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Last week Matt was invited to speak at the Aspire Programme 2013, an event taking place in Antwerp for creatives from different design disciplines from across Belgium. The event explored leadership and business growth in the 21st Century.

The event was organised by Michael Thomson of Design Connect and Ingrid Vandenhoudt of Design Flanders.

The morning session took place in the exciting and inspiring refurbished warehouse studios of Pinkeye Design. Pinkeye are an interesting ‘crossover’ design studio, whose broad range of disciplines allow them to handle all aspects of projects in retail and hospitality.

This session concluded with a talk from Germán León, founder of Exipple, a Barcelona-based studio that creates design products and services.

In the afternoon, the group relocated to the offices of Studio Dott, another exciting multi-disciplinary design studio in Antwerp (and now also in Hong Kong). It was here that Matt gave a presentation about the work and creative processes of Rudd Studio. Matt talked in particular about the branding of the UK’s Channel 4 and ITV networks. Conversations during and after the talk were interesting as Matt and the collected creatives reflected on the overlaps and differences between the different design disciplines.

A particularly animated debate ensued about design and art; Matt was asked ‘Do you consider yourself to be a designer or an artist?’ He said that he was a designer because his clients set the brief, and it was his job to deliver the best and most helpful solution for the client. However, he said that the ‘artist’ part of him was very important:

‘It’s funny how the designer-artist distinction is very divisive. Some people feel that you have to be one or the other. For me, there is an artistic moment in the design process, a point which comes after the talking and research and logical thinking, where structure is relaxed so that unexpected leaps can happen. It is the combination of structured thinking and intuitive wandering that can lead to the most unusual, exciting and memorable solutions.

‘I suspect this debate is to some extent a matter of semantics: many designers combine methodical processes with more intuitive practices. Some just don’t like the artist label.’

A big thank you to Luc Heylen, managing partner at Pinkeye, for making time to give Matt and Jacqui the wonderful Antwerp tour the day after the programme.

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