Undercurrent of design talent emerging in town, say bosses

Aidan Nolan, left, and Darren Evans, right, co-founders of Wilsons Republic, which ran its first Design Conference in Huddersfield last week.   The conference brought together creatives for a series of talks and seminars at Bates Mill.
Aidan Nolan, left, and Darren Evans, right, co-founders of Wilsons Republic, which ran its first Design Conference in Huddersfield last week. The conference brought together creatives for a series of talks and seminars at Bates Mill.
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An undercurrent of design talent is beginning to emerge in Huddersfield, according to organisers of an industry conference in the West Yorkshire town.

The inaugural Design Conference hosted around 150 delegates from the creative sector for a day of activities at the quaint Bates Mill.

Darren Evans, co-founder of Wilson’s Republic, the non-profit group which organised the conference, said: “There’s a lot of people doing a lot of good stuff in Huddersfield. They’re very talented but they don’t put their head above the parapet. Wilson’s was just about getting those people together.

“It’s not a political organisation but I believe in the power of creativity and if we can shape this town in a particular way then all the better.”

Mr Evans added: “There’s definitely an undercurrent of talent that is emerging. It just feels that there’s something happening.

“We’re never going to be Leeds or Manchester but we don’t want to be Leeds or Manchester.”

His fellow co-founder, Aidan Nolan, says the purpose of the first ever Design Conference was to build a like-minded community.

He added: “The purpose is to help Huddersfield creatives meet other like-minded people and hopefully get a really great scene going.

“What we need to get better at doing is just shouting about what it is that’s going on here.”

Mr Evans says design is the “fastest growing sector in Kirklees”.

Mr Nolan said that this is down to a lot of graduates deciding to stay in the town after finishing university rather than going to London.

“A lot of people are actually saying I’m going to stick in my home town,” Mr Nolan says, “and there’s plenty of good agencies doing good work up here.”

He added: “Technology is helping. You don’t necessarily need to be in London. You can do Skype calls. The world has got smaller in a sense. It’s only a couple of hours away on the train anyway.”

The duo said that while the inaugural Design Conference was a success they are unlikely to host one every year.

Instead the two designers aim to go back to putting on two smaller events next year, similar to what they have hosted in the past. Mr Evans said: “The initial thought is we might go for it every two years. We’ve still got day jobs. Sometimes if you try and overdo it, it takes the specialness out of it.

“We’re back to our normal events next year so we’ll have two evening events. In 2019 we’ll be back maybe with another conference.”

Mr Nolan also teaches at Huddersfield University alongside running his own design agency A.N.D Studios and says that events such as the Design Conference can help students gain a valuable insight into the industry.

“I think it’s important that students get some industry insight into what we’re doing so I teach first years on a Friday,” Mr Nolan said. “The value and importance of this sort of event can’t be underplayed because they get to meet potential employees, future workmates, people that they might set businesses up with in the future.”

He urges would-be designers of the future to treat it as a lifestyle rather than just a career. Mr Nolan said: “You’ve got to be hungry and you’ve got to want it. It’s not just a nine to five job. This is your life. I don’t mean that you’ve got to work every hour of the day. What I mean is you can’t switch it off.”

The event featured a series of seminars, workshops and talks from industry experts. James Sommerville, vice president of global design for the Coca Cola Company, spoke from his base in Atlanta via videolink at the conference.

Protecting property

Delegates were also given a workshop on copyright and how they could protect their designs by the Government’s Intellectual Property Office. Gary Townley, from the IPO, said: “Adding IP to you goods and services adds value.

“If you’re looking for finance having IP on your books will help you.” He talked through the common mistakes that businesses make when it comes to intellectual property.