Gather: It’s Great Up North

Last week some of us from Grin’s design team attended Gather by Birmingham Design Festival. The event’s theme was ‘It’s Great Up North’ and it was all about celebrating our Northern creatives.

This edition of Gather consisted of four brilliant speakers, who all travelled down to Birmingham from Manchester to enlighten us on the incredible creative journeys of those up north! The line-up included Manchester-based creative design studio DR.ME, founder of Studio Sana, Sana Iqbal, artist Caroline Dowsett and Director of Brand & Communications at PHMG, Tom Heaton. In addition to plenty of shopping opportunities, including the release of Issue 2 of the Birmingham Design Magazine there was also incredible Vietnamese street food from Brúm Mì!

Here’s what we took from the event…


Kicking off this month’s Gather was Ryan Doyle and Mark Edwards, founders of DR.ME an unconventional creative design studio based in Manchester. Their inspiring talk took us on a journey from two guys that met at university to their great success, working with the likes of Mick Jagger, Tate Modern and Levi’s. DR.ME’s approach to design is all about getting stuck in with your hands! Experimentation, analog and collage are the different approaches they take to design. One of the main take-aways from their talk was the idea of creating an unachievable list, something they did at the beginning of their careers, to look back on in years to come and see how much of it you have ticked off. More than likely you will have completed everything you set out to do with perseverance and unwavering passion for your practice.
Check out DR.ME’s immersive website here and see what they’re all about.

Sana Iqbal

Sana Iqbal is the founder of Sana Studio, a strategic design studio based in Manchester. It was a pleasure to listen to Sana talk about her work with such passion and drive. Since Sana was a young girl, she wanted to use her art and creative skills to make great change in the world, which has led her to accomplish amazing things such as winning election campaigns in the UK and USA. Sana’s clients include the UK Labour Party, Students Organising for Sustainability, Reproductive Justice Initiative and The World Transformed. All amazing organisations that truly reflect the compassion and consideration behind Sana’s strategic work.

Through her talk, Sana’s main piece of advice was to not be afraid of risk taking! She spoke about being confronted with difficult decisions and also some opportunities not working out, but in the end, when one door closes another door opens and grabbing every opportunity you can is what makes life exciting.

Caroline Dowsett

Another great talk of the night was from Caroline; artist, painter, drawer, illustrator! Caroline’s work can be seen as you walk through Manchester as big, bright coloured murals that are bound to bring a smile to your face. Throughout the talk, Caroline spoke of the experimentation within her designs and showed examples which reflected unique, authentic artwork – no two pieces being the same. It was great to see that creating work that you love, in your own style can be something that is achievable in the competitive and fast paced creative industry. A couple of wise words from Caroline were…

“Do what you love, do your style…Remember to play”

By taking us through the timeline of her work and experiences with her audience, Caroline reminded us that art and design is meant to be something we do because we love doing it! This talk was inspiring and taught us to be patient with ourselves as creatives and always remember why we began in the first place.

Tom Heaton

The last talk of the night ended with an inspiring presentation called ‘Seeking Serendipity’ by Director of Brand & Communications at PHMG, Tom Heaton. Tom took us through the years of his career, ranging from rebranding Wolves Football club, creating clever, strategic logos and branding for a variety of companies, to finally joining the the world’s leading audio branding agency in 2021. Tom’s talk focused on building brands from the ground up and gave an insight into the considered ideas behind ‘why’ he designs the way he does. This talk reminded us as designers, that sometimes the simplest of ideas can have deep meaning.

Thank you Gather for having us! We’re looking forward to the next one.