Review of 2019

In looking forward to 2020, now seems like a good opportunity to look back and to take a moment to reflect on 2019’s activities.

Our four core aims are to inspire people with talks, events and projects; to share what we know; to champion design by demonstrating the value it brings; and to connect creatives and provide opportunities for advice and collaboration. Here’s how 2019 shaped up.

Inspiring People

Inspiration came from an incredibly diverse range of new and established talent this year. We were once again thoroughly enthralled by the Warm-Up acts: rising creative individuals just starting out in their career. Flora Fricker, an avid childhood creator and crafter, was the perfect apéritif to Annie Atkins – also her friend and mentor – as she talked us through her journey to film set designer and her first big break on the set of Cats.

Bristol-based illustrator and storyteller Robbie Cathro took us through his childhood inspirations and demonstrated how they have shaped his work today. Robbie took the leap of going freelance shortly after leaving university, a bold move that is deservedly paying off. 

Established creatives Ragged Edge, Annie Atkins and Craig Oldham all shared their vastly different creative roles, creative projects and creative drives. Ragged Edge took us through a brief from start of finish via the lens of five different roles. Annie Atkins transported us to the magical world of designing for film and pulled back the veil on the somewhat unhappy endings that much of her beautiful creative work comes to. And Craig Oldham took us on a personal journey through his long time obsession of B‑movies and his translation of them into a collection of books. What we learnt: own your ideas.

In 2019, our PALS (Peer Assisted Learning Sessions) programme came back with a vengeance with five hugely popular sessions, covering passion projects and how to make them happen; going freelance and what to expect; learning the tips and tricks of animation; how to improve your social media skills; and creative copywriting, and what constitutes good creative copy’, from the perspective of both copywriter and brand strategist. It was great to see networks and connections being formed as people returned for subsequent sessions.

Werkhouse returned for its third year, once again providing a weekend design studio experience for young creatives working alongside some of Bristol and Bath’s best professionals. With a greater emphasis on diversity, the event was a huge success, with 30 participants benefitting from design advice from 20 design professionals from studios including Taxi, MyttonWilliams, Home and Fable, in response to a brief to create a presence for Microsoft at Pride. We’re thrilled to be supporting Werkhouse for a fourth year – find out more here.

We were also chuffed to bits to offer two workshops on Graphic design in filmmaking’ with Annie Atkins – the first time they have been held outside of Annie’s hometown Dublin. Participants were guided through the process of deciding on a visual or graphic script, getting to grips with legal clearance, and then getting hands-on mastering some deceptively simple-looking skills. It was an absolute win for all the participants, some of whom had travelled from as far afield as Australia and the US to participate.

Championing Design and Connecting Creatives

We hope that what you’ve read so far already cements us as design champions. Looking further afield, we’re always keen to demonstrate the wider value that design can bring to society and the economy.

Our Design Buddy initiative with UWE, not only encourages students to stay in design but also to stay in the region. This year marks ten years of Design Buddy and in that time more than 200 design students have been mentored. In 2019, 15 students received advice and tutoring by local agencies including Aardman, Home, Fiasco and Kaleido Grafik.

As a forum for design, design is at the heart of what we do. And as a volunteer-run organisation, people are at the heart of what we do. Looking back on 2019, it’s clear that isn’t just about the volunteers who keep the West of England Design Forum going, it’s also about our partners, our speakers and everyone who attends one of our events. 

At every event we hold, people are able to catch up with those in the industry and the Arnolfini bar pre- and post-events is generally heaving with creatives catching up with colleagues, pals and peers.

We would like to thank our amazing partners: Alan from Withprint for his beautiful posts and photographer Ben McCluskey for his photographs which help our talks stay alive long after they have finished. Thank you too, to all our guests speakers, who gave up their time to share a little bit of themselves with us. 

None of the above would happen without the WEDF team, so a huge thank you to all the volunteers. Thank you too to the agencies that support us directly or indirectly, Gather Round for the flexi desk for our MD, and Home for hosting our team meetings. Some of the WEDF team have been working hard behind the scenes, talking with local design agencies and seeking content for our new UP website, which we’re launching in Spring 2020: thank you to Taxi Studio and Touchpoint for UP’s brand and website.

We said some goodbyes in 2019: our exiting Chair Emma Hopton, and Katie Cadwell and Jamie Ellul from Supple Studio, all of whom have been with us for more years than we care to remember and whose presence is already sorely missed. 

We have, though, been fortunate to welcome in a raft of new volunteers – say hello to Cal Jepps, Brett Stabler, Ali Slater and Yvette Commander. We were also very pleased to welcome back MD Emma Blackburn (AKA the WEDF backbone) from maternity leave.

And of course, WEDF is also just as much about you, the people who support us and come along to our talks and events, and so thank you too. We hope that you will remain inspired by perusing our excellent Bloggers section, with guest blogs and interviews with all of our speakers; and by buying a ticket to one of our talks. And of course we encourage you to stay connected through 2020 too, via TwitterLinkedInFacebook and Instagram. We look forward to seeing you at an event soon!