DIGIT04 CONFERENCE MIXES THE ENGAGING AND OFFBEAT

08 September 2004
Sydney (Australia) - From 12 to 14 August, DiGiT04 brought an entertaining roster of presentations to Australia's largest city.
Sydney (Australia) - From 12 to 14 August, DiGiT04 brought an entertaining roster of presentations to Australia's largest city. The three-day design conference, workshops and expo were held at the Darling Harbour Convention Centre in Sydney during the annual design week celebrations. The locality is only several minutes walk from the central business district with magnificent views across water and the city skyline. The conference crowd was mostly young with a sprinkling of older faces.

The range of speakers on day one was a good foundation for the rest of the conference. They included an academic from the University of Sydney and someone who started his career without formal qualifications and is now an Adjunct Professor. The former, Professor Ron Newman, shared some of his experiences in Paris and the latter, Garry Emery, gave an overview of his new Buff font for Melbourne. The discourse naturally wandered into other areas and provided a rich insight into their design oeuvre.

Nille Svensson from Sweden Graphics was persuasive in a slightly off beat presentation called "The worst of Sweden Graphics." His self-effacing style and honesty quickly had everyone's attention. Nille complained about his English skills but that was no impediment to communication. He was across his subject and demonstrated a memory for detail.

At one point he presented a new corporate identity for a Swedish company that had moved to Los Angeles. Nille's vision was to design three or four styles for completely unrelated businesses and sectors. All of these logos and text were then crossed out with pencil and the new company name written in by hand. A kind of anti-graphic design which had the audience laughing. I was still laughing to myself five minutes later.

It reminded me of "Good Morning Moscow" from the old television series Fast Forward. In this comedy skit overseas news would be reinterpreted in most unexpected ways for local consumption. For instance, a shopping trolley competition where the contestants gather as many goods as they can in a short period of time. The doors to the supermarket open and of course there is nothing on the shelves!

Context was the key factor, which Nille Svensson explained by showing a chart. It was a personal success rating for that particular project and then we would move to the next example. His tone hardly changed as we went from project to evaluation and back again. It was so subtle that not even the mention of his students at home caused a ripple.

On the next day we had an animator who doesn't like interaction. At first sight I thought Kevin Bacon or even David Bowie had just walked on stage and the comparisons didn't end there. Phillip Brophy challenges the notion of interaction with statements like "I want to go to a restaurant and they tell you what you're having" and "choice is incredibly boring."

He confronted the establishment on this score and incredibly received funding for an interactive project that could be described as risque. It is digital in every sense of the word and his comparison with pornography left nothing to the imagination. This intelligent speaker would threaten and shock some audiences. His finished work can be experienced at Federation Square in Melbourne.

David Carson couldn't make it to the conference so Richard Hogg from Airside in London was asked to do a second presentation. He managed to get new material from home but it was his delivery that was most engaging. Richard's idol is a comedian by the name of Bill Hicks but his own style is a pokerfaced monologue with an occasional smile. Like any card player he showed an underlying knowledge and passion for his subject. It seemed disconnected at times but you had to pay attention or miss the punch line. The audience laughed and it would be too late!

It is hard not to mention just about everyone else who came to the podium. Brenden Cook from PictureDrift is a local from Newtown and he dealt creatively with his subject of "small revelations on creativity and the brief." This included filming friends in the design business and splicing their comments together. The result could be shown on any television news program. It was an outstanding effort and surely much admired.

Julio Hardisson from Innothna in Barcelona, Spain, had been on the panel discussion where he stuck to his native language. During his presentation though he got by with passable English and showed us some beautifully crafted games. At the other end of the scale Ryosuke Tei from Furi Furi in Tokyo, Japan was helped along by an excellent interpreter. It was so cool to hear news from such a very different culture. He explained the process of looking for a business name. Furi Furi comes close to "Shake it up baby!" The presentation might have been disjointed but Ryosuke was on top of his subject and the nuances of responding to an audience.

Richard Hogg's last question, "Was it better the second time?" left me wondering if the organisers can maintain the standard for DiGiT05? This year the variety and depth was a pleasant surprise. Topics were wide ranging enough to encourage further research if people wanted to get further information on a particular subject. If you just wanted to know more at a grass roots level then it was the place to be.

Peter Retallick MDIA
MDes (UNSW) Grad Dip (UTS)



For further information please contact:

DiGiT04
W: www.digitexpo.com

Supporting associations:
DIA - Design Institute of Australia www.dia.org.au
AIMIA - Australian Interactive Media Industry Association www.aimia.com.au
AGDA - Australian Graphic Design Association www.agda.com.au

Supporting organisation:
College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales www.cofa.unsw.edu.au

(The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily endorsed by the organisations mentioned.)