For years Birmingham’s vibrant creative scene existed with a festival-shaped hole – a design festival. In 2017 a group of Midland’s based designers got together and decided to remedy this. The following year Birmingham Design Festival debuted with dozens of talks, workshops, screenings and exhibitions, inviting the local community and beyond to immerse themselves for four days of a jam-packed programme that was sure to delight and surprise.
Tired of the extortionate prices charged for design conferences and events, our goal is to provide an affordable experience for every visitor whilst still maintaining high quality. Most of the events at the Birmingham Design Festival are free to attend or very low-cost, meaning they’re accessible to everyone regardless of their position on the career ladder.
To make the festival an immersive experience for every attendee we split ‘design’ into three key areas of study that we call ‘Districts’. This allows us to create hubs across the city and engage audiences in close quarters, whilst showcasing some of Birmingham’s beautiful creative spaces.
Inside each district is a series of satellite venues based around the main hub. This allows us to tailor each space for individual purposes such as screenings or exhibitions and for multiple events happening at the same time.
Throughout the day each of the hubs plays host to free talks delivered by designers from across the globe, offering a 40-minute insight into their careers and ideas.
Meanwhile, in other venues, we offer up screenings, workshops and tutorials allowing you to immerse yourself further into the design world.
Each of the days finishes with one of the main events, a series of talks delivered by some of the biggest names in the business at one of our theatre venues.
The festival in 2018
We welcomed thousands of visitors and dozens of speakers from across the globe, showcased 30 venues and celebrated everything the design industry has to offer, from traditional graphic design to animation and special effects, product design to architecture and everything in-between.
Building community, engaging people
BDF was created to show the world that the city’s design community should be taken seriously. There’s a lot to be proud of in Birmingham, but also a lot of room for growth. We want to spearhead this, engage local communities and businesses, promote designers working out of the city and give the students something to be a part of during & after their study has finished.
So much of BDF worked because of the fantastic response from people, not just from Birmingham but across the country, investing into what we built and making the most of the opportunity.
As we grow, we’ll be taking the community with us. From drinks evenings put on for local agencies to a series of smaller talks and events throughout the year BDF is set up to be a continual provider of opportunities to engage with the Birmingham design scene.
We were able to create such a broad, affordable festival because of the generosity of some amazing partners.
From smaller donations that helped pay for speaker’s travel expenses to the main sponsors that covered hotel rooms, merchandise and venue fees, BDF2018 created great partnerships that we hope will last for years to come.
Partners were able to engage with the festival in a very real way, hosting workshops, competitions and exhibitions that helped the brand connect with the community and become a part of our legacy.
Our industry can often be accused of being insular, self-obsessed, navel-gazing and overly critical. We were blown away by the positivity and appreciation shown both online and offline, by our media partners and guests, but particularly by our audiences. When doing something as public and visible as a Festival you have no-where to hide, and while we welcome constructive criticism we’ve been both relieved and delighted to hear almost only good things about BDF.
We know we have plenty to learn and improve upon, but we are thankful to have been so well received and genuinely enjoyed by so many in just our first year out the box!
Following on from the success of the first year the festival and its team are working on establishing a strong design community in Birmingham while planning for a subsequent event in 2019.
A note from Trevor Beattie
“Birmingham is far more than where I’m from. It’s who I am. And while I may have ventured far and wide (ok, to London) in search of my creative happiness, my soul and home remain in Brum.
And although us Brummies seem to have elevated self-deprecation to an art form, there’s no-one prouder of their city than us. As a result, I’m absolutely bloody honoured to be involved in The Birmingham Design Festival.
And I’ll do what I can to shout Brum’s design success from our (beautifully designed) rooftops.”
Founder BMB agency