Design, Tech, and Emerging Trends in the Events World

Lisa Walters’ job title may be producer, but to many she’s known as the administrator of awesome. Responsible for handling the speakers at international design and technology events company, FITC, Lisa has the privilege of interacting with some of the world’s top new media artists, developers and designers.

I worked with Lisa almost a year ago at FITC and wanted to write this article after only a few weeks on the job. She has stories. She is also at the cusp of what people will be talking about in the tech world months before they do.

Fueled by interest, I recently sat down with Lisa to pick her brain about her work, emerging technologies, art and design.

Q: What makes a great speaker?

A: A great speaker is someone that can take abstract theories and concepts and make them relatable, whether it’s through simple storytelling or understanding their subject matter so completely that they can break it down to its base form while still appealing to a high-level audience.

Q: What the worst thing a speaker can do to never get invited back to speak? 

A: Nice try! No dirt will be given! I have a list of things that will put you in my bad books… okay, not really. But if there was a list, at the very top would be just not calling and not showing. This happens. Not often, but it happens.

Second on the list is a diva-esque attitude. The rockstars of the industry don’t act like rock stars because they don’t need to.  Acting like Mariah Carey is a sure way to show that you aren’t ready to take the stage. I think in the end it just comes down to maintaining a certain level of professionalism. We’re both working towards the same goal which is developing and sharing with a community. Treat it as that and you’ll never end up in anyone’s bad speaker books.  

Q: If logistics and resources were no issue, who would you love to see onstage in 2014?

A: In no specific order, I would say Marian Bantjes, Paola Antonelli, Shigeru Miyamoto, David E. Kaplan, Olly Moss, and Joachim Sauter.

Q: What are the current trends emerging in design?

A: We had a solid few years of type-centric design (both hand done and our trusty Sans Serifs) and that was great. It was amazing to see typeface getting it’s time in the light again, but the shift that I’m noticing these days is a huge return to a tactile approach—mainly collage and illustration.

I’m not sure if it is a direct reaction to the mathematical precision that can be a font with impeccable kerning,  but it’s wonderful to see imperfect line work, hand colouring etc. It really reminds you that there is a human behind that beautiful work.   

Q: Do you find any of these design trends filtering into not traditional practices?

A: Oh, totally! A great example is Jade Tomlinson and Kev James of Expanded Eye. Their illustration work encompasses hand drawn type and mixed media collage. In addition, they tattoo people with their designs, altering the traditional perception of the canvas. They create pieces to fit themes and body types using a very non-traditional style in the tattoo art world.

I’ve seen a lot of artists create pieces (Joshua Davis, Hydro74, Jon Burgerman), or give permission for their work to be tattooed, but I’ve never come across a pair of artists truly pushing the tattoo art form forward by adopting a new canvas for themselves and staying completely true to their style. I’m not sure that I am explaining this properly but one look at their tattoo portfolio and I’m sure everyone will understand.

Q: Who is your favourite designer at the moment and why?

A: Sara Blake. Her work has this incredible mysticism and femininity to it that never fails to catch my breath. I’ve honestly dreamt about her work. I’m that obsessed.

Q: What’s the most exciting thing you’ve seen in terms of emerging technologies in the past year?

A: I would have to go with 3D printing in the medical industry. Not only that they are being used in reconstructive surgery, but also that it is saving lives is beyond exciting and it really is just the beginning. They have really validated 3D printing beyond just a DIY trend.   

Q: What is the greatest project you’ve seen in the past year and why?

A: This question took me awhile to answer because of the word “greatest.” For me something that is great is not only technically and artistically impressive, but also has a human element that generates an emotional response. Work of Joachim Sauter (ART+COM) has continually struck emotional cords in me with it’s simplicity and beauty. ART+COM is behind the kinetic installation “Kinetic Rain” at the Singapore Airport.

More recently they did an installation called “Symphonie Cinétique – The Poetry of Motion” which is a collaboration between ART+COM and Ice­landic musi­cian Ólafur Arnalds. Forgive me for gushing and being sentimental, but there is a quiet beauty to this project that is completely disarming. The marriage of shape, motion and light all to respond and translate the composition is truly wonderful.

Q: Have you noticed certain cities/locations which are turning out creative talent?

A: When thinking about this question it’s more that certain cities are hot spots. It’s not that they are turning them out, but there are just more chances for people to collaborate together. Design and development communities grow and thrive in these areas, networks like Meetup and Twitter have helped make connections that couldn’t have been made before.

A couple cities that stand out in my head are Brooklyn (catching Philly and Pittsburgh by proximity), and Berlin. I know, I know we‘re all probably over hearing about how cool Berlin is, but at the end of the day there are still a crazy amount of multidisciplinary artists there are they are all interested in working together to make something new.

Q: What sources keep you informed about what’s going on in design and tech?

A: Part of my job is to dredge the internet, and that always happens by just going down the rabbit hole.

A few sites I frequent are: This is Colossal, The Creators Project, Techvibes (I’m not just saying this!), WIRED, This isn’t Happiness (If a tumblr blog could be a soul mate, this would be mine—always reaffirms my love of art), GigaOM, Reddit, Google Enterprise, TechCrunch, and of course Twitter, the best place to catch projects that are still in progress or haven’t made it to the blogs yet.