You keep kicking yourself and asking "I wonder if I should have gone to OFF GRID this year?"
The answer is a resounding YES! From all the participants.
Imagine an SEGD event where:
- It took four to six days to travel from your starting city to the conference—as far as I know, no one hitch-hiked there.
- Every session was held in a different location around the city of Wellington—in stairwells, café’s, museums and even a planetarium. Uwe Brückner of Atelier Brückner collaborated with planetarium techs to create an amazing 360-degree immersive presentation of his work.
- There were available chairs sometimes, but definitely not all of the time—hey, they're an overrated convenience of the corporate world.
- Participants were walking all day between locations, presenting more opportunities to explore great coffee, local beers and fresh food of New Zealand—and explore we did!
- You would get to participate in collaborative activities—we all love participatory design and there's no better way to get an international perspective on local projects.
- You would travel by bus halfway around Wellington Harbor just to have lunch—well, not just to have lunch—the view was amazing and we saw yet another side of the city.
- You would travel 240 miles to see a town someone told you was “interesting”—and discover a signage paradise.
- The closing party had not one, but two DJs.
- View giant 2.4-scale lifelike statues made by the WETA workshop and hear their stories of the World War 1 Gallipoli campaign in the Te Papa Museum
These were some of the things that made up the experiential journey that over 100 SEGDers from all over the world embarked on to explore what makes up Experiential Graphic Design at OFF GRID in New Zealand and Australia in February 2017. This gathering was a prototype for a new sort of event designed to encourage you to engage in and question what makes up the experiences that connect people to place.
The key to any meaningful experience is, of course, becoming immersed in and fully engaged in the activities.
The SEGD OFF GRID 17: Experience Wellington was an immersive, engaging experience like nothing else SEGD has ever done (Okay, along the lines of Cranbrook maybe).
"Nick and Jo deserve accolades for pulling together this amazing content. It was wonderful to experience the museums, coffee shops, pubs and connect with design professionals from around the globe. Kudos to the Wellington chapter!" said John Lutz, President, SEGD. We all know Nick can get things done, but starting a new job at the City of Wellington at the same time as organizing and hosting a conference? Nick, you're a machine!
Experiencing this event felt nothing like a prototype, though. It felt like a polished experience, thanks to the amazing organization of the SEGD Wellington Chapter Co-chairs, Nick Kapica and Jo Bailey with help from Johannes Bay, a graduate student who turned down a job to help host the event. Credit also needs to go out to all the students from Massey University and the design community in Wellington who all helped to make this event happen.
To get the full scope of the involvement, consider that there were four events a few days before the main event in Auckland, Christchurch, Sydney and Brisbane. OFF GRID 17 succeeded in activating the entire region!
The SEGD chapter in Brisbane, lead by Despina Macris of Dot Dash and Jack Bryce of the City of Gold Coast Urban Design Department, held a big event kicking-off the OFF GRID 17 experiential journey in grand style with talks on the future development of Brisbane and the Gold Coast and the upcoming Commonwealth Games. If you want an example of doing a Twitter campaign right, just take a look at how Dot Dash ran the Brisbane segment of OFF GRID 17!
The new SEGD Sydney chapter (officially opened at the event by President John Lutz and CEO Clive Roux) lead by Carlo Giannasca of Urbanite, part of the Frost*Collective and Nick Bannikoff of BrandCulture, introduced a crowd of over 100 designers to how augmented reality (AR) can be used to excite and sell people on new spatial experiences well before they come into being.
Events in Christchurch and Auckland followed two days later, kicking-off the New Zealand part of the conference and giving attendees a couple of days to make their way to Wellington.
Attendees came from all over the world eventually converged on Wellington to share their journeys and experiences.
Nils Wiberg of Gagarin started in Iceland and took the adventure most to heart visiting Sydney, Auckland before making his way to Wellington, after which he went on to kayaking through the New Zealand outback for three days. Nils, we hope you made it back to Iceland safely.
For a flavor of the event, read SEGD Board member Stephen Minning’s account of the experience.
Participants came from the U.S., England and Germany through Dubai, experiencing an altogether different reality there before experiencing the coffee-soaked culture of Wellington.
At Prefab, a fantastic coffee house and event space by Acme&Co, we learned about the coffee culture of New Zealand and heard the answer to one of the most pressing questions of our times: Is Starbucks coffee over-roasted or not?
The answer: when you roast coffee beans, they first expand and create caramel flavors. Then they start to dehydrate, shrink and form carbons. The art of coffee roasting was explained by our host, Prefab Café and Acme&Co owner, Jeff Kennedy. However, that does not even vaguely do his coffee justice, nor does it in any way shine a light on this guy who is a real design perfectionist and has created an amazing space for people to talk, dance, celebrate, read poetry—or plot the downfall of something big, if that is what appeals to them!
"I Really enjoyed the format of the Off Grid conference. Hiking off to different locations throughout the City not only helped to get a sense of the place, but was an excellent way to experience the different types of design happening in Wellington," said John Lutz, "and it was great to finally make it down under and meet these designers that have been doing such amazing work! Wellington was a gem."
"The actual event was an adrenaline-fuelled blur for me," said Jo Bailey, SEGD Wellington Co-Chair, "I caught Morag and Uwe’s talks, both of which were awe-inspiring. People said amazing things, and got stuck into the whole vibe. Nick made it all look effortless, which it wasn’t!." If you have ever organized an event, you know what Jo means, but along with that comes a tremendous sense of achievement and satisfaction when you see everyone enjoying themselves in your city.
Words can never do an experience like this justice. However, you will get another chance to participate in an OFF GRID experience.
Where is SEGD going OFF GRID next?
Iceland, Argentina, South Africa Australia, Lebanon, Alaska, Katmandu? You’ll have to wait for the announcement, but it will definitely be as far from the last event as we can get without the help of Elon Musk—for now at least!