Design Manchester 2017 - is it all doom and gloom?

We've attended Design Manchester for the past three years and have really enjoyed seeing it grow; bringing together more designers and digital specialists, spreading knowledge, and inspiring the creative community. With events like this popular around the country and throughout the year, the design community is ever-growing, and we feel really lucky to be involved in such a welcoming industry. With this in mind, we were surprised and intrigued by a negative theme throughout the Design City conference on Friday, which we wanted to focus on...

I'm sure you're all aware of the social media criticism that North Design received last week in response to their Science Museum rebrand. Johnson Banks, the studio behind the previous Science Museum identity, began by tweeting the new design with a comment about the kerning and a cheeky #notbitter sign-off. However, this quickly descended into school playground antics and they retweeted every negative comment they could find about the new logo...

Interestingly, when Johnson Banks first revealed their Science Museum brand in 2010, it was met with heavy criticism from those commenting on the Creative Review case study, prompting CR to issue this warning in the article:

To all our readers, a challenge
In the interests of everyone, we want to raise the tone of the debate on this blog.
This is a major redesign for a major institution. In the past, discussion of such projects here has quickly descended into relentless negativity, insult and abuse.
So here is our challenge to you – be as critical as you like but any comments from now on which, in our opinion, are not thoughtful, well-argued, constructive or which do not move the debate on will be deleted.


At the Design City conference, Louis Mikolay from North Design opened his talk by saying that he didn't want to discuss the Science Museum rebrand - but he was going to...! Over the next hour, he answered difficult questions about the rebrand taken straight from social media - from 'why did it need redesigning?' to 'what was wrong with the old one?' Louis took us on the journey from client briefing, to audit, to naming, through to strategy and execution in a thorough, considered manner, and with dignity and grace. It's a shame that he had to 'defend' the work of North to such an extent, but he did a fantastic job of justifying the work and answering back to critics.

You would think that the design industry would have a mutual understanding of how tricky challenges like this can be; a big client with lots of stakeholders and rebranding a national treasure. It's a shame that the launch was met with such negativity on social media, without design influencers taking the time to read up on the brief. Don't get me wrong - opinion and critique is essential - but maybe we should think twice before we jump on the next social media 'pile on'? And maybe there's a better way for us to voice opinions than 140 characters (or 280, or whatever it is now!). 

Earlier in the day, Jane Murison, BBC User Experience, took to the stage to speak about our mental wellbeing at a time when social media and online activity is such an everyday part of life. This constant connectivity is proven to exacerbate social pressure, affecting sleep and your mental health. Indeed, you don't need to look hard to see that people are trying to break free from digital addiction - with tactics like hiding their phone from themselves after work, to overpriced 'technology-free' holidays where you essentially pay a hotel more to lock up your devices.

So, how can we be more mindful of our attitude and wellbeing? Well, Ramesh Ramchandani from Pentagram talked us through his very own side project of releasing an LP - and Emily Forgot explained how she spent a month off commissioned work to focus on other things she'd always wanted to create. Taking the time to consider our true passions can help focus our careers and minds, and encourage a more positive attitude.

Have you got any advise on how to maintain a healthy work/life balance online, and maintaining your sanity on social media? The day has certainly encouraged us to be more aware of how often we check our phones, and how we can work together as an industry to promote healthy balance and encourage one another. And what a wonderful world that would be!

Thanks again Manchester. See you next year.