Us By Night design festival: “Lovely vibe here in Antwerp!”
‘Wow, what an experience,’ sighs Rizon Parein as Us By Night wraps up. As one of the organisers and inspirational forces behind the design festival, he knew exactly what to expect from this second edition in Parkloods, Antwerp. Or did he? ‘Last year, I called OFFF By Night the high point of my career. That statement made me a bit nervous … Would we make just as big a success of it this year as we did then?’
The verdict? Parein: ‘Yes! The whole place was full and the atmosphere was wonderful. All wonderful, friendly people who shared a passion. Just delightful.’ Born last year as OFFF By Night with the support of Born in Antwerp and the city of Antwerp, the organisation became its own superlative this year. Running from 23 to 25 November, Us By Night was both a design festival and a party.
Three stages formed the principal part of the design festival. But there was more—much more—to see, hear and experience at the Us By Night night market. A packed bar. Enormous walls of colourful light and eye-catching projections. A salon with wonderful, old-fashioned games. Tattoo shops. A nature-oriented VR experience. A revolving table tennis table. Food that demanded fingerlicking. And between it all, a happy crowd of people: design lovers hailing from Kortrijk to Los Angeles and everywhere in between all converged on Antwerp for an original, diverse experience.
Graphic art legends on stage
On the stage, there was an impressive array of international design talent. From Hansje Van Halem, who set the ball rolling, to comic James Veitch, who closed the festival on Saturday: each and every speaker had their own stories, inspiration and insights for the future of graphic art. Illustrator Ferry Gouw explained how he made the covers of Major Lazer albums. Sound designer Gavin Little, best known from blockbusters like Gravity and Rogue One, drew a crowd. Foam Studio was not to be missed
Although graphic art legend Neville Brody attracted crowds like a magnet.
On the couch
Lively discussion was the focus of the Living Room Stage—cosily decorated to look like Grandma’s living room—bringing audiences with it. The Belgian BASE Design drew a mass of interested onlookers with their vision of brands: ‘Brands are like people,’ said Thierry Brunfaut. ‘They have a unique and complex personality, every detail is part of the overall story.’ Another crowd pleaser was Antwerp-based typography innovator Eltipo.
The Tutorial Stage was entrusted to Adobe and Maxon this year. Here, not just Tips & Tricks, but also next-level keynotes on 3D Design, augmented or virtual reality and near-magical tricks brought to life by Photoshop, InDesign and Illustrator.
‘New, different, unexpected’
The diversity of the subjects covered at Us By Night is thanks to the six curators who brought together their knowledge and networks. Dutchman Leon van Rooij was responsible for the Main Stage. With his organisation Playgrounds, van Rooij has spent ten years focusing on creating a community of the best, coolest and most innovative people and projects in the design world. ‘For Us By Night, we wanted a line-up with speakers who offer a window to what’s new, different and unexpected,’ he says. ‘The audience here was looking for inspiration, but also wanted to be able to drink a beer. It’s brilliant that something like this is possible here. It’s a wonderful atmosphere, by the way, here in Antwerp. There is clearly a lot of talent coming together, and it’s still a little unpolished. That’s the feeling we wanted to capture with Us By Night.’
And now? Time to recover
What does the future have in store for Us By Night? ‘That’s the question we need to start asking ourselves,’ says Rizon Parein. ‘So many people have already shown so much enthusiasm that we could already fill a new programme! The trick will be to keep offering a diverse line up. With wonderful people, because this relaxed atmosphere is what makes Us By Night so special. But before we look at next year, it’s first time to recover.’