Guest Post: OFFF 2011 Barcelona Highlights

By: Casey Sheehan, Design Director at SapientNitro

One of the most respected creative festivals in the world came home to the CCCB  (Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona) this year, and through the out-of-character poor weather, the city, space and speakers shined at the OFFF Festival. For those of you who have not heard of the festival, it’s an annual event that was started a decade ago that brings together some of the most contemporary digital artists of our time to celebrate and share ideas, technology, filmmaking, art and design.

The first day was a challenge for the event organizers as anxious attendees (with spotty wi-fi) waited in 30-45 minute lineups only to find out that speaking rooms were at capacity. But as the frustrated tweets started to pour in, the organizers responded by setting up seating areas with live streams for the folks that weren’t able to get into the crowded rooms. I’ll admit that I was one of those frustrated attendees as I missed a few of the key speakers that I traveled to see. So after day one I decided I was going to try and avoid the crowds. I took advantage of the outdoor seating areas, grabbed a beverage and simply let the festival come to me, and I was pleasantly surprised and inspired. There were so many outstanding sessions from speakers I had not expected to see. The two who stood out most for me were Vincent Morisset and Jon Burgerman.

The Montreal-based director Morisset gave the audience a peek into his multi-disciplinary approach. First, he took us through his seven years of working with dream client The Arcade Fire, the indie band that recently broke through into the mainstream by winning Album of the Year at the 2011 Grammys. He broke down the creative process behind the artwork for the band’s most recent record ‘The Suburbs.’ He then went back a few years and talked about the thinking and effort that went into creating the interactive video for Neon Bible, an experience that has reshaped the way the industry thinks about traditional music videos by proving that a song can be interactive and that videos no longer live solely on a television network. After showing his body of work with The Arcade Fire, Morisset then walked us through his NFB (National Film Board of Canada) interactive film BLA BLA. From illustration to code to storytelling, this project truly embodies his imagination and ability to execute on so many different levels. Lastly, he surprised the audience with a new trailer that he has directed for Icelandic band Sigur Rós that had everyone begging to see more.

That same day I also got the chance to catch NYC (via UK) based artist Jon Burgerman’s session about work/life balance. While diving into his projects, he intertwined hilarious stories of his gags on New Yorkers and his passion for salad. His talk quickly became a very honest, personal and funny presentation, and Burgerman became a refreshing break from some of the other technical subjects and speakers at the festival. He spoke a lot about developing his doodle style that he has become famous for, but the most interesting part of his talk was hearing how he had turned a chapter in his career by creating a more interactive and collaborative approach to his work, which ultimately lead to projects like Colour In Wallpaper and his mural project for AOL, where he had employees participate by coloring in the piece.

Overall OFFF 2011 was an outstanding and inspiring event, and regardless of the weather and a few logistical hiccups, organizers clearly displayed their ability to bring together a stock of world-class creatives from a variety of disciplines to celebrate the industry. Plus, the venue selection situated in the heart of Barcelona didn’t hurt things either. It was very convenient to be able to duck out of the conference at times to take in the city and culture which was as much inspiring as the festival itself.

For those of you who attended the festival, leave a comment on some of your favorite sessions and parts of the event.

For those of you who missed OFFF here are some handy links:


Main Titles (by PostPanic):


Hope to see you there next year!