On the wet and windy night of Wednesday 28th November, we piled in to the Arnolfini, beers in WEDF-stamped-hands in anticipation of the final talk of 2018.
Designer and King of the side project Carl Godfrey got us well and truly warmed up, mixing it up with 90s-inspired-sign-language-music-mash-ups, going viral with Bluetooth radios and most recently, saying yes to the NHS.
“Any new idea is a combination of two old ideas that make something new” – Carl’s classic 1 + 1 = 3 equation he has used to come up with brilliantly clever ideas for British Athletics League trophies and road signs that made their way into the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition alongside Grayson Perry. With a portfolio of work that would make any designer jealous, Carl is definitely one to keep an eye on. Check out his website for more inspiration.
Warming up with Carl Godfrey (© Adrian Barclay)
— Carl Godfrey
Any new idea is a combination of two old ideas that make something new
After a rapturous applause for Carl, we moved on to the main event – Alex and Benji, co-founders of London design studio Wiedemann Lampe. They took us on a rollercoaster ride of experiences, thoughts and learnings.
From their early days as a creative double act at Lewis Moberly (working for clients such as Moët Chandon, Tefal and Jamie Oliver) to finding themselves challenged by the tedium of year-long projects and wondering if there could be another way. Finally, they decided to take their future in to their own hands after hearing the wise words of then Creative Director, Bryan Clarke – “If you’re too comfortable, it’s time to move on.” Ironically, Bryan handed his own notice in a week later (becoming a lecturer at Falmouth University, and probably taught a lot of people in the WEDF audience!).
Alex and Benji then became the masters of the side project, squeezing in meetings with clients on lunch breaks and responding to briefs on a weekend to carve out a niche in the market with their then revolutionary formula of brand and Flash website design, just when the Flash scene was really kicking off.
After doing this for as long as they could stand, they eventually took the leap, left their jobs and became A+B studio – with no clients, one phone line, two computers and three months’ salary.
As their confidence and client base grew, they found a place for themselves somewhere between print and digital integration, landing key projects with clients such as D&AD.
(© Adrian Barclay)
They shared how they built their first website, how you can win a pitch when you’ve no experience of the type of work you’re pitching and then moved into more experiential design. With the title of their talk ‘Mind / Matter: Where you are vs where you want to be’, after introducing the initial history of A+B (who they were) they explained how they transitioned into Wiedemann Lampe (who they wanted to be).
It began with pulling the plug on their website — a ‘graveyard’ of the projects that defined who they would be in the future. Not having a site allowed an air of mystery and a sense of freedom, but with this freedom also came a sense of demotivation and low confidence: by always being in this kind of ‘stealth mode’ and not really having a sense of identity to the outside world.
After seven and a half years without a website – “the less you do something, the less likely you are to do it” – they decided to tackle the problem head on. They took the big step of getting an external strategist to help them deal with their biggest brief of all ‘Who are we?’. After much soul searching and internal wrangling they realised it was time to look at it from another angle – ‘Who do we want to be?’.
By posing the question in a different way, they were able to talk about themselves in the third person. And by giving this third ‘person’ a new name — Wiedemann Lampe — they became the agency they always wanted to be. ‘What would Wiedemann Lampe do?’, ‘Who are Wiedemann Lampe?’ became easier questions to answer.
They haven’t looked back. Exploring experiential and environmental work for the Natural History Museum, destination making for Camden Market and placemaking in Abu Dhabi and New Covent Garden Market. An incredible body of work that shows just how unlimited they are in their creativity.
This way of thinking has completely opened my eyes to how you can move forward in your design life. By having an aspirational view of the kind of designer you want to be rather than overthinking the kind of designer you are now enables you to focus on the work you’d love to do – not the work you or your clients have pigeon-holed you in to doing.
Where do you want to be?