rightly concerned about the speed of change we’re achieving. We need to move faster, they say, to avoid global catastrophe. There is a current obsession with digital because of its ability to scale, but with Creative Data. I am swimming against the tide. Our physical and spatial exhibitions are designed to work at a local level reaching hundreds of people at a time, not millions. I’m pursuing this route in the belief that we need to work with communities to help people emotionally engage with the issues and understand how climate change will directly affect their own lives. My question is: how can Creative Data projects have a large-scale impact while still working on deeper personal engagement in future landscapes? How can the physical and digital work together in this context? Tom Uglow, head of Google Creative Labs EMEA, recently said that the future of digital is physical, which boosted my confidence and made me smile.

THE INSPIRATION: There are so many extraordinarily exciting projects happening out there, I am inspired daily. But with respect to my “burning question” I think a brilliant realisation of local creativity with global reach is the work of French street artist JR. Addressing the theme of identity he uses large-scale photography of local people on an architectural scale in their communities. He works guerilla style, without permissions or corporate sponsorship. It’s fast, radical and provocative spatial intervention which creates powerful emotional reactions and a sense of pride in place.  He won the TED prize this year for his Inside Out  project, which scales up his personal work, allowing anyone in the world to transform their own identity into a community artwork by sending them enormous posters of their own portraits. The quote below is from his TED talk and resonates very clearly with me about the purpose of Creative Data.

“Art is not supposed to change the world, to change practical things, but to change perceptions. Art can change the way we see the world and create an energy. Actually the fact that art cannot change things, makes it a neutral place for exchanges and discussions and then enables you to change the world. What we see changes who we are. When we act together the whole thing is much more than the sum of the parts.”

The Marketoonist

Tom Fishburne left a dream job to follow his lifelong dream of being a cartoonist. A Harvard Business School grad, it didn’t take him long to realise that the cartooning industry was broken, with thousands of cartoonists clamouring for a tiny number of commissions. Take the New Yorker; apparently to even have your work considered you need to submit one cartoon a day, for a year. Then your submission will be one of 1000 that get considered every week, only 18 are chosen. In response, Tom developed the Marketoonist, a thriving business that develops cartoon-based marketing campaigns. Now he’s on a mission to reform the entire industry, by both developing new markets for cartoons, and by developing tech platforms (cartoon banks) that will enable cartoonists to license their back catalogue.

Tom taught me how to doodle and has seriously transformed my note-taking, but that’s another story. He literally put down his paints to chat on a freezing afternoon.

THE LESSON: The power of the tribe. I spent 10 years building my community. Anyone can build a tribe, even if you don’t think you have a reason for it.

THE QUESTION: Why do so many things launch that are mediocre? How do we close the gap between aims and reality? Why, so often, does the dream becomes watered down into the equivalent of apple sauce?

THE INSPIRATION: The Republic of Tea

The Pictureteller

Laura Brunow Miner is the founding editor of Pictory, an online photojournalism magazine that publishes big photographs grouped into stories. Anyone can submit one large, captioned image to each of Pictory’s editorial themes, from the moving, to the epic, to the stomach churning. In addition to her dayjob Laura also builds creative communities.  Inspired by Foo camp, the annual American hacker event hosted by publisher O’Reilly Media, she has established Phoot camp, an annual creative retreat for photographers, and Eat Retreat for leaders in the Food Community.

I met her at the 2011 Do Lectures where we talked, clutching cups of tea on a blustery Welsh afternoon. I loved her focus on catalysing creative communities, her philosophy of the more you give the less you feel you need to take & always asking “what can I bring to this situation?”

THE LESSON: impulse control. Like many designers, I’ve always had a tendency towards obsessiveness, but getting a puppy last winter has helped change that. When you watch your teenage dog fixate on something she’s not supposed to (creepily stalking another puppy or staring down the cats) and just pray that she’ll let it go, it teaches you a lot about your own behavior. It’s helped me move on really quickly from inevitable issues like personal conflicts, getting overly attached to plans, professional disappointments, etc. I’ve realized, “I don’t need to win, I just need to keep moving.”

THE QUESTION: “How do I find peace in a system that’s so broken? Or are we even supposed to?”I’m feeling especially unsettled lately by the amounts of consumption and pollution around us. It’s a tough issue everywhere, but especially for communities that don’t have the resources for things like city-wide composting, or even recycling. It feels daunting, but I think a personal step I can take is to focus on buying things second-hand or from small, trustworthy producers — even though it requires breaking my cycle of cheap clothing addiction!

THE INSPIRATION: I’ve gotten a lot out of Creative Mornings, the lecture series for creative professionals started by Tina Roth Eisenberg, and my favorite one is from super talented photographer and storyteller Andrew Zuckerman. In his talk, He shares stories of talking his way into getting to interview folks like Nelson Mandela, and how anyone can be a good interviewer if you’re genuinely curious about the other person.

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