Why you should go to the Cheltenham Design Festival.

It was a bit of a fluke that I attended the inaugural Cheltenham Design Festival last year, having only discovering it through a flyer in Creative Review magazine. I was drawn by not only the cheap ticket prices, but the chance to see Stefan Sagmeister talk.

Although Stefan was very entertaining, and well worth seeing, the overall festival itself blew me away. In fact it completely wiped the floor, not only completely surpassing my expectations but was hands down and by a long stretch the best conference I've ever been to.

What made, for me, the festival so great was not simply the quality of the speakers (who were almost without exception fantastic), but the diversity of topics pulled together under the design umbrella.

Over the space of 3 days I heard talks from architects, animators, graphic designers, mobile developers, aeronautical engineers, automotive engineers, ad men, textile designers and everyone else in between.

It's very refreshing to witness how 'design' is approached from different disciplines and varying circumstances. I've been in the web design world for a few years now, and the majority of conferences I've attended that focus on the topic of web design offer me little in the way of fresh insight.

Sure there are always little titbits to pick up, sometimes your views and principles are contested, sometimes bolstered, and they're generally good fun. But I want to be inspired, motivated and more than anything, I want to learn.

I believe that to advance beyond a certain level in any industry, to exceed mediocrity in a discipline, it's essential to start looking outside that pale, to curate and muster knowledge from adjacent areas of expertise. The Cheltenham Design Festival nails this.

Last year I enjoyed learning about the problems and solutions that occur in the relationships between architects and structural engineers, and thinking about how this mirrors those of designers and developers. Looking at how McLaren use biomimicry to improve safety and agility in their supercars provoked me to think about how we can perhaps look to the animal kingdom to adapt and improve the structures of the web.

Prices may have rose slightly since last year, but in my eyes it's still a bargain. What's also great is the format of the festival. You can buy day tickets, or purchase talks individually and only pay for what you want to see! No hauling yourself out of bed early when the first talk you're interested in doesn't start till 11am.

My advice—don't just go and see any talks from those who work in your industry. Branch out, look at areas you wouldn't normally be interested in. You'll be surprised what you might find.

The festival is on from 11th-14th April. So you'd better get planning! If you're interested in seeing such names as David Hillman, Adrian Shaughnessy (he was interesting last year), Deyan Sudjic, Sir. John Hegarty and many more—get your tickets here:

http://www.cheltenhamtownhall.org.uk/category/design-festival/

And find more information on the official Cheltenham Design Festival website (yeah I know, it's not that great for a 'design' festival):

http://cheltenhamdesignfestival.com/2013-festival/

And hopefully I'll see you there!

Nathan