Ghost Team at the Birmingham Design Festival 2024.

10 June 2024
By – Jess Bastock

Last week, the Ghost team took a break from the studio to attend the annual Birmingham Design Festival. Held every June across Birmingham City Centre, this festival celebrates design, supports the city’s budding creative scene, and connects designers with the wider community. As an agency, we make it a point to attend each year to educate ourselves with insightful talks from inspiring creative leaders. Each of us had unique experiences, and we’re excited to share our highlights and takeaways from the event.

Jess’ Highlights

“It was a day packed with lots of insightful design talks from some incredibly inspiring designers. I loved getting a sneak peek into how other creatives work their magic in different agencies.

Beyond the creative inspiration, I enjoyed stepping out of our usual office environment and soaking in the vibrant city of Birmingham with the team. We indulged in some particularly tasty food while passionately discussing and debating the various talks we each attended.

Overall, we learned lots, and it was a great team bonding experience. I can’t wait to see how we incorporate some of these new ideas into our work!”

Chris’ Highlights

“One of the talks that completely took me by surprise was ‘System Process Form’ by Paul McNeil and Hamish Muir. Initially, I wasn’t sure what I’d gotten myself into, but Paul and Hamish’s charm, wit, and sheer passion for type design won me over. By the end, I was not only converted but also the proud owner of their latest book!

Johanna Drewe’s session on ‘Challenging Perspectives’ mirrored Ghost’s process so much that we left buzzing with ideas on how we could tweak our approach.

One of the best parts of attending the festival is the chance to hang out with the entire Ghost crew outside the studio. We kicked off the day with coffee and breakfast, chatting about what we were excited to see and hear. Throughout the day, we caught up over food and drinks, shared thoughts on the talks, and just enjoyed being part of Birmingham’s vibrant design scene. It’s days like these that remind me how creative and dynamic our team is, and how much we can grow just by stepping out together.”

Mike’s Highlights

“Jo Jackson from D&AD’s talk on empowering young people in the creative industry resonated with me. She laid out the main challenges young people face and the tensions they feel—financial stability vs. creative passion, inclusivity & empathy vs. cut-throat ambitions, technology & innovation vs. craftsmanship. These themes strike a cord with my time in the industry, but now I’m in a position to answer some of these challenges.

Studio Output’s presentation on collaborative work processes was a highlight, and their stunning brand work captured my attention. ‘A design is only finished when you can’t take anything else away’ sums up the ‘System Process Form’ talk by Hamish and Paul. They demonstrated the beauty in simplicity, pairing back type into the most basic forms.

Throughout the day, we got to hear some design legends talk about their greatest and most recent work. A specific shout-out to the Eurostar rebrand from Design Studio—pure elegance!”

Ant’s Highlights

“My first talk was by Tobias Hall, an Illustrator & Lettering Artist, who shared his journey of developing a unique illustrative style. Hearing that development grow over a number of years gave his current style more depth and meaning. He also presented his work on Greene King beer, which was as beautiful as it was immensely complex with all of its stop-frame photography.

Joanna Drewe’s talk about her agency’s process echoed Ghost’s own process of working. It was good to hear the issues she encountered and how her system evolved into something better.

Neven Sidor, an Architect responsible for design for HS2’s Curzon Street Station, spoke about the types of architects—Cheese Graters and Assemblers—and how Curzon Street Station’s design came about through necessity and environment.

Hamish Muir and Paul McNeil’s talk about creating fonts that evolve themselves with a little guidance was truly wonderful. Their journey and the evolution of their fonts were so inspiring that I bought their book!”

Jonathan’s Highlights

“A standout session was ‘Failure is Not an Option’ by Dan Silverstone. Dan’s mix of humour, wit, and insightful commentary on the challenges of self-doubt and setbacks in the creative process resonated with me. His presentation was a masterclass in conveying his processes and showcasing his work in an inspiring and down-to-earth way.

Dan’s message had universal appeal across the creative spectrum, reminding us that we’re not alone in our struggles and that many of us share similar thought patterns. His talk was a refreshing contrast to other talks where speakers seem more intent on flaunting their credentials rather than delivering on the promised topic.

But every talk is a mixed bag, what might seem uninspiring to one person could be a nugget of gold for another. For me it’s all about sifting through and finding those moments of clarity that resonate for me.”

Glenn’s Highlights

Don’t stick with the norm – challenge perspectives. This idea was highlighted in both the ‘Challenging Perspectives’ talk by Studio Output and ‘Everything is A Prototype’ by Brendan Kearns. Creativity often gets stifled by the rules and guidelines we build over time. Brendan Kearns’ study showed that ‘genius’ levels of divergent thinking are found in 98% of 5-year-olds but only in 12% of 15-year-olds. Studio Output emphasised being ‘brave together’ and challenging preconceived notions of what is right. 

If the process works, trust it. In MuirMcNeil’s talk, they showcased the development of a variable typeface using algorithms to create millions of combinations. Their message was clear: after years of evolving the idea, trust the process once you have one. Their book, driven by algorithmic design, is a testament to the beauty that can emerge when you trust and refine your creative methods.

Many projects presented this year were the result of collaboration. Studio Output’s rebrand involved the client, showing how collaboration can fit within diverse visual communication methods. The Eurostar rebrand, one of my favourites, brought together illustrators and photographers with unique styles, leading to creative ideas that the agency hadn’t previously considered. Reaching out to specialists can really let creative ideas flourish beyond the confines of a single studio.

Why you should go…

If you’re on the fence about attending next year’s festival, just go for it! 

Whether you’re a student, a seasoned pro, or somewhere in between, there’s something at the Birmingham Design Festival for everyone. You’ll walk away with new insights, fresh ideas, or maybe just a great book on type design.

If any of you were there too, we’d love to hear about your favourite moments. Drop a comment below or hit us up on social media!

We’re a team of creatives who believe that our individual abilities and perspectives are amplified when we come together to create change for our clients.

Blog Title