On the 8th Sept, Moving Brands CEO Mat Heinl, joined author and educator, Derek Yates to deliver a keynote presentation at the bi-annual conference of the Graphic Design Educators Network at Cardiff Metropolitan University in South Wales. The theme of the conference this year was ‘Exploring Territories’ and Derek and Mat were to expand on an interview featured in Derek’s book, ‘Communication Design Insights from the Creative Industries’ by discussing ‘the benefits of open ended, prototype driven, enquiry and why embracing failure could be the real key to survival for today’s creative graduates.’


The presentation kicked off with a screening of ‘Play’ a short film that explores MBs approach the research, development and problem solving. After the film Derek asked Mat to describe how MB make space for such an expansive and exploratory approach outside of the ‘design friendly’ clients that occupy the cultural sector. This sparked a discussion around the importance of designers being able to articulate ideas ‘beyond the echo chamber.’ A case study film of MBs work with Hewlett Packard provided a perfect illustration here and allowed the discussion to move on to the importance of the iteration and how development processes with the contemporary communication industries have evolved beyond those necessitated by the limitations of print. Derek described how digital agencies talk about a ‘minimum viable product’ and seeking to perfect in the marketplace, but Mat was quick to point out that there is an honour in going for perfection and that MB want to get something absolutely right and are prepared to stay until it is.


From here it was an easy jump to a discussion about the benefits of embracing failure as a key tool of learning in both education and in design practice. Derek pointed out that in contemporary Higher Education the need for accountability against league tables and performance matrices has created a grade obsessed achievement culture. In this context embracing failure seems counter intuitive and open-ended experimentation and risk taking became more difficult to promote. Mat stressed that at MB risk is deemed inherent to success and maybe focusing on the word ‘failure’ was not helpful. There needs to be a certainty that a project will be delivered, whatever the ambition. Experience has taught them not ‘to be framed by their capabilities’ and instead they see each task is an opportunity to extend these capabilities.


Derek and Mat concluded their conversation by discussing the benefits of collaborative, cross disciplinary enquiry. Derek pointed out that within Higher Education, institutional pressures related to assessment and a need to differentiate courses against an employment aspiration can obstruct genuine exploration with students from other areas. Mat talked of the need to ‘disrupt the subject silo’ and how designers should not think of themselves a ‘swiss army knife’ of different services. He also stressed that MB differentiate between collaboration and cooperation, they do both and have an understanding when each is appropriate.

Derek concluded the presentation with a screening of ‘Type Here’ a project produced by one his recent graduates, Ed Hatfield, which illustrates really well some of the ideas that he and Mat had explored in their discussion.

This blog article was originally written for Moving Brands