Review of 2018

In 2018 we were lucky enough to gain two new volunteers who are an incredible asset to the West of England Design Forum. Whilst welcoming them and talking through how we do things, I took a moment to remind myself (as well as introducing Alina and Andy) of the four key reasons for our existence. 

Since setting up WEDF in 2006, our purpose has been to: inspire people, champion design, share what we know and connect creatives. It is this purpose that informs the great work of each chair, vice-chair and team of volunteers, and importantly, will continue to inform in the years ahead. So rather than writing this year’s review in chronological order, I thought it would be an interesting approach to review our year under these four titles. 

We are a group of volunteers striving to do our collective best for the West of England design community that we are proud to call our own. I thank each and every one of those volunteers for the time, energy and talent they have contributed to WEDF throughout 2018

Inspire people – by listening and talking to brilliant and diverse creative people

The chances are that if you’re reading this then you’ve been to one of our talks. 2018 was yet again exceptional. 

Multiadaptor, Astrid Stavro and Wiedemann Lampe informed, entertained and inspired. Our Doing Good Design // Design Doing Good opened the doors to the NSPCC, The Art of Ping Pong and Baxter and Bailey who talked to us about how design is making a real difference in the world as well as winning hearts, minds and awards.

Our Warm-Up acts continue to go from strength to strength. We’ve welcomed to our stage and into our hearts Hana Sunny Whaler, Addicted to Patterns and Carl Godfrey – it may have been the first time they’ve had the opportunity to speak in front of 200 people, but it won’t be the last. A big thank you to our audiences and main speakers at each event for your support and encouragement of these new faces

Champion design – by showing the real value it can bring to our economy and society

We get full marks for championing in our own industry – this review is the testament to that. 

It’s the wider economy and society in the West of England that’s trickier to tap into. Having worked with WEDF for over ten years, I’ve been part of the collective effort to organise events that speak to the non-design world about design and the value it can bring. Although this requires huge resource we simply don’t have, we’re undeterred and determined to cast our net ever wider in 2019.

If you work in an agency big enough to have client services and strategic job roles – do you invite them to our talks? And what about your clients? Bring them along too! Our Ragged Edge talk in February is all about those relationships, and even involves a real life client! I know one of my fellow volunteers has had clients come along to talks in 2018 because they’ve heard about WEDF from his email signature. Details count.

And who works in partnership with us to champion design? Our suppliers of course! The brilliant individuals and teams that make our ideas reality. Huge thanks goes to Alan at WithPrint for all the beautiful posters adorning our walls this year, to photographer Ben McCluskey for capturing our events so brilliants, to David Maxwell-Wood and Katie Cadwell for crafting these pixels before your very eyes and Mud for hosting them. We champion them, and in turn they champion us.

2018 also saw us support Multiplicity — a fabulous event run by FoilCo who are also major champions of design across the UK. With workshops by day and talks by night, we were enlightened and enthralled by speakers Taxi Studio, Graham Wood and Here Design.

There’s no doubt that through the very existence of WEDF, we add to the local design economy by creating a better design community within the region. How many students have stayed in the area after studying partly due to the events we put on? Is it mentioned in recruitment advertising that staff get to go to local design talks? Yes, it is. Through the diverse work we do, we’re helping with staff training, providing creative inspiration and contributing to continued professional development. How many great ideas in studios were born out of one of our talks? 

Share what we know – by spreading knowledge and creative thought in the region

Werkhouse ran for the second year, aptly working with just second-year students. There were too many agencies involved to list here, but suffice to say it was another unparalleled collaborative event that WEDF were delighted to support. Where else would you find that many companies working together in one room? An absolute joy to be involved as one of the leaders, never mind the participants.

Again, Buddies ran for another year with a whole host of design agencies across Bristol and Bath supporting UWE students through a series of four, 1‑hour review sessions in their studios as well as the possibility of longer placements. Read some top tips from a previous student on the Buddies scheme and now a Junior Designer at Taxi Studio on our website.

PALS, our Peer Assisted Learning Sessions didn’t run in 2018, but much planning took place to ensure we have three lined up for 2019. Get involved in these affordable and informative sessions that hook you up with those that know just a bit more than you in a relaxed environment – tickets available here.

UP was soft-launched at the Multiplicity event in April thanks to Billie Croucher and Pam Partridge of Taxi Studio. A WEDF initiative that supports and encourages female designers to aim higher and land more leadership roles within the creative industry. Further work happened behind the scenes during the year to ensure we go live and lively in 2019.

And a lot of our good work was down to the brilliance of who we know. We’ve partnered with D&AD over the past three years to bring their training to our neck of the woods. And this year we welcomed wordsmith, Will Awdry and his workshop Writing for Advertising – world-class copywriting knowledge all served up in Unicorn Park (a name makes me smile every time) – thanks Home.

Connect creatives – by simply getting people together and spreading the word

Well, when are we not connected? We have a stellar team running our social media accounts with a LinkedIn page that has been rejuvenated ready to support our activities in 2019. And if you haven’t read any articles on our blog this past year then what a treat you have in store: from Gromit painting from Carys Tait to finding Lost Type in Bristol with Alex Robbins plus numerous talk reviews and speakers 10 questions – there’s a wealth of inspiration waiting for you. 

The digital world is most definitely covered, but as we spend our lives designing things for other humans and way too much time online, the real value for me lies in the face-to-face connections.

I’ve worked in the same sector for a number of years, so perhaps this sort of organisation does exist in the fields of engineering, medicine, science and so on – but I would wager not. How many sectors gather multiple companies together regularly throughout the year to chat highs and lows, congratulate each other on excellence, spark collaborative opportunities, recommend new interns and renew longstanding friendships? And if this does happen elsewhere I bet it doesn’t happen by volunteer power alone.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

— Margaret Mead