James Sommerville set to headline Huddersfield’s first Design Conference

He began his career as a street artist, before going on to co-found and sell what became the globally-recognised design studio ATTIK. And now James Sommerville – currently Vice President of Global Design for the Coca Cola Company – is returning to his Huddersfield roots to headline the first ever Design Conference to be held in the town.

Set to deliver his keynote speech via live video link from his Atlanta base, James will talk to 200 delegates about his astonishing career both in the UK and overseas. He will speak openly about his journey from chalking pavements in Britain, to establishing ATTIK using Margaret Thatcher’s £40 weekly Enterprise Allowance. Event attendees will also hear about some of his acclaimed work for famous brands including Sony, Heineken and Schweppes, as well as the reasons why he still champions Yorkshire design, despite living on the other side of the Atlantic. You can also read about James’ story in the current edition of TopicUK out now.

James is the latest in a series of heavyweight names to be added to the line-up for this inaugural North of England event.

Set to take place in Huddersfield on Thursday 5 October, The Design Conference will also welcome Huddersfield-born John Lee – a celebrated prop and model maker who has spent 34 years in the film industry. Having begun his professional design journey working on The Wind in the Willows, he has gone on to be involved in blockbusters including Aliens, Casino Royale and the soon-to-be-released Star Wars: The Last Jedi. He is also a frequent lecturer at The National Film and Television School.

John will be joined by Tom Foley, Creative Director of international typography specialist Dalton Maag, who has recently hit the headlines for designing the new BBC Sport ‘Leith’ font. As well as taking to the stage to talk about the performance of typefaces across different print and digital environments, Tom will also be leading a 2-hour logo refinement workshop on the day.

Eve Warren, an established designer from Robot Food who is known for her colourful and expressive creativity, is also on the programme. Eve has worked with pioneering brands including The Marshmallowist and Hanami, and was also involved in developing the identity for Europe’s first dedicated arts and wellbeing island Obonjan.

The conference additionally features Craig Oldham. Founder of The Office of Craig Oldham, he runs a celebrated studio that creates brands, books, websites, films and exhibitions, as well as being passionate about teaching, writing, curating and consulting with industry.

And delegates will hear from Chris Nunn – the most recent addition to the line-up. A Huddersfield-based photographer, Chris has worked a lot in Ukraine over the past for a couple of years documenting the war in Donbass.

The event will take place at Bates Mill, a converted textiles mill and popular venue for the cultural sector. It is the conception of Wilson’s Republic, a not-for-profit design network in the town, founded by Huddersfield-based designers Darren Evans and Aidan Nolan. Aiming to bring creative practitioners, students and enthusiasts together to tell their stories, share experiences, collaborate, question, learn and create, the venture is becoming a noted name on the design events scene.

Commenting on the Design Conference launch and the buzz that has emerged so far, co-founder Darren Evans said: “There is no shortage of both budding and established talent across the North, and Huddersfield’s location in the very centre – not to mention the town’s history of world class invention and creativity – makes it a befitting destination for this inaugural event.

“Although it was logistically difficult to get James over to Huddersfield, the fact he wanted to speak is a great boost for us and just shows how much respect exists for design in this region.”

“By bringing inspiring speakers together in a relaxed, collaborative environment, we’re hoping to help further stimulate the profile of design, in what is becoming a very prolific part of the UK, for the arts sector as a whole.”

With such a packed line-up of presentations, the event has pulled registrations from throughout the region and beyond, with 70% of tickets already gone.

Tickets can be pre-purchased at www.wrconf.com. There are no ticket sales on the day. Updates can be found on Twitter via @wilsonsrepublic and #WRConf.