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3 design truths they don’t teach you at uni

Birmingham Design Festival is a celebration of the entire design industry, from print to animation, product design to architecture, held over three days in multiple venues across the city centre.


Steering clear of stuffy conferences and over-priced seminars, the festival offers a series of talks, workshops, exhibitions and screenings (plus the occasional party) to encourage everyone to get out from behind their screens and hang out!


Now in its second year, we speak to founders, Luke Tonge and Dan Alcorn we ask why they decided on this year’s theme of Truth and discover the design truths they would give their younger self.

Birmingham Design Festival, Awesome Merchandise

Honing and refining from lessons learnt from the inaugural festival, 2019 promises to bring more speakers from overseas, bigger venues, and a stellar lineup of talks and workshops for everyone from design professionals to people with a passing interest in design and pop culture.


With the festival built around the founders ethos of offering a ‘real’ design experience, giving honest insight and advice from the design community, this year’s theme of Truth seemed like an obvious choice for the pair.


“Looking back now I find it odd we even discussed other themes, as Truth is so pertinent and important, now more than ever,” says Luke.


“We all feel like we want BDF to offer a real and heartfelt experience for our guests and speakers – we’re quite honest as a pair about things (so we think) and we care deeply about the industry – and we believe only by confronting and speaking truth to some of the ills and negative stereotypes will things change for the better.


“ No-one wants to be made to feel inferior or that success is out of reach, so it’s helpful to hear the honest accounts of how work and studios we all admire *really* happens.”

With three days packed full of  world-class designers coming to speak for free, or

virtually free, alongside exhibitions and workshops,  the festival is as inclusive as possible, to make sure that everyone has the opportunity to engage with the festival in some shape or form.  

3 design truths they don’t teach you at Uni

With the theme of the festival all about sharing honest insights from the creative community, we asked Luke and Dan what design truths they wish they could tell their younger selves.

Luke Tonge

I was fortunate to have a really incredible design education but even that lacked any real honesty about working in the industry – I feel like it prepared me to be passionate and articulate about design but it didn’t really prepare me for the commercial reality of the pace and cut-through nature of agency life. I wish I’d known earlier that:

1) Burn-out can happen to anyone no matter their ability.

2) Workplace culture dictates much of a teams output.

3) Success has nothing to do with awards and everything to do with attitude.

Dan Alcorn

1)  The simplest idea is usually the best

2) The connections you make are just as relevant as your portfolio.

3) It’s totally fine to be a jack of all trades and a master of some.

Head over to the Birmingham Design Festival website for a full lineup and to find out more about the event.

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