We recently sat down with the ever-innovating Creative Director, Bren Byrne. He has been at the core of OFFSET for the last 7 years and continues to push boundaries at home and abroad. The creative conference should be on everyones calender at this stage but here is a glimpse of the goods for those of you who have yet to experience the inspirational weekend.

OFFSET Dublin's Creative Festival


Apartial: What factors have attributed to the success of OFFSET?

Bren: Well there are a couple of different factors that we have followed from the beginning. Essentially we are creating an event that we would like to attend so that has always been our starting point. When we are choosing our speakers, we look at who we want to spend our time with and the people we admire. In relation to the format, we give people a space but we don’t set a theme. We recommend that they don’t just make it a click through their website, they should go into their process, influences, ambitions for the future and key projects. There should be an educational and vocational aspect to it as well but we also want it to be entertaining, which is a big ask from people. We give speakers up to an hour to get as deep as they want. There is an audience of 2,000 in the main auditorium and there is always going to be some that aren’t familiar with their work so it needs to be more than just reading off the first page of their Wikipedia. It should feel like a music festival for designers, it’s about creativity and the creative process and you should be able to dip in and out. We want it to be as informal and relaxed as possible. 


OFFSET - Tomi Ungerer


A: Are there any speakers who have perfectly captured the OFFSET objective over the years?

B: There has been over 300 hours of content since 2009 but again and again the people that really resonate are the older generations. In the first year there was Massimo Vignelli, people were in awe before hand but everyone was blown away when they heard him humbly speaking about his passionate views and I think passion is the key. Last year when we heard Tomi Ungerer speak, someone who is in his 80’s talking about how his life and career are intertwined. He spoke about a variety of topics from his school days when the Nazi’s came in and everyone had to speak German overnight to his posters against the Vietnam War and his erotic art. He is passionate and still working, that’s what excites most of the audience. The industry is something that has longevity once you are passionate about it. It is not something that you clock in and out of and have to hang your boots up at a certain age. You dictate how much you work and how intense you make it. Another that comes to mind is Kyle Cooper, his work and presentation style were amazing but his presence at the event meant a lot. He originally had to cancel due to a meeting with a big client but he organised a last minute flight to be there for his presentation. He spoke on the Sunday and got a flight back that evening. That was someone who just wanted to be part of it. This was extremely humbling and we appreciate and respect everyone who puts in the effort to be part of OFFSET. 




A: What are the ingredients that make a speaker memorable?

B: It is hard to say because everyone is different but I think the common trend that goes through all the great speakers is that they make it honest and personal. When you can see their lives in the work and it is not so much about their process for creating a logo or the font they use, it goes much deeper than that. It should be aspirational and inspirational. When we put them on stage it is different than putting them on a pedestal. They’re only a couple of steps ahead of the people in the audience. People should feel a mixture of ambition and hard work would allow anybody to do that kind of work. Been exposed to really interesting people at an event like OFFSET has to have a positive effect. It is important that we have a variety of speakers but it is more important that they are there on merit. What I like about certain speakers is that they have the power to make people look at their own work in a different way.   


OFFSET Stage Img 2


A: Are there any young Irish talents that you could see being up there with the international icons that you’ve got planned for OFFSET in the future?

B: There are a lot of young interesting talents at the moment. The trend seems to be "going out on your own" so it's easier to spot new work but you also get brilliant Irish designers interning in various companies all over the world and they’re slightly harder to keep track off. We have constant communications with the likes of the 100 Archive, ICAD and other organisations here to help us keep an eye on those who are doing interesting things. We see a lot of great work coming out but it’s not just from the younger generation, particularly in illustration. When it comes down to the generation above that, you’ve got the likes of Steve Simpson who has just absolutely exploded all over the world and it is this variety that excites us.


A: Why has OFFSET got a multi-discipline approach?

B: The simple answer is that we are interested in so many different disciplines. My background is in illustration but I love graphic design, filmmaking, fashion and many other different areas. It’s the same for Lisa, the Creative Director at OFFSET, she has her own interests and she gets excited about different types of people than I would. It hasn’t changed since we started and I don’t think OFFSET would have had the success it has if it was just about one discipline. I just don’t think it would have the same impact or appeal. One of the reasons we started it was because I was involved with Illustrators Ireland but it was so inward looking. It’s a very important group and it serves a purpose but there was a group of graphic designers doing something similar and so on. There was no sense of putting a glass over the city and getting people to interact and talk. That’s why we started the smaller events, to bring those people together and talk. It’s only when that happens can you have a proper creative community interacting. You’ve got to understand that it’s no good for the people that are coming out of college now to be a typographer or a graphic designer, you have to have multi-skills to exist in this industry. You have to know about digital, you have to know about craft, there are so many things you’ve to know about. I think that’s reflective in how we program OFFSET. 


OFFSET Stage Img 3


A: Why did you decide to expand the event to London?

B: It has taken a couple of years for OFFSET to establish itself but we’ve now committed to a long-term plan so we’ve been able to think about expanding. It’s only really been in the last three years that we’ve known that next year’s event will happen. This has allowed us to start thinking that OFFSET has the potential to travel. We knew that Ireland couldn’t support a second event on the scale that we do it so we knew it had to go abroad. We felt that we had about 700 people travelling from different countries, mostly from the UK, and with our connections in London, our speakers backgrounds and some other factors, it just made London the obvious choice. We’re limited in Europe with English been a second language for most so that also had to be considered. It didn’t take long to make that decision but that is not to say that it was the right choice. Part of the appeal of OFFSET is that Dublin is an unexpected spot to host a world-class creative conference so the speakers and audience are curious. We’re conscious of that so we’re not going to go to any of the obvious places like Paris, New York or Berlin, when we go overseas again. We will look for the kind of Dublin of that country so that’s what we’re thinking for the future. 


A: What were the unexpected challenges that you’ve come across while growing OFFSET?

B: We’ve been pretty lucky in regards to organisation, none of our speakers have been headaches, we’ve had very few late-cancellations and we’ve built up a lot of goodwill. I think one thing that always surprises us the perception that OFFSET is this massively successful juggernaut entity that has unlimited resources and an army of people behind it. We’ve run a tight-ship with a small team; there are only 4 of us now. We struggled to breakeven in the first few years so we had to go through the process of justifying the amount of time and effort when we were doing it for nothing really. Also, as we get older and have more responsibilities we are less able to take those risks. There are always going to be problems but I think the truth is never as exciting as the stories. I think the decision that Lisa and myself made to put everything on the line so OFFSET can be our future has really focused our ambitions. It’s allowed us to grow and have the stability to make plans for the future. I think the fact that we are committed to a certain production value means that there is a perception of a bigger budget. We could make it easier for ourselves and not work with brilliant animators on our opening titles and cool designers on our venue dressing and produce a 200-page magazine and give it away for free. We could strip a lot of these costs down and we would make a lot more money but then what are we doing? I want to create the magazine, "Ways And Means", even though it is a struggle with the whole event going on. It is all daunting but what I’ve to remember is that I’m not going to be passionate about it if all my time is spent on Excel looking at spread sheets and emailing people. I had to have that personal passion back to feel like OFFSET contributed creatively. It may sound like a vanity project to a certain degree but it’s what keeps me interested. Just working with the likes of Golden Wolf and Aaron Quinn on our opening titles is a brilliant experience. So I love that Art Director role that I started when we ran our agency, The Small Print. I love getting back to being involved in the nitty-gritty design work that excites me. 


A: What is the one element of the weekend that means the most to you?

B: Well once you get to lunchtime on Friday you know there’s going to be no real problems because then the only things that can go wrong are technical issues or one of the speakers goes missing. While there are only four of us that work on OFFSET throughout the year that mushrooms up to about 20 or 30 over the weekend. We want to keep it growing so this year we have four stages for the weekend and we are working with other partners on more exciting projects. Personally, when it hits one o’clock on Friday I can relax. 




A: What advice would you give to someone visiting for his or her first time?

B: Advice that comes to mind - Pay attention, relax, allow yourself to be absorbed into what people are saying, don’t get intimidated, move around and don’t sit in the one seat, talk to people in the lobby and make contacts. It can be exciting, inspiring and extremely daunting when you come into a room that is full of 2,500 people that are working in the same world as you. Your eyes are being open to this global culture and suddenly people can freak out. The most important thing is to focus on what you can create in the future; I think that is the OFFSET legacy. It's not about "we’ve had this guy and this woman speak", it’s about the conversations that happen in The Ferryman afterwards and the connections that are made. People can meet and form a company together. They could also see what is missing at OFFSET and then go do something about it. I think all of this is what makes it exciting to us. Essentially, go in and be open-minded but don’t drink too much and fall asleep in the audience.  Responsible drinking is important!


A: If you had to try describe OFFSET with one word, what would it be?

B: You can’t get around the obvious, “inspirational”, I know it is a cliché but OFFSET is and should be an inspirational weekend.  Whether it is inspiring you to do something or to get interested in another area, we would hope the minimum you get out of it is inspiration. I don’t mean that in a kind of ‘Disney’ way but more so looking at the creative process in a different way. It is not just about students passing their exams and satisfied clients, there should always be a bigger ambition at the end of it. Nothing has to come out perfect, the idea that you can make mistakes and correct them, it isn’t just about making a piece of art, it’s the process. It’s about looking at something rationally and seeing how you can improve it. It’s about learning from the people that have gone before. It is essentially listening to talks about work that has been done in the past but what excites us is what the audience is going to do after hearing the speakers. It is all about the impact on the creative community. It can empower people to take risk and push for more interesting projects, that is OFFSET.


Head over to OFFSET to get your tickets for this unique event. 


OFFSET Dublin 8th-10th April 2016


Images Via: OFFSET