Returning for a second year, the Birmingham Design Festival is a three-day event celebrating all things design. Co-founded by my good friend Dan Alcorn, the festival offers a high quality programme with dozens of talks, workshops and screenings which are free to attend or at a low cost.

This year's theme was 'Truth" - a warts-and-all look at the industry, with speakers encouraged to share their opinions and experiences. The programme was split into 3 districts; graphic, digital and architecture. Each district had a series of satellite venues which were based around on main hub.

With multiple talks taking place at the same time we were truly spoilt for choice!


Talk 01. 'Truths about running a design studio'

On Saturday 9th June we made the short strip to Birmingham to see the first talk of the day by David Wall, co-founder of WorkGroup, a leading design agency based in Dublin. Titled 'Truths about running a design studio', David shared his honest experiences on how he and his partner started their company and how it has developed over the years

His talk was insightful, honest and engaging. We were all very impressed with the quality of WorkGroup's work, especially their branding for Demonware, a software development company with offices in Dublin, Vancouver and Shanghai.

Talk 02. 'Behind the curve'

The second talk by Katherine Tudball, Creative Director of Superunion, was an in-depth look into the BBC2 rebrand. Katherine explained how she managed the project, brought various teams together and set client expectations. It was fascinating to not only see the final television adverts and working prototypes, but to hear how Superunion approached various problems throughout the project.

Talk 03. 'Kerning the Gap'

The third talk was a conversation panel curated by Kerning the Gap, a group of like-minded people who wish to see more leadership roles given to woman within the design industry. The panel discussed topics ranging from equality in design to gender disparity. It was interesting to hear individuals express their opinions and discuss how the industry can change for the better.

Talk 04. 'Making Hey'

The last talk before the main event, was by Veronica Fuerte, co-founder of Hey Studio, a creative studio based in Barcelona. Similar to David Wall's talk earlier, Veronica spoke about the early years of her studio and shared some of the stories behind their projects. We are big admirers of Hey Studio, so it was inspiring to listen to Veronica talk about their journey.

Main event

The day finished with the main event being held at the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. First, the hilarious Jennifer Daniel, Creative Director at Google Emoji, talked about how emojis are developed and how they are used around the world. Being a subject we happily admit to knowing very little about, the talk was very interesting.

Next up, was Richard Small, Art Director at Sony Design Europe. Titled 'Building bigger brands', Richard spoke about his role at the company and what it is like to work as an in-house designer for a large international brand. Interestingly, he later confesses that he is actually colour blind!

Key takeaways

OK, so knowing one of the co-founders will always make us have a biased opinion, but we can honestly say the Birmingham Design Festival is one of the best design conferences we've ever attended. Our day was bursting with talks by local and international speakers. Our favourite talk of the day was by David Wall, of WorkGroup. His honest and insightful talk about how he started the company was truly inspiring.

With so much to see and do, we cannot wait to attend next years event.