Forward Festival joins forces with Dezeen Virtual Design Festival

Forward ever - backward never! Now more than ever before, Othmar Handl, founder of Forward Festivals, reacts to the state of crisis by joining forces with Dezeen Virtual Design Festival

Within six years, Forward Festival has become a platform for the entire creative industry in Vienna, Hamburg, Zurich, Munich and this year for the first time also in Berlin. It unites both renowned and aspiring creatives with its talks, workshops, their online magazine and their brand new print magazine. This year, the festival’s focus is set on the challenges of the digital world and the human need for an analog counterpart. Forward approaches the topic from diverse perspectives with speakers such as Gerfried Stocker, artistic director of ARS Electronica, or Florian Kaps, savior of Polaroid film.

Matching their festival motto DIGITAL EYES, Forward keeps on exploring new ways of working together digitally. On Friday, the 17th of April, they will be hosting Dezeen’s Virtual Design Festival with exclusive talks by Forward Festival speakers like Erik Spiekermann, SNASK, Paola Antonelli chef curator at MOMA and many more.

Forward Festival 2020 – Digital Eyes
Othmar Handl
Othmar Handl
Forward Festival
Forward Magazine

Your festival in Vienna was supposed to take place on April 17th and 18th. What’s happening instead?

Like so many other event organizers, we had to accept our fate and find the best way to deal with it, which in our case means we found a new date for the festival in Vienna and we will keep our visitors up-to-date regarding necessary changes. Luckily, we live in an era that gives us interesting possibilities. We are excited to be hosting part of the first online design festival - the Dezeen Virtual Design Festival on April 17th! We will be streaming talks by Forward speakers which can be accessed by everyone, for free! All you need to do is sign up for our newsletter so we can send you the link.

How can design festivals adapt to a state of crisis like this global pandemic?

It always comes down to a sense of community - now more than ever before. In times when everyone is stuck in their home office and possibly struggling with their financial income due to canceled commission work, we set a strong focus on support and inspiration. This is why we started the Lockdown Special, where we open one slot per week in our Online Magazine which talented people get to fill with their creativity. As a sign of appreciation and support, we reward every participant with 150€ and a festival ticket.
It’s also important to stay positive, which is why we try to keep our calm and share our Lockdown Playlists.
In the end, we are going to get through this together and we’ll be even more excited to reunite our community at the festivals by fall.

forward festival x dezeen
We want to push people Forward, by giving them a platform.
— Othmar Handl

What led up to organizing Forward Festival in the first place?

I used to organize a series of music events in Vienna called STEP FORWARD. After a couple of years of partying, I felt the need to create something bigger, something more meaningful. I was surrounded by all these interesting creative people and I noticed something was missing in Vienna. There was no such thing as a space to connect all these talented people. So I made it my goal to fill this gap.

What is the story behind the festival’s name? And what does Forward stands for?

As the name suggests, we want to push people Forward. We do so by giving them a platform that is not only limited to the festivals. Even throughout the year, we see Forward as a community, by connecting them and giving them input.

Forward is held in Vienna, Munich, Hamburg and Berlin for the first time this year. Can you share how this came about. Growing to other cities.

It is inspired by our hometown’s vibrant history of Viennese Modernism, where diverse artistic disciplines influenced each other. We quickly realized that we were attracting many international visitors too, so we seized the moment and expanded to Munich, Hamburg and Zurich. This year we’re going to Berlin for the first time, which is an exciting step for us. Throughout the year we are also organizing Forward Sessions in different cities like Milan, Lausanne and Basel.

Forward is a curated festival, how do you curate the program / find speakers?

We are very involved with our creative network. Whenever the work of someone catches our eye, we simply contact them. We also try to keep a balance between local and international creatives and we pay attention to gender equality and different social backgrounds. Since we are representing the creative industries, we try to make sure to cover different fields such as graphic design, photography, architecture, street art, motion design, AR, VR - you name it.

Can you describe how the festival is setup?

We offer a range of talks on our Main Stage and our Forward stage, which are accompanied by hands-on workshops, interactive partner booths, art installations and the Forward exchange program, parties and other exciting happenings.

Where do you think design-driven events are heading in the next five years and how will you adapt?

Especially now, during this global pandemic, we can see that there are new levels we can take events to. In fact, this year’s festival’s motto, „DIGITAL EYES“ (a wordplay with “digitalize”), is now more relevant than ever before. This has also inspired us to push our own boundaries by creating a Face Filter or our Forward App, which allows festival users to create artworks in Augmented Reality and discover an extended festival experience. These are still accessible on Instagram and available for download in the App store, so our community can connect during the crisis. In the meantime, there will be discussions on new ways of working together digitally, overcoming hard times and the state of the „new normal“.

Forward Festival
Photo: Niklas Schnaubelt
Forward Festival
Photo: Niklas Schnaubelt
Forward Festival Vienna 2019 - Recap Video

Upcoming Festivals

Forward Festival X Dezeen Virtual Design Festival
April, 17th 2020

Forward Festival BERLIN
May, 29th, 2020
New date TBA

Forward Festival HAMBURG
July, 2nd - 3rd, 2020
New date TBA

Forward Festival VIENNA
Former date: April, 16th - 17th, 2020
New date: October, 8th to 9th, 2020

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