OFFF: Tel Aviv by design

TEL AVIV-BASED Firma design company engages in strategy, User Interface-User Experience (UI/UX), branding, packaging and environmental design. (Firma)

September 18, 2019 17:00
OFFF: Tel Aviv by design

THE CRIME? The couple was arrested in California on charges of cheating health insurance companies of more than ‘tens of millions of dollars for cosmetic procedures that were not medically necessary.’. (photo credit: BOTOXNEWYORKCITY/FLICKR)

There is something to be said for young endeavors – and this country, as a modern secular enterprise, is hardly past its first flush of youth. There is a vibrancy to these parts which, if wisely harnessed, can produce pleasing and even exciting aesthetic and other fruits.

That, it seems, applies to our budding efforts in the field of design and, in particular, on the visual communications side of the business. That should come across at the OFFFTLV Festival, which takes place on Sunday and Monday, for the third year running, at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art.

If you come from the field, or have any knowledge thereof, OFFF may very well ring a bell. It is the name of the global industry leading event in Barcelona, which has been bringing together leaders from across the international designer community for close to 20 years. The idea was “to join talents, share creativity and inspire.”

The local offshoot started life a couple of years ago, when Israeli designers Nitsan Rozenberg and Liri Argov got together. “We actually met at the social protest [in 2011],” Argov recalls. There was plenty of peripheral stuff around the protracted displays of dissent, focusing on fundamental national ills, such as the lack of affordable housing, which included some visual aesthetics. “There were lots of people wearing yellow vests, and sometimes black. That was an initiative by all sorts of people, including Nitsan.” The latter – Nitsan Rozenberg – eventually became Argov’s partner in entrepreneurial get go, in getting the Tel Aviv edition of OFFF up and running.

The pair recognized the fertile ground available here, for launching a Barcelona-style annual meet-up that could help move things along for members of the local creative community.

“We felt there was a lot of inspiration here,” Argov notes, although adding that logistics can get in the way. “This isn’t Europe. You can’t just pop over to another country when you hear something interest is going on there – there’s always something going on in Europe. We live in Tel Aviv, not Europe.”

Rozenberg also observes that the aforementioned tenderness of years can also hinder envelope pushing derring do. “We are a very young country. In countries that enjoy a lot of stability and their culture is so stable, that allows you to go into detail and you develop a keener awareness of what you see on the streets, for instance.”

That is palpably apparent to anyone taking a stroll down a typical downtown Tel Aviv street. Much of the residential architecture you see went up in a rush in the 1950s, to help provide the hundreds of thousands of olim streaming here from all over the world with a solid roof over their heads – in contrast with the tents many lived in for some time in ma’abarot (transit camps). The result of that pragmatic constructional venture was a large number of soulless-looking rectangular structures that, indeed, provided the desperately needed abodes, but with little going for them in terms of uplifting appearance.

TEL AVIV-BASED Firma deign company engages in strategy, User Interface- User Experience (UI/UX), branding, packaging and environmental design. (Credit: Courtesy)

“This country is not just young, there were existential necessities back then too,” Argov corroborates. It seems there was some ideological intent behind the utilitarian construction. “Communism was very strong then too,” she observes.

Argov and Rozenberg would like us to be more alert to the sights around us and how, however subliminally, they impact our consciousness and our emotional wellbeing. “The awareness of how things look and work here is different compared to Europe,” Rozenberg says.

“Research shows that [pleasing] aesthetics arouses patience in people, and a more respectful attitude,” Argov nips in. “There is less incendiary behavior when people feel they are surrounded by things that are pleasing to the eye. Hence the Tel Aviv-based two-day international initiative. We thought we should try to do something about the general situation, as designers and just as people who live here and want life to be good here.”

THE DESIGNER-FESTIVAL founders seemed to have pulled out quite a few stops in putting together a high-quality roster of professionals from abroad alongside homegrown talent. OFFFTLV certainly has plenty of names from which to fuel itself. Over the years, the original Barcelona-based festival has culled some of the top names on the global design marketplace, with the likes of Joshua Davis, Stefan Sagmeister, John Maeda, Neville Brody, Kyle Cooper, Digital Kitchen and Vaughan Oliver sharing the benefits of their natural and developed gifts, and accrued street level nous, with their fellow professional and members of the public at large over the years.

“We will have designers that worked on the logos of things like Twitter and Airbnb,” Argov notes.

That is really what OFFF is all about – sharing. The event at the Tel Aviv Museum will offer a series of conferences, workshops, performances, and activities, all of which should provide the attendees which much food for thought. However, the crux of the whole two dayer is the face-to-face interaction which naturally evolves when people with common creative ideas get together in the same physical space, rather than ”meeting” in virtual domains. It is, says the festival blurb, about “getting together, getting inspired and sharing new interests.”

MEXICAN CREATIVE studio Futura is a global leader in product packaging design and also works with architects, fashion brands, food and beverage ventures and photographers. (Credit: Courtesy)

Rozenberg says OFFFTLV has gained momentum over the past two years, on both the local and international stages. “This is now one of the most important events in the global arena. This is a major event. And the local impact is very significant. Just think of it – there are going to be 1,200 designers spending time together over two days, at a festival from which they will get so much. They don’t, now, have to go to Europe. The 1,200 designers will take a lot away from the festival, from the lectures and workshops and all the other activities.” He says that he and Argov have done their best to offer value for the local designers’ entry fee. “The people we have invited to address the festival are the best of the best.”

THE TERM “inspiration” features frequently in Rozenberg and Argov’s comments. “We are not talking about technical lectures here,” says Argov. “The speakers will tell their audiences about their road to where they are today in their careers, and how they got there.” Indeed, that is something everyone can relate to, wherever they are in their professional life, or their personal growth. “They will bring a lot of inspirational things. Anyone listening to the speakers can relate to what they are saying, and they will feel whether they are on the right path. I think everyone will get something out of it.”

The museum program takes in a wide spread of disciplines and areas of creative work, including such industry staples as branding, art direction, image making, motion, digital, illustration, typography, 3-D and, naturally, technology. As Israel is no slouch in the latter field, it should pique an abundance of interest.

The foreign contingent will push the interest ante up several notches. London-based designer Alex Bec is on the festival roster. Bec serves as managing director and co-owner of the HudsonBec Group “which exists to enable creativity to thrive,” as the OFFFTLV notes have it. The group incorporates a media company, a creative agency, an educational resource arm and a creative recruitment platform. Bec is said to have “an unwavering passion for giving opportunity and exposure to the best talent in the creative industry, from established names to rising stars.” That should sit well with local designers looking to make strides on a grander global scale.

The source location personnel will also provide some words of wisdom for aspiring Israeli professionals in the form of the Barcelona-based creative director and 3-D artist who goes by the name of Boldtron. With over two decades of experience working as an illustrator and art director in Spain, the UK, Denmark, France, Germany and Japan, Boldtron follows an organic line of thought, employing a manual creative process to achieve the final digital artistic objective.

Other industry leaders lined up for next week’s designer bash in Tel Aviv include Argentine-born interdisciplinary artist Mariano Pascual, who currently works out of Barcelona, and who uses vibrant colors that entertainingly morph into patterns, textures and compositions. Fans of visuals that exude a sense of the fantastic should enjoy Pascual’s slot at the festival.
Other standout items in the program include contributions from representatives from Barcelona-based Crowd Studio, who will offer the audience tips about how to use design and branding to bring in business, while Spanish creative image maker and art director Noelia Lozano will share some of her accrued wisdom in the spheres of papercrafts, computer-generated imagery and set design.

SPANISH CREATIVE image maker and art director Noelia Lozano will talk about her work in papercrafts, computer-generated imagery and set design. (Credit: Courtesy)

THE TECHNOPHOBES among us will undoubtably draw comfort from Argov’s observations that, even in this digital, virtual global village of ours, there is no substitute for actual encounters. “Israel is a very small country,” she says. “There are a handful of schools here, and we all know each other, and there is a feeling of a sort of class reunion at the festival – you know, people from places where you studied, or work, or lecturers you had at school, that sort of thing.”

While Argov and Rozenberg feel that our designers have something to offer the world, they have their sights set on bringing some of the élan, expertise and expansive approach of their fellow professionals from overseas to this relative backwater of the design world. The idea, of course, is to provide our creators with a boost, some added value data and a lead or two in some inventive direction or other.

“This is a very open festival, for everyone,” Rozenberg notes. “Everyone shares with everyone. The speakers go to hear others’ talks and they mingle with everyone.”

The festival founders also imported some of the Barcelona vibe and incorporated that in the Tel Aviv lineup. OFFFTLV is as much a social gathering as a professional event per se. “We have done a bit of copy-paste from what happens abroad,” Argov confesses. “The festival in Barcelona also takes place in a design museum – here it is happening at an art museum. Here we have a garden area which is a lot fun. There will be a DJ and beers and that sort of thing. The ambiance will be light and fun. There will be music. This isn’t going to be academic.”

It may not be about feverishly jotting down notes as the illustrious lecturers do their thing, and no one will be getting grades at the end of the two days, but the attendees should still go back to their daytime jobs feeling inspired and even a little enlightened. “There are lots of disciplines on the program,” says Rozenberg. “We focus on visual design, which has many parts to it – from photography, video animation and 3-D, through to software design and creating interfaces, web sites, logos, anything that is printed and anything shown on a screen – anything visual, including fonts.” That’s a pretty broad spectrum to feed off.

All of the above pervades almost every walk of life today. “It is all about communication’” Argov states. “There is nothing more frustrating than trying to communicate something and it doesn’t go over. If the design doesn’t do the job, if the public doesn’t get it, the designer has failed.” That applies across the board. “It might be just a menu that is not set out properly,” Argov continues. “That just breeds frustration and helplessness. Our world likes messages to be conveyed directly, in all areas.”

By all accounts, Argov and Rozenberg have done well with OFFFTLV, and they say it is now a highlight of the local designer community’s year. “We have slots that are sold out two months in advance,” Rozenberg notes proudly. That, he says, bodes well for all of us. “Designers have a very powerful impact on everything we experience here in Israel. Commercials, TV – you name it. It touches all of us.”
For more information about OFFFTLV:

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