OFFF 2013: Play, Change, Persist

Wow. What a festival.

As I write this, it’s less than 12 hours since OFFF wrapped up but I’m buzzing with energy to create so I feel I need to write about the festival before the colours fade.

I’d be lying if I said this was my first year at OFFF as I attended in 2006 in a much smaller venue, however I was young, silly and didn’t let it all sink in back then.

Unfortunately I didn’t make notes until the third day this year when I realised that there was definitely similar messages coming from everyone I was listening to.

Play (AKA Personal Projects)

One of the things that I heard a lot over the 3 days is how important play and personal projects are in keeping you happy and sane, especially as a creative person.

Jessica Walsh explained that studies have shown play is important for children to develop essential skills and that it shouldn’t stop as we grow older as it fuels other work and keeps us creative.

It became obvious that all of the speakers spend time on their own work outside of commercial projects, from Vault 49 who take a day or two off a month to work on their own things, to Marta Cerdà who said that we should get lost in our own personal projects and become ‘nomad designers’ in order to learn along the way.

Pat Perry also spends a great deal of time travelling and meeting new people who inspire so much of his amazing work. He is content to live moderately and would much prefer to make meaningful work for nothing, although through this work he gets a lot of his paid work too.

I don’t think these people would be as inspiring, impressive or in some cases as well known if they hadn’t spent so much time developing their skills doing the things they love.

“Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”


As Vault49 said, “No more butterflies.”

Another message we heard a lot was one of change and how important it is to not become ‘the butterfly guys’ or in James White’s (signalnoise) case, ‘the 80s rainbow guy’, known for having one particular style or type of work.

There were speakers like David O’Reilly, who decided to step away from the Disney idea of beauty to create his own style (which I love) and for Jill Greenberg, change was needed to distance herself from her ‘crying children’ portraits.

Other speakers, such as GMUNK and Jennifer Cirpici decide to change to keep things interesting as repetitive work can become boring and impede creativity.


Although change is important, it’s also important to make sure you try something long enough to master it.

Sara Blake (ZSO) explained us that repetition leads to evolution and although as a child she felt she couldn’t draw, she dedicated hours to trying and she produces some really beautiful pieces.

It’s encouraging to hear so many talented people talk about what they can’t do (eg. draw, use photoshop) and that it doesn’t stop them producing amazing work. They just create things anyway because it’s necessary for them to stay happy.

As ZSO said, “Don’t wait for someone to hire you to make work”, and Marta Cerdà also reminded us we need the passion for our personal work in order to complete it.

I think this is definitely something I’ll be pushing myself to do this year as I know I tend to get comfortable and stop producing personal projects.

Quotes I liked

“Put it out fearlessly and talk about it enthusiastically.”
“Personal passion should never be replaced with monetary goals.”
– James White

“Don’t wait for someone to hire you to make work.”
“Repetition leads to evolution.”

“Be curious, put your work out there and love what you do.”
“Get comfortable with the uncomfortable.”
– Brendan Dawes

“Don’t take yourself too seriously.”
– Vault 49

“Start creating your own little world.”
– From Form

I really enjoyed my time at OFFF this year and am eager to return in the future. The festival is an excellent place for inspiration and it’s nice to see sunshine once in a while!

Thank you OFFF 2013!

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