Melba 2018 Design Symposium Highlights

The first edition of the Melba Symposium brought inspiring international creatives to a Bulgarian audience

Last week, the MELBA Design Symposium brought together on one stage world-renowned designers, studios and artists. The event took place in Generator and marked the beginning of a new annual Design Festival in Sofia — a type of event our city has been missing for the last couple of years.

The need for a new event format, which gathers prominent names from the field of contemporary design, media, and technology, has been a topic of discussion both within our team and within the local design community. When Studio Komplekt invited us to co-organise Melba Design Festival, we saw the potential and shared their enthusiasm to make it happen.

Here is a short summary of the design symposium with highlights of the most interesting projects that were presented.

The Project Twins

Cork, Ireland

James and Michael Fitzgerald, an Irish illustration duo, were the first ones to present in the morning. They shared insights into their professional practice and showcased some of the witty visuals they have created for publications like The Guardian, The New York Times, Wired, and The Economist, amongst others. As they said, the biggest and most important challenge for a piece of editorial illustration is to find the right visual way to convey the subject of the article.

Confusing train ticket prices

US Environmental Policy

Will Firms Leave After Scottish Referendum?

Hedge Funds & Science – Bringing Physicians Into Finance

FOLCH Studio

Barcelona, Spain

Albert Folch and Rafa Martínez from FOLCH Studio presented their “Opportunity in Chaos” newsletter for the first time, and outlined several important design principles which they follow in their practice. They revealed interesting details about how they correlate to some of their most successful projects, for example the rebranding of the Barcelona-based TV channel bétéve and the architectural studio Marset.

Maciej Mach

Poznan, Poland

Maciej is a freelance UI and UX designer. In the beginning of his lecture, he explained how collaboration between freelancers can lead to job stability through a larger workload. By finding someone with a complementary skillset, they can benefit from being able to do more work and still keep their independence in other projects. Maciej is also a teacher in the School of Form in Poznan, where students can learn different design skills through practice.

Karol Goreczny, UNIT9

Warsaw, Poland

During his lecture, Karol put the spotlight on new technologies like virtual, augmented, and mixed reality and how they can be utilised in real-world advertising projects. He showed examples of UNIT9’s work for brands like 5 gum, Samsung, Nissan, Castello Cheese, and The Smurfs movie.

A 3D city built for a virtual reality experience for Nissan Juke

Parent and child go on a magical adventure together with Samsung's VR technologies

A virtual reality experience for Castello cheese

Augmenting the user's reality with Smurfs, using Microsoft HoloLens


Prague, Czech Republic

DECHEM is a studio specialised in designing for glass — they craft objects like glasses, vases, and lamps. They told the stories of the products in which they pushed the boundaries of what is possible to do with such a fragile material. Their diverse work has been influenced by blockbuster movies, client challenges, or inspired by nature itself.

Mikkel Christopher, SPACE10

Copenhagen, Denmark

Mikkel presented the interesting concept of SPACE 10 — a think-tank financed by IKEA, which examines specific cases of the future development of society and showcases some of the important questions they raise today. His presentation featured their study on “Tomorrow’s meatballs” focusing on the future of meat consumption, as well as their developments on locally-grown greens. He also presented their concept of “Spaces on wheels” and how it can impact the cities of tomorrow.

Penny Martin, the Gentlewoman

London, United Kingdom

Penny Martin talked about the unusual career path that lead her from the realm of the digital, when she was experimenting with different photographic techniques, back to the physical world, when she became editor-in-chief of The Gentlewoman. She explained what differentiates it from other women’s publications and mentioned how they deal with the difficulties of running the magazine and all of its associated projects.

Together with Studio Komplekt, we have already started working towards а bigger and even more exciting festival in 2019. A big thank you to everyone who helped make this year’s edition possible and everyone who attended the event.

Image credits: Mihail Novakov and each of the respective creatives