The ‘Devlin’s’ in the detail _
The importance of narrative driven design
London based, world renowned, Es Devlin, is one of the most revered designers of our time. In a career spanning Q&A at Hackney’s EartH, we were thrilled to see her discuss her work, thought process and the release of the new 900 page tome ‘An Atlas of Es Devlin’.
We attended the monthly Nicer Tuesdays design event, organised by the online creativity platform, ‘It’s Nice That’. This was to be a special occasion, with one of our favourite designers, Es Devlin, headlining the roster of speakers. Eager to learn from one of our design idols, we were prepared to enhance our own craft and gain insights into Devlin’s creative process and illustrious career. But before Es took to the stage, there were two talks from leading creatives, Photographer Ollie Adegboye and Illustrator and Animator Alice Bloomfield.
[Image Credit: Es Devlin, Dezeen]
Adegboye introduced the audience to his photo-series book ‘Bàbá, Father’, a tender depiction of black fatherhood in London. He spoke candidly about the ‘transformational’ project and introduced the project themes and how he approached photographing children with their fathers through a natural lens. We enjoyed his down-to-earth presentation style and felt privileged to have a window into his methods and drivers. Steeped in authenticity and cultural narrative, we look forward to applying the same reverence and care to our work as Adegboye does to his photography and book making.
[Image Credit: Ollie Adegboye]
Alice Bloomfield followed and her humorous, tongue-in-cheek delivery had the whole theatre laughing. She gave a light-hearted introduction to her intricate, ‘sleazy’ illustrations. Although beautiful, her vintage, anime inspired designs always have a slightly disconcerting edge to keep the viewer on their toes. The focus of her talk was on her current stint at Tottenham Court Road’s ‘Outernet’, a colossal, enveloping room of screens. Bloomfield spent three months creating a glorious, bespoke animation for the space and took the audience through her ‘process-driven’ work. Alice succeeded in her personal, escapism-focused brief to bring luscious country landscapes and feelings to the often-grey Capitol. She was an inspiring auteur and instilled the confidence in us to try new things and discover new paths on our creative journey and we resonate with her urge to provide hyper-real escapism for today’s audiences.
[Image Credit: Alice Bloomfield]
‘Every single gesture must be intolerant to a lack of meaning’
Devlin took her seat on the stage, ready to take questions curated by the ‘It’s Nice That’ team. Before the questions were to begin, the presenter detailed her most notable works, from working with Beyonce, the Weeknd & Adele (plus many more) on their monumental stadium productions, to her beginnings as a stage designer at London’s tiny Bush theatre – the introduction left little doubt that we were in the presence of design royalty.
She possessed humility and a natural ability to engage with the audience from the start; it was clear she was delighted to be speaking with a captivated, like-minded group. Framed by a question regarding her new book ‘An Atlas of Es Devlin’, she spoke fondly of her formative years and the lasting impact her crafty childhood activities had left on her career and works. She is first and for-most a self-proclaimed ‘maker’ and prides herself on being able to craft something from nothing – if the idea is there.
Her insight into concept craft was significant, and a key takeaway was to allow the outcome to lead, leaving client and personal egos behind for the maximum creative impact. To Es, the ‘outcome is the boss’. She expressed the importance of turning ‘focus and engagement into agency’, a strategy that resonates strongly with our own practice here at D4R. We were impacted by her insistence that ‘every single gesture must be intolerant to a lack of meaning’, putting importance on the narrative being woven into every aspect of design and outcome to maximise audience engagement.
Segueing into her prevalent specialism, Devlin was prompted on her thoughts on modern-day concert viewing and the importance of light and scale to influence a whole arena or stadium. Es wants to ensure that every audience member, from viewers at the front, to those at the very back are all receiving a consistent, breath-taking auditory and visual experience. The Sphere in Las Vegas, Devlin says, is the purest depiction of concert viewing, despite its controversies. She praised its ability to encompass the audience in one artistic vision and was proud of her work with U2 for its inaugural performance.
[Image Credit: Es Devlin]
Unfortunately the evening had to come to an end, but we were energised with inspiration on the train home, excited to apply what we had learned and share our experience with the wider team. It was a highly motivational event and will certainly leave a positive imprint on our practice. In our current and future projects, we will be applying our learnings from Es Devlin and the other speakers at Nicer Tuesdays. The key takeaway from the event and a sentiment shared by all the speakers was the importance of narrative to drive design and spark feeling, emotions and actions from their audiences. By weaving consistent narratives and meaning into our own projects, we too can drive the desired consumer response.
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