Rosie Hilder dis­cov­ers the power of fear and self-doubt at OFF­SET Dublin

Computer Arts - - Contents -

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.

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