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Point Conference 2013 Preview

Henrietta Thompson dishes on authenticity and what to expect from the inaugural London design conference

by CH Contributor in Design on 29 April 2013

by Sabine Zetteler

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London's brand new POINT Conference launches this week offering two full days of inspirational talks from a pool of more than 30 speakers and a film interview series with iconic design figures, all at central London's Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). You can look forward to a lineup that includes the likes of Milton Glaser, Nik Roope, Rhonda Drakeford, Seymour Chwast, Erik Spiekermann (who designed the POINT poster) and more, as well as Wallpaper's Editor at Large Henrietta Thompson. Involved with the conference early on, we asked Thompson to share a little insight on its significance before the doors open.

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Thompson tells us POINT, and its inaugural theme of authenticity, is "dedicated to showing how design can make a phenomenally inspiring and massively valuable difference to the world, in particular to culture and society. The all-star cast behind it includes Robin Richmond, who previously set up Typo London, as well as Construct London's Georgia Fendley and her husband Tim Fendley of Applied, and writer Patrick Baglee. They've culled some of the smartest minds in the worlds of art, design, interaction and UX, photography, product, strategy and brands, to communicate how excellence within their fields can change the world.

Speaking events have been on the rise in London over the last couple of years, with It's Nice That and The School of Life both hosting impressive symposiums, but as Thompson reveals, the content and format for POINT still offer something new.

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"We all spend so much time in front of screens now that it's massively refreshing to get out and about and get a shot of creative adrenaline from the 'real' world, meeting others and being fully present," says Thompson. "What makes POINT stand apart is its subject matter and audience: it's a design conference that is relevant to a much wider audience than the design industry. The idea is to be the sibling of Frieze and TED, but with a specific remit: showing how design can change the world and celebrating the real heroes of the creative industries. It's also really accessible–the idea is to eventually create a global design resource everyone can take part in."

One obvious benefit of gathering talent on this scale is that it provides a broad view of the current landscape. "The biggest industry shift I've noticed lately is in how designers are taking everything into their own hands—they aren't so dependent anymore on manufacturers, brands and retailers, and are just doing it for themselves," she says. "Secondly, it's great to see the public sector and government start to take design a bit more seriously, and start (I say this very tentatively, there's a long way to go) to recognize the power of design to save money, make people's lives easier and more enjoyable, make businesses function better, reduce impact on the environment, change people's bad habits—everything."

"I think the US have been brilliant with TED, and South Africa's Design Indaba is also a brilliant forum," she explains. "POINT has a much broader remit—covering photography, graphics, digital, art and so on. But Thompson neatly sums it up by saying, "Authenticity is the theme of POINT this year, and for a reason—people aren't buying into design that masks, prettifies and stylizes life so much anymore. People want stuff that is real."

The conference runs 2-3 May 2013. Images courtesy of POINT.

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