Offset 2013 — Review

We hopped over to Dublin last weekend for Offset 2013; three days of talks and debates from a line-up of inspiring creatives. Even at first glance Offset feels a bit different from other design festivals. Its bold identity smacks you in the face challenging you to get stuck in, enthusiastically flouting the usually restrained style used for design events.


Based on this design aesthetic one could be forgiven for expecting a slightly chaotic event, but Offset is one of the best-organised events of its kind we’ve been to. On top of the seamless organisation and euphoric lack of queuing, it was fun, laid back and friendly. But above all, it felt tangibly creative. It’s easy to indulge in a bit of middle class navel gazing at these events, but this one didn’t allow any of that. It had a young, interesting buzz. It felt exciting. And the venue of the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, sitting on the Grand Canal Dock, is an architectural feast that looks different from every angle. Gorgeous inside and out, the venue itself added to the inspirational atmosphere.


There were two things about Offset that really stood out for me and enhanced my enjoyment of the overall event. The first was that the second room — rather than being used for the less well known speakers, was a discussion room. This created a great breathing space from the main stage, and added pace to the day.

The second thing was the variety of styles, disciplines and personalities of the speakers butting up against each other, creating great juxtapositions. As the content and style of each presentation was quite different, it brought fresh perspectives on familiar themes.

There weren’t as many big names on the bill as in previous years, but there were some serious heavyweights, including Bob Gill, Ben Boss, Vaughan Oliver, Oliviero Toscani and Louise Fili. Our highlights from this year are as follows:

Ireland’s Laureate for children’s literature Niamh Sharkey talked passionately about the fight to get to a place worth going, gave fascinating insight into character development from a simple hand drawn line through to a 3D TV character and inspired the importance of respecting, and working for, your audience.

Illustrator Ben Newman who burst onto the stage hula hooping to Van Halen’s Jump before delivering a equally entertaining and convincing presentation of his working processes, inspirations, and shedding light on how he balances commercial and personal work.

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Kate Moross delivered an entirely different talk from the one we saw at Typo London, using the same work but giving it a different spin, and more relaxed off the cuff delivery.

Vaughan Oliver delivered the same great material as at Typo London, and again had the crowd in the palm of his hand with his northern drawl, toilet humour and legendary design work.

Steve Heller & Oliviero Toscani’s debate was candid, terrifying, amusing and wonderful.

Hvass & Hannibal were spontaneous, impressive, endearing and entertaining. We especially loved these environmental graphics they produced for a Copenhagen gym.


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Adrian Shaughnessy closed the festival for us with a heart felt and very personal presentation of the work and work-life of Herb Lubalin —my favourite bit of the whole weekend.

Overall the whole event had a real charm and personality. I’m sure this is due in no small part to it’s location in such a fun and friendly city, but Offset keep it real, offering up a good mix of genuinely interesting and often unexpected content, in a beautiful venue.

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