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Liverpool more powerful than London? Scott McCubbin reviews Designival

Liverpool more powerful than London? Uniform’s Scott McCubbin reports from Designival, that rather big festival in the north.

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It was a killer line. “Liverpool is much more powerful than London,” said Deborah Dawton, chief executive of the Design Business Association (DBA). A few spluttered on their croissants, while others got tweeting. It was the sort of rousing start to Friday morning’s breakfast that everyone wanted to hear at Camp & Furnace.

It didn’t seem like an attempt to win favour with her Scouse brothers and sisters during her flying visit. She put it in context: “In Liverpool there is a sense of belonging that you don’t have in London. London’s a stop-over. People have plans to leave and settle down. In Liverpool people have roots.”

With Deborah back on the Pendolino, Sara de Bont arrived. De Bont, the Belgian graphic designer behind the current Liverpool Biennial brand, backs up Dawton’s confidence in the city. She’s moving up and will run her London studio from Liverpool.

Friday was the big day, with all the keynote speakers, but Thursday was no quiet affair. The so-called ‘fringe’ day, saw many of the city’s design and architecture studios open their doors to all. Coffee, beer, work, artists, chat, more beer. It was just one big happy family, just as orgnisers Uniform, Smiling Wolf and Black & Ginger planned all along! One of the headline acts, Lance Wyman, arrived from New York, and was defying his 75 years - and two hours sleep - to dart between media interviews at the BBC, and making appearances at events at Leaf on Bold Street.

D&AD were hosting a pretty packed workshop, later followed by Matt Booth and his crew from Manchester’s BLAB, teaming up with ACME’s Kin on the Thursday night. For some it was a late one, but no excuses were allowed, as Friday at Camp & Furnace was the big one.

It was a packed affair, jumping between the 9am DBA introduction, to masterclasses, surgeries, interspersed with visits to the exhibition and a catch up with some new found friends.

Uniform's Nick Howe with graphic artist James Jarvis

Sara de Bont took to the stage, supported by her ‘office of statistics’ (a design concept for the Artissima art fair in Turin based on stats – loving it). She was followed by graphic artist James Jarvis. Jarvis was more than a little put out that his attempt to design the mascot for London 2012 was unhinged at the very last stage, possibly by Adidas, possibly because of his association with Nike. You can’t win them all. But don’t mention hinges to Jarvis: “I love philosophy and like Lego – it’s the breaking things into the constituent parts… but that was before Lego introduced hinges.” Enough said.

Jarvis’ biggest tips: attention to detail. “It really bugs when illustrators put the nobs on electric guitars in the wrong place,” and his other tip; use Instagram, “it’s important that we share our work in progress.”

Simon Manchipp urges Designival to 'Believe'

Of course, no-one presents like a showman. And there’s no showman quite like Simon Manchipp. Slick, funny, fast-paced, the six foot seven tower has a few things to show off about. As the co-founder and creative director of SomeOne, Manchipp can talk about Eurostar to O2, Tottenham Hotspur to Compare the Market. He stuck to the job at hand.

“We’re not selling asparagus,” he warned. Too true. We’re in the business to help businesses, to build businesses but, he warned, “people don’t just buy, they own the brand.” Times have changed and brands need to change, as “people are listening to other people they’ve never met, about somewhere they’ve never been or never experienced and that is a problem for designers.”

And the answer? Well, it isn’t to chase the money says Manchipp. “If you create good stuff, you will get to create more good stuff.” As his furry friend would say, “Simples”.

Still going strong: Lance Wyman

And then there was Lance. The star of the show. Fifty years experience making complex brand systems like metro maps (Mexico City, Washington) and global sporting events (Mexico 68 Olympics, Mexico 70 World Cup) look simple takes a lot of work, a clear head and some straight talking. Spend 10 hours solid with Lance and the classic lines emerge: “You can’t get yanked around and do good design.” In other words, work with good folk.

But perhaps the biggest revelation was the relevance of Lance’s work 40 years on. The iconography created for Mexico in 1968 bears a similarity to Apple’s work from 2004 onwards. No one’s claiming anything untoward, but as Lance says, New York, America, Britain and beyond “are very wordy places” while Mexico and the Latin countries “are more visual”. Apple has led a change that will, hopefully, serve Lance well as he refreshes his Washington Metro work from 40 years ago. The icons never got through last time. “I’m hopeful, that’s all I’m saying.”

We wish him well, and he’s always welcome back in Liverpool.

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