Birmingham Design Festival 2023 Asks What is Possible with Imagination

BDF keynote speaker Gemma O'Brien. Photo by Xun Michael Chi


May 16, 2023

As we recover from quarantine and social distancing (bring your hand sanitizer—shaking hands is back) many festivals have had the time to develop new programs and structures to reengage attendees, like Salone del Mobile’s festival redesign. Birmingham Design Festival is no different—returning June 8 and 9, the two day extravaganza includes the first in-person BDF Conference on Friday, June 9.

Ahead of the BDF Conference on Thursday workshops by the conference speakers and special guests explore printing, branding, service design, animation, hand lettering, and murals. There’s even a sensory food workshop led by Kaye Winwood to investigate how we experience flavor.

Also on Thursday, Monotype will present its annual typography trends report, and a panel discussion by the Design Council will take attendees through the ins and outs of their Design for Planet project before a mid-fest social at Hockley Social Club caps off the day (or pregames the conference—take your pick).

birmingham design festival speakers

On Friday, the conference and main event of BDF begins at 10am. Eight international speakers from across the design spectrum will share their insights and what fuels their imagination:

  • Oliver Jeffers, a visual artist and author working in painting, bookmaking, illustration, collage, performance, and sculpture infuses curiosity and humor into his creative publications.
  • Sonal Jhuj, Marketing Director, Global Brand Development at The LEGO Group, has a lot of insight to the future of play, culture, and the role of brands in shaping a world that helps kids thrive.
  • Brian Collins, Chief Creative Officer of COLLINS, leads the award-winning independent experience design company in New York City and San Francisco.
  • Gemma O’Brien, an internationally recognized designer and artist, has been commissioned by Apple, Nike, Google, and is held in the permanent collection of the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City.
  • Lex Fefegha is a co-founder and principal designer at COMUZI, a London based design invention studio inventing, designing, and prototyping emerging tech products, services, and experiences. He’s currently exploring AI creative’s potential.
  • Marta Cerdà Alimbau brings functional beauty and emotion to design in a body of work focused on the boundaries between typography and illustration.
  • Abbie Heppe leads live service game development at Media Molecule on Dreams, drawing on her background in community, brand, and production to grow and support live operations.
  • Toby Olié is a puppetry director and designer striving to blur the boundaries between movement and design in both traditional and innovative techniques in productions spanning plays, musicals, operas, and dance.

Rounding off Birmingham Design Festival on Saturday, June 10, Studio AKA’s Philip Hunt and Oliver Jeffers will present a (free) special showing of their film Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth, followed by a Q&A about the development process behind the collaboration.

Sign up for a conference pass at