20 Years OFFF Barcelona with Hector Ayuso and Nathalie Koutia
InterviewBy Thomas Dahm •
OFFF is one of the most famous and influential creativity festival brand around. For people new to the creative industry or those who have never heard about OFFF, how would you introduce the festival?
Nathalie: OFFF was founded in 2001 as an event that hosts conferences, an opportunity to come and hear your idols giving a talk. Today OFFF is not just an event to attend, it has become the place to be, the place where you feel like you belong to something, whether you’re an independent designer or from a corporate office… whatever path you’re taking, OFFF is a journey that every person should experience at least once in their life. With over 4,000 attendees and three days of non-stop inspiration, you get to listen to legendary speakers who have worked on projects that you can never imagine, you get to create and play, network… it’s fascinating.
What led to organizing OFFF?
Hector: I wanted to organize an event I would want to go to. I remember I was watching a Barca game on a lazy afternoon at home, thinking how as a designer myself I can be able to bring all those talented artists together, artists that have been creating and sharing their work online, I wanted to create a place where people can meet each other and learn about other people’s work.
Can you share how OFFF grew to the festival it is today?
Nathalie: The evolution of the festival from the year it was founded until today is massive. When you put your soul into your work and believe in what you do, success comes with all the challenges and struggles you have to go through. Now we are celebrating our 20th anniversary this April. We have founded an Academy that can help educate young people on how to pursue their future career, we have been touring more than 40 cities over the past 19 years… and the plans are ongoing.
You are the only creative event franchise out there. Can you share how this came about and what the challenges are?
Hector: We don’t see it as a franchise, and it came out all-natural. People from other countries approach us asking to bring OFFF to their cities and we said “why not?” so we become partners with the local promoters and try to translate our magic to their audience on a smaller scale.
Announced OFFF on Tour cities in 2020 are Tel Aviv, Vienna, Moscow, and Bogotá.
What are you most proud of or excited about if you look at OFFF history?
Hector: Watching OFFF grow after every single edition, having fans all around the world committing to come to the event every year (even following us on tour) and of course inviting my idols to give a talk at OFFF. Just to name a few things out of many.
What has been the most challenging thing about developing the OFFF platform over the years?
Hector: I would say two things, mainly the funds to make it happen and at the same time keeping a low price for our attendees, this has been always our priority and the biggest challenge. And the second one to try reinvent ourselves year after year so our attendees don’t know what to expect for the next edition, that’s an important part of how we do OFFF.
Can you share the most memorable or surprising moment that can be linked to your event?
Hector: I would need to re-open 20 years of OFFF history to answer this challenging question, at every single edition there’s something memorable and many surprises, so that’s kind of tough to answer. And to say that one specific moment is more memorable than the other, that’s also impossible.
Last year OFFF presented its new branding. Can you share the thinking behind it and why you needed a new global style?
Nathalie: We are very proud to be working with CROWD studio, a Barcelona based design, and digital studio, they truly understood OFFF’s essence since the day they presented the first OFFF re-branding back in 2013 and created the official OFFF logo that remained consistent until today. With a festival like OFFF, always evolving and changing, last year we felt like we needed a change and a fresh look that kind of transmits the main message behind the festival. CROWD came up with a fantastic strategy that truly represents who we are today and reunites all our OFFF events together.
Every edition has opening titles. When did you start asking creative to make these titles, and what do they mean for the festival as for the artist?
Hector: As a filmmaker and someone with a great passion to cinema, I decided since the beginning to present each speaker at OFFF in an audiovisual piece to honor their presence and to create a sort of narrative behind the Festival. The OFFF Main Titles have become a success since the day the concept was born, we got to a point where we have over hundreds of studios every year requesting to create them for either Barcelona’s main event or OFFF on Tour.
Maybe for the campaign, it's the same. When did you start asking creatives to come up with a unique event campaign?
Hector: I believe over 10 years ago, we came up with the idea of presenting each OFFF edition with a unique campaign hence why we give the opportunity to different studios every year.
How do you select the creatives for the campaign as well for the main titles?
Hector: I don’t have specific criteria, it’s part of my job as a curator to decide who would be best for each piece, we have taken risks many times with studios who have never done main titles or campaigns before, and for me, that’s the most fun and challenging part about it.
Everything you have is what you give away!
What is the setup of the program?
Nathalie: OFFF’s format is based on one structure that Hector built, although in some OFFF on Tour cities the number of days might differ. In the case of the main OFFF, which is OFFF Barcelona, it’s a three-day event with three stages located in different zones around the main venue (Museu del Disseny de Barcelona). Each stage has a specific number of speakers/talks, meaning that simultaneous talks are happening. Besides that, we have workshops and activities hosted by us and our sponsors, those are also taking place during the three days at different timings. We try to give as much freedom to our attendees by also offering the outdoor area called the Fun Zone, a place to have beer, network and just chill in the sun.
What do you want your audience to take home?
Nathalie: The ability to take the step and finally make that change they have always wanted to do or to finally discover themselves and start creating. Make things happen.
What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learned along the way?
Hector: Just one and my biggest motto: Everything you have is what you give away!
Nathalie: I wouldn’t call them lessons, I would say that those are the principals I always live by: be kind, take care of everyone, listen to your audience, trust your gut and consider the possibilities.
Lastly, what is the signature drink of OFFF?
Nathalie: Of course that would be a Moritz beer.