31. 7. 2023

What did we learn at By Design 2023?

Adam Morkus
šipka vpravo nahoru
Brand strategy, copywriting

In June, we packed up Semibold with notebooks and pencils in our backpacks and headed to Bratislava. Why? To gather knowledge and inspiration at the By Design Conference, which took place for the eighth time, with its main theme being "Unexpected Connections." Honestly, this trip motivated us and filled us with ideas.

Team Semibold in front of the By Design Conf venue

Challenge Yourself and Experiment

The conference was kicked off by Mitch Paone from the DIA studio, a graphic designer and pianist who incorporates many jazz principles into his visual work. He seems to love jazz, perhaps even more than design. And maybe Wayne Shorter even more.

[.c-quoteboxlight]“I don’t have a grid. I don’t have a system. But I have an attitude.”[.c-quoteboxlight]

[.c-quoteboxlight]“What if you do that? And what about doing this?”[.c-quoteboxlight]

[.c-quoteboxlight]“When making poster spend 2 mins on it. Then make another, and another, and another!”[.c-quoteboxlight]

Mitch's entire speech and the energy that emanated from him got us pumped up for the hours we were about to spend in our seats.

Mitch Paone's lecture at By Design Conf 2023
Source: By Design

Happy Accidents

[.c-quoteboxlight]“Use AI to power rapid, endless iterations. Use serendipity to drive creativity.”[.c-quoteboxlight]

It was great to hear someone talk about artificial intelligence who has been using it in their work for over 15 years. Kolja Pitz, the Head of Digital at Meiré und Meiré and co-founder of Plateau Candy, is not deterred by the current AI boom. He believes that AI plays an indispensable role in creative work today, thanks to its inexhaustibility.

[.c-quoteboxlight]“You'll probably throw 999 designs out of 1000 in the trash, but just one out of 1000 can be very inspiring.”[.c-quoteboxlight]

Kolja Pitz likens artificial intelligence to electronic music, which doesn't work without an operator. Björk supports this idea: 

[.c-quoteboxlight]“You cannot blame the computer. If there’s no soul in your work, it’s because nobody put it there. And it’s not a tool’s force.”[.c-quoteboxlight]

Kolja Pitz at By Design Conf 2023
Source: By Design

"No Deadline – No Book."

Irma Boom's presentation at By Design was supposed to last 50 minutes. It lasted an hour, but she didn't even get halfway through what she wanted to say. This graphic designer from the Netherlands has accumulated so much knowledge in book design over her 40-year career that she could talk for hours. And we would probably still be fascinated. 

[.c-quoteboxlight]“I don’t design. I materialize ideas.”[.c-quoteboxlight]

A significant part of her lecture was devoted to her stay at the Vatican Apostolic Library. A few years ago, she studied how books were "designed" centuries ago.

[.c-quoteboxlight]“I don’t do books for the present or for the past. Books are unchangeable. They stay for the future.”[.c-quoteboxlight]

She still designs books herself, even though she doesn't have to, as she has the best people in her studio. Irma exudes a strong energy and passion for her work. She reportedly doesn't sleep much (it’s not healthy, of course) because she simply needs to keep creating.

Irma Boom at By Design Conf 2023
Source: By Design

Other Things That Caught Our Attention:

Sanne van der Burgh – architect, MVRDV (NL)

[.c-quoteboxlight]“Show (positive) side effects and quantify the impact.”[.c-quoteboxlight]

[.c-quoteboxlight]“If you automate, you have more time to play.”[.c-quoteboxlight]

Payal Wadhwa – Vice President of Innovation, Strategy, and Design, frog (UK)

[.c-quoteboxlight]“Design is about making things real. Physical design ends there, digital starts.”[.c-quoteboxlight]

[.c-quoteboxlight]“You should be able to work with the devil.”[.c-quoteboxlight]

[.c-quoteboxlight]“Fuck frameworks.”[.c-quoteboxlight]

Wilfrid Wood – Caricaturist (UK)

[.c-quoteboxlight]“The subject of the picture is always more important and complex than the picture.”[.c-quoteboxlight]

[.c-quoteboxlight]“Everyone wants to look good.”[.c-quoteboxlight]

Tove Blomgren – Creative Director, SALLY – EY Doberman (SWE)

[.c-quoteboxlight]“There are big solutions, but we don’t think big enough. We are in a crisis of imagination.”[.c-quoteboxlight]

Matúš Vallo – Mayor of Bratislava, last minute surprise

[.c-quoteboxlight]“Design brings value. Cities and countries can and should work with the best.”[.c-quoteboxlight]

And Us?

So as not to bring shame on Semibold, at By Design 2023, we drank several liters of coffee and ate lots of desserts. We bought about 140 kg of books and returned to Prague with brimming notebooks and heads full of ideas and inspiration.

Photo collage of the Semibold team and handwritten notes from the By Design Conf 2023

Ten Times and Enough

In conclusion, we want to thank the entire #bydesignconf team for their work. Such a well-organized event is not easy to come by.

At the end, we were told that By Design Conference 2024 will be the last one ever. So, we will definitely head there with Semibold. If you have the same plans, let us know. We would love to meet you and have a drink or coffee on-site. See you next year!


If June 2024 seems far away, the second edition of the Brno Bold conference is currently being prepared in Brno.


Adam Morkus
Brand strategy, copywriting