The more intimate Second Stage at Offset Sheffield powered by Squarespace provided a mix of presentations and panel discussion. It began with Pip Jamieson, former head of marketing at MTV, who founded the networking and portfolio site The Dots, which seeks to bring new talent to the industry and bridge the gap between senior and junior positions. Recognising that face-to-face contact is important in making make connections she also regularly teams up with internationally known companies, including Google, Facebook and Pentagram to conduct ‘Portfolio Master Classes’. For students and people new to the industry, these events allow them to get in front of these successful figures and receive first hand advice. To a mainly student audience she offered the advice, ‘less is more’, and suggested that it was better to present three projects in depth rather than a series of thinner ones. She considered that setting out the thought process and problem-solving to be as important as a showing a piece of good design. With an eye to the contemporary business arena, she noted how much in demand are UX and digital design skills. As a successful entrepreneur, she was a valuable female role model– given current gender discrimination against women seeking venture capital investment.
Another opportunity for mutual support was offered in an introduction to the recently launched Squarespace Circle, a community for developers, designers and others using the Squarespace platform. Via Skype from New York, Jeremy Schwartz, the project manager, talked about the features it offered and answered questions. Squarespace then also presented a special screening of their collaboration with actor John Malkovich and director David Lynch, which featured Malkovich playing a surprising range of Lynch’s characters including the Log Lady from Twin Peaks and Henry from Eraserhead.
After the break, GF Smith (see Eye 72 and ‘10,000 one offs’ in Eye 80) allowed the audience to indulge their personal paper fetishes, giving a history of the company’s founding and survival through difficult times, including how the Hull office was levelled by the German Luftwaffe and many of the staff called up to fight. They also shared how product development emerged from strange places, as when a warehouse and a thistle field in Scotland inspired the Strathmore Papers.
Andy Altmann (Why Not Associates, see ‘Type as entertainment’ in Eye 7) and Andy Stevens (see ‘Reputations: Graphic Thought Facility’ in Eye 39) shared the wayfinding system they are developing for the new Sheffield Institute of Arts. Intended to allow for the messy realities of the building’s ducts and cabling, and for staff and students to customise at will, it can be repeatedly remade. It draws on the idea of the art school as ‘a place apart’, as a site for experimentation. The project is emerging from research developed by several recent graduates, who are exploring archival material related to the Head Post Office site, and to Sheffield’s Stephenson Blake type foundry.