February 1, 2017

Well, hello there February, that was fast!

(So much has happened in 2016 and I'm just starting to process everything... Expect a lot of throwbacks for the next few days.)

Okay, first up! Last year I was stuck in a creative rut that kept me from creating outside of my daily work. I wanted to shake it off but I knew I needed a giant dose of inspiration and motivation to get the ball rolling.


I chanced upon the AGI Open event poster online. Once I saw that the roster of speakers included Stefan Sagmeister AND Paula Scher, I said there's no way I was going to let it pass. On that same day, I got permission from my boss, asked my boyfriend if he was game to go (Gamo, you are the best!), and got the plane tickets right away.

Fast forward to September 24-25, I wanted to absorb every little detail but no can do. Nonetheless, here's me still trying to squeeze out as much as I can from memory. It's a shame that I can't include every single one of the talks but I'll still try my best to share the highlights.

1 | Organization / Dongdaemun Design Plaza

I'm not exaggerating when I say how amazingly organized the whole thing was. Lining up was easy-peasy, no line-cutters, and there were English-speaking guides everywhere. There were at least 10 speakers per day with a 3-minute introduction and a 25-minute talk time. I thought the timing's too tight but surprisingly the schedule was followed, discipline at 100%. Lovely. Plus there's a realtime translating device. Freaking awesome.

Another plus: Dongdaemun Design Plaza (by Zaha Hadid architects) is quite nice.

2 | Curious opening act


The program started with this very interesting opening act by a musical(?) group called Monkey, Monkey, Shake, Shake. They called on people to dance on stage. What a way to start the day.

3 | Marian Bantjes


The first speaker of the day was Marian Bantjes. She's a designer, artist, illustrator, typographer, the whole package. She encouraged trying on all the mediums/media you can get your hands on. Experiment and play!

4 | Type / Culture


Kyuhyung Cho focused on his typography project where he designed alpha-numeric characters based on Korean brushstrokes. (He also shared the most animated type and font I've seen. Pretty funny stuff.)

5 | 5 Decades in 25 minutes


One thing I looked forward to is listening to seasoned designers, people who didn't have all the modern tools and software designers these days rely on. Keith Godard, whose career spans 5 decades, is the epitome of that. His talk made me believe that design is a necessary discipline that will naturally evolve according to its purpose.

6 | Marina Willer


Like most industries, graphic design is still dominated by the male species. Sigh. One of the women looking to change that is Marina Willer, the first woman partner at Pentagram London. She's experienced being looked down on and not being taken seriously, but here she is now. Her advice? Keep doing great work.

7 | Experimentation c/ Shin Sobue

Shin Sobue = funniest talk of the day. He was able to communicate clearly despite using only a few english words. If you want any reason to experiment on printing processes, check his works out. A word of warning though, some yielded disastrous and expensive results. This guy used curry in one of those experiments. 

8 | Autographs please!

I've had my copy of  Stefan Sagmeister's Made You Look for 6 years now and I keep reading it over and over again when I feel like I've wasted my youth on what I do. Let's just say it kept me sane through some doubtful times. Having a little book signed might be trivial for most people, but it really means a great deal to me. (And just imagine how much this book will sell someday, gold!)

Paula Scher was slated to speak during the second day so people weren't familiar with her yet when the first day wrapped up. When people were lining up to meet the other speakers, I saw her seated alone. I mustered enough courage to talk to her and ask her for a photo. It still makes me feel giddy. Everything was just too surreal.


Going to the AGI Open made me realize how much experience I still have to gain (and files I still have to save) before I can genuinely call myself a designer. But no worries, based on the whole experience, I know I'll have a lot of fun along the way.

Note: I know how lucky I am for the great timing and immense opportunity to watch these speakers in person. The least I could do is share it to as many people as I can. Enjoy!