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OFFF Barcelona 2024 Highlights

Photos: Arnau Rovira

As Mercado, we partnered with OFFF Barcelona to experience the largest gathering of creators for three days packed with inspiration, connection, and collaboration. We met creative leaders and connected with a myriad of thinkers, makers, and creatives to bond, mingle, and celebrate the best part of our industry: community.

Here are some highlights from OFFF Barcelona 2024!

Authenticity vs. Artificial Intelligence

As in every sector, the world of visual design has turned into a field dominated by artificial intelligence. The fact that everyone who produces images using AI programs defines themselves as an artist and social media is filled with millions of similar AI images. As you may remember, Merriam-Webster dictionary determined the word of the year 2023 as "authentic". This word, which means “true to one's own personality, spirit, or character”, emphasizes the importance of originality in today's world where artificial intelligence is on the rise. Almost all of the creators agreed that artificial intelligence contributes to creation when used as a tool of inspiration rather than as an art production tool. Are they against artificial intelligence? Of course not. However, to be authentic as a designer, the importance of using artificial intelligence correctly is increasing, because most young people who take their first steps towards becoming a designer fall into the trap of choosing to take the easy way out and produce identical prototype works by AI.

The interesting thing is that many digital designers and artists also use analogue techniques. Even if the final product is digital, they prefer analogue progress in most of the process. Studio Mals and Setreset Films teams, who designed the opening film of OFFF 2024, are a good example of this. The film, which appears as a 3D animation, was created entirely using analogue techniques. The phrase "Made by hand" written at the beginning of their presentation summarizes this very well. “We can do anything with AI, but we don't prefer it.” they added. The characters in the movie are real puppets. They did these themselves by watching tutorials on YouTube. Undoubtedly, we have entered a period in which man-made things gain even more value as everything becomes digital.

Coding and Typography

To us, the standout name of the event was Talia Cotton, who is a designer, coder and educator, and is a leading specialist in the intersection of branding and technology. While she was a successful designer at Pentagram, she took a bold step and established her studio. Even though it has only been a year, she has accomplished incredible creative works with many global brands in this short time. So what makes Talia different? She led on data-driven and algorithmic brand identities and websites, with a number of her projects hinged on pushing what was possible with design through coding. She turned her website into an experimental area to show that coding can eliminate design limits. It renews its website every year using different coding techniques. Interactive typographic designs make the person entering the website a part of the design.


Creative Challenges

There is an interesting commonality in the stories of designers who are successful in their sectors: They regularly create design challenges to improve their skills through techniques. For example, visual designer Baugasm statesd that he developed the different techniques he currently uses with the goal of "1 Poster Everyday for 1 Year" that he set for himself. He tried a different "Photoshop tool" every day for a year, not using the same techniques in any of his designs. He defines 90% of the posters as trash, but this is how he was able to discover his unique design practice. Likewise, 3D designer Vincent Schwenk has been sitting in front of the computer to create a different design every day for years with the goal of "Create a Daily Artwork". He has taken himself to the next level in modelling by experimenting with brand-new materials and forms every day. By the way, let us note that none of these designs are customer orders or works.

Image Sonification

Playmodes was one of the names we met for the first time with their performance at the event. Playmodes , an audiovisual research studio, brings sound design and audiovisual experiences to life with the technologies they create. They staged a performance called "Forms", in which musicians created live musical compositions using images that produced sound according to their colours and forms. Can graphic design create music? The name of this technique they developed as an answer to the question is "image sonification". There is no doubt that this concept will have an important role in the future of multi-sensory experience.


Social Media Detox

In many of the creativity-filled presentations, designers also talked about their difficult mental states. Creative burnout, called "Creative Burnout", is considered a natural part of the creation process, but the pressure to produce, which has recently increased due to social media, causes serious problems in the mental health of designers. Second on the list is loss of focus. Even though most creative names are popular thanks to social media and work with global brands, they are aware of the toxic effects of social media. To overcome this with the least damage, they were undergoing a strict social media detox during their production processes.

Our interviews with designer Vincent Schwenk and director duo Vallée Duhamel , whom we met at OFFF 2024, will be published on Mercado very soon.


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