I recently had the opportunity to attend the Offf festival in Lisbon, as a Dusted correspondent. The event, in its 8th edition, is one of the most exciting digital design festivals in Europe at the moment.
It showcases top talents from web design to typography, motion graphics to installations, in a 3day marathon of talks, performances and workshops, lasting 10 hours each, uufff. But despite the heterogeneous selection of people taking part, some common aspects of design as a practice became more apparent, such as the fragmentation in the communication landscape and the embrace of multiplatform deliverables by small studios, pretty much what Dusted has been doing.
It was interesting to see, for instance, various studios presenting solutions featuring similar approaches to on-line projects. Altogether, it almost delineates a new trend in interactive design where aesthetics teams up with functionality, generating incredibly edgy designs with a high level of intuitive navigability. There are different examples that share the same principle of creating more dynamic interface; the interactive visualization of the Radio Spectrum with contextualized artworks, as known as AES, along with the City Distances project that measures informational distances between cities, both designed by the ‘bestiario’ collective, where particularly interesting and it shows how the exploration of systems which translate heavy data into graphics can push the boundaries on interface design. Another good example is the work developed with PaperVision Xpress for the online news agency msnbc.com. It’s called Spectra, a news visualization tool that gives users an alternate way of navigating in a three dimensional real-time interactive viewing state, offering customization, dynamic browsing and human interaction.
But Offf is not made only of web and online. There was also some intriguing work quite difficult to classify (if there’s ever the need to) and fit into a single discipline. Among the plethora of projects shown I particularly liked the Sonik Wall. A sound reactive, real-time system presented in a form of a cube where people get instantly engaged with by speaking to or making any audible sound which is then translated, right away, in units of colour values that resemble a software swatch. Based on a similar concept there was also a live action installation by Minivegas. Here, sound is transformed in data through a complex system, which triggers lighting effects in digital landscapes. From stairs that play piano sounds as passers-by step on them through to reality emulators, it became clear that multidimensional experience is a tendency that will spread across any activity involving human perception, from cultural through to retailing and God know what more.
Another interesting aspect of the festival is how a subject such as design, interaction or whatever can actually work as a base for quite satirical presentations. That the subject is always associated with coolness and cutting-edge, no one question it but I have to confess I felt quite amused when attending the presentations of some of the panellists like KarlssonWilker, Joshua Davies and Fake Pilot, to name a few. The later, to begin with, walked to the stage with a fighter pilot helmet on, breathing and talking in the best ‘Darth Vaderesque’ way. Joshua in turn made his presentation look as a ‘Comedy Central’ show. Like a machine gun firing jokes, the web designer proved that design can, indeed, be a lot of fun not only to do but to be talked about too. Then, finaly, Hjalti Karlsson and Jan Wilker finalised by presenting their cases, one in particular very odd but no less funny, when they got commissioned by the Serbian Government to design a calendar celebrating the country and its culture. From a head-of-state style reception, right at the airport, through to funny interviews among other hilarious situations it was the closest one can get from being a rock star.
In short, it was a festival to get offf one’s head!