Rosie Hilder discovers the power of fear and self-doubt at OFFSET Dublin
Rosie Hilder reveals how the power of self-doubt was a big theme at this year’s OFFSET Dublin
Self-doubt isn’t a concept you’d necessarily associate with the speakers of an internationally renowned conference like OFFSET Dublin. But it’s one that came up again and again over the course of the three-day creative event.
After stating she was sure her invitation to talk at OFFSET was a mistake, children’s book illustrator Beatrice Alemagna made another confession: “My work can be described in one word: struggle. My childhood struggle, the struggle against myself, struggle against my working methods.”
Alemagna went on to talk about how drawing competitions with her sister propelled her to improve her technique, and how she believes that children’s literature can be art. “In children’s books, at least the good ones, we find the fundamental concepts of life, such as comforts, nightmare, anarchy, adventures and prejudices,” she explained.
“I’m afraid every day when I’m working on something,” said Stephen Doyle of New York agency Doyle Partners, as he described his continual quest to create new and exciting work. “I really try to work over my head. If you push yourself into unfamiliar territory, you’ll have so much fun, but it’s really scary.”
During an entertaining look at ad campaigns that started with what seemed like a “stupid idea”, Richard Brim, chief creative officer of adam&eveDDB, also discussed fear. “We have a fear of other people laughing at us. Sometimes the most stupid ideas are the ones where the magic happen,” he said. It takes someone – and often it’s not the most senior person in the room – to pluck up the courage to “share an idea that makes everyone else go, ‘What the fuck?’” he continued. “And then it takes someone else to take a chance on it.”
“I don’t want anyone to ever feel bad about having an idea,” echoed ustwo games’ head of studio, Dan Gray, as part of a rousing talk on the making of Monument Valley 2. “People talk about what their values are but don’t necessarily back them up in terms of how they decide to
run their business,” he mused. “Put love into every single pillar of work, treat your employees with love and that will come back ten-fold.”
Despite talking against a backdrop of his iconic covers for The New Yorker, illustrator Chris Ware also admitted to lacking confidence. “I’m constantly overcoming a certain degree of self-doubt, even just getting to my drawing table and starting to draw,” he said.
Like many of the speakers, Ware eschewed the idea of planning: “I hesitate to use the words ‘make it up as you go along,’” he said, “but I make it up as I go along.”
Sean Murphy, creative director of Moving Brands, also consciously avoided sticking to a set career path. “Having a plan sets you up for failure,” he reasoned. “You’ve got something to measure yourself against and if you don’t meet it, you feel like a failure.”
And as you move through your design career, imposter syndrome doesn’t go away, he continued. “The more senior you get, the more people expect you to have all the answers, which I never do,” he admitted. “No one teaches you how to be a manager. But I think what it means is that I can do anything. Which is lucky, because I don’t know what being a designer will mean in 20 years.”
Murphy wasn’t the only one looking to the future. “One of the loveliest things about living in 2018 is that anyone can be anything they want, at any time in their career,” said Doyle, as part of a discussion with IBM’s Doug Powell. “The only thing you have to do is be brilliant.”
Pip Jamieson, CEO of creative network The Dots, offered slightly more practical advice during a talk entitled The Robots are Coming. “None of us really know what’s about to happen, so we have to be more flexible in our skills,” she said. “Work out what your core skills are and then if your job does become automated, you’ll be okay.”
Creative director of MPC, Antar Walker, recommended prioritising your own enjoyment over gaining skills you think employers will want. “If there’s something you enjoy doing then just do more of it,” he said, as he outlined a “weird journey” that involved dropping out of college, doing an illustration degree, and then moving to London to find that there were no jobs. At that point, a recruiter told him digital designers were needed, so he taught himself to code: “It opened up an entirely new toolset for me, and I loved it,” he grinned.
What can you learn from Walker’s experience? “Adapt, don’t be afraid of change,” he advised. “Things just get better and better.”
Clockwise from left: Sean Murphy explains his non-linear career path; Chris Ware (right) talks to John Walters from Eye Magazine; Stephen Doyle reimagines books; Pip Jamieson on why we shouldn’t fear automation; Richard Brim talks advertising.