TYPO 2011

typo_conferencePlaces, the theme for this years TYPO conference, in addressing the space around us and how we interact, provided a coherent sphere of content, but left enough space for varied and inspiring content by speakers. Popping down on Friday, we were lucky enough to spend a day listening to the compelling line-up.

On looking back over my sketchbook, it became clear from a real-estate point of view, which speakers resonated with me most. So in that vein, here are those highlights:

As the opening act on Friday, and with a write-up outlining 18 years at Pixar, there was a distinct anticipation of Michael Johnson taking the stage. And he didn’t disappoint. Taking us through the process that underlies their hugely successful and admired catalogue of films, he revealed the progressive stages it takes to reach an output worthy of the studio’s name.

It was fascinating to trace back to the early development huge productions such as The Incredibles and the Toy Story films. Reassuringly, amidst the incredible level and skill in crafting visuals and movement, it became clear that what counts at the core is the story. No matter the level of visual complexity, Michael stated that at the centre of this must be a world, it’s characters and the story; a message that resounds definitively with our process at Moving Brands. Begin with a compelling narrative and build out from there.

Joachim Sauter has been working with progressive media since 1980, yet was probably best known, at least to me for “that BMW sculpture”. This kinetic sculpture, created for the BMW Museum in Munich, was indeed shown as part of his talk on ‘The Renaissance of the Physical’ but sat amongst an incredibly varied, and innovative body of other work.

It was an hour for the spectacular as Joachim plotted a rough history of ART+COM‘s history seeming to draw on an endless list of incredibly intricate and sophisticated technological design projects. Charting work as playful as Jurascope for the Natural History Museum in Berlin to the sensitive installation of Duality in Tokyo, he described their process of embracing the curiosity people have with the physical, and augmenting this experience of space with digital technology. He commented that by not overtly showing it as a medium, technology is not used for technology’s sake, but serves to enhance and support the story.

Finally, Tom Uglow, the Europe lead of Google’s Creative Lab, endeared himself to the audience proclaiming he only knew a very small amount about a wide variety of things. A fact that fell flat against the backdrop of the major campaign work him and his team have pursued over the last few years. Calling the web a tool still in its infancy, Tom’s passion for play in this developing space was demonstrated through diverse projects such as the Chrome experiments, The Life in a Day project and the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.

When speaking about Google, he stated “we like, when we make stuff, to talk about what it is, and what it does”, and it seems this simplest of manifesto’s helps define a tone of voice for Google’s work, yet maintain space for a world of experimentation. He talked of his admiration for thinking like a young person, embracing true innovation, and who is not afraid of failing, and it is apparent this is a frame of mind instilled in the creative’s in his team; one that become’s ever more important to retain in any creative space.

Touching too, on the YouTube Symphony Orchestra, he underlined the importance of being aware of layers of audience. Whilst the original target group were in this case, the orchestra themselves, there were levels beyond that of those who watched live, spiralling further to those who shared the clip with the wider community.

Tom’s slideshow is available online too: A nice touch, and perhaps a further nod to the openness of the studio’s approach. Definitely worth a browse.

By no means a comprehensive rundown of everything, but a hopefully a snapshot of our day at the conference. It was a worthwhile thing to be part of, and refreshing to spend a day in the company of new and inspiring ideas and people. It seems that amidst continued technical proficiency and digital progression, the story continually prevails over all. Whilst craft becomes increasingly sophisticated, with executions reaching the most beautiful of standards, they become lifeless without a solid narrative at the heart.

To reiterate Michael Johnson on time spent grafting in the development stages: “pain is temporary, suck is forever”.