BCNMCR: The best of Barcelona’s design talent heads to Manchester

Susie Stubbs

BCNMCR design showcase returns – proving that creative collaboration has truly turned international.

What’s Barcelona got that Manchester doesn’t? Apart from sunshine, Gaudi, the Sónar festival, a beach, cable cars and that endlessly photographed diving board up on the Montjuïc hill? OK, so we admit that the Catalan capital may have the edge when it comes to looking and acting like a properly happening European destination, but it appears that Barcelona and Manchester have more in common than you might think – at least, that’s the premise behind upcoming graphic design exhibition at TwentyTwentyTwo, BCNMCR.

Do we really need to be told how to make creative work when we’re doing it so well already?

Organised by Manchester’s own Dave Sedgwick, this is the second time BCNMCR has run; as before, it showcases the work of some of Barcelona’s best design studios, a few of which have made work specifically for the TwentyTwentyTwo show. It’s a bigger affair this time round – with eleven Barcelona studios taking part, an increase on last year’s five – and also features more industry talks from Catalan design, illustration, branding and typography experts. “There’s lots of completely new and exclusive work created by the studios especially for BCNMCR as well,” says Sedgwick. We’re particularly excited about the prospect of seeing Alex Trochut’s work, the typographer and illustrator behind campaigns for the likes of Creative Review, Time Magazine and Nike, and who now splits his time (as you do) between Barcelona and Brooklyn. Interesting, too, is Clase BCN, a multidisciplinary studio that has, since it was set up in 1978, worked across fashion, editorial, print, packaging, web design and signage.

But, sun-kissed skin aside, what can Barcelona’s best bring to the city that our home-grown agencies can’t supply? Manchester has long been known for its creative nous; the city is “now the second largest hub for creative and digital content across Europe after London,” according to the IPPR’s Will Straw. Do we really need to be told how to make creative work when we’re doing it so well already? “There are a lot of similarities between the two cities in terms of graphic design,” admits Dave Sedgwick. “And both cities are capable of producing work that can compete not only nationally but internationally.”

This exhibition is less about the Catalans telling us how it’s done, then, and more about doing the one thing that makes good design studios great: sharing ideas. “I guess I just want to create connections between creative cities,” says Sedgwick. “It’s not just about Barcelona and Manchester. The internet and social media have brought designers closer than ever before. Skype allows conversations to happen across time zones and you can find out what a studio in Singapore is doing as easily as someone two doors down from you.” It’s a fair point – but, as the success of last year’s BCNMCR proves, it’s so much nicer doing design business in the flesh.

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