On a cold Saturday in March, a colorful bunch of creatives, and perhaps a few outliers, met in the Old Congress Hall in Munich for this year’s TOCA ME design conference. The program promised a mixed bag. Freezing cold and heady with anticipation, we could hardly wait.

Lights out, roll the cameras, let’s go.


Kicking off the event was Materia, consisting of Susi Sie and Remo Gambacciani, a designer duo that collaborates across the analog-digital divide and that also produced the official opening titles for TOCA ME 18. Susi Sie draws her inspiration from different organic materials and forms. She experiments with fluids and videos the results – completely analog and without any animation or added effects. (She does what she loves. And loves what she does.) Then Remo Gambacciani comes in and does the digital part. He takes Susi’s footage and transforms it into surreal landscapes on the computer. The whole thing is underscored with music from ECHOLAB. And it actually works. Those digital forces of nature pulled us in and left us wanting more…. slurp.


Bringing things back down to earth was Wilfried Wood, a Londoner with a degree in classic graphic design. Sounds pretty boring and he thought so, too. Wilfried Wood always had a passion for sculpture and, once upon a time, a friend landed him a gig: Spitting Image, a British satirical puppet show, needed giant latex heads. And someone to build them. He took the job and wound up making a career of it. Ever since, he has worked as an independent sculptor, making papier-mâché caricatures and sculptures of people and animals. With funny details, humor and sarcasm. Chalk it up to British humor? Anyway…


After a break (uh oh, we still have 4 more talks?!), Patrick Thomas took the stage. Sturdy build, checkered pants, and a healthy dose of British understatement (“Oh, I’m not the funny guy…”). Patrick Thomas is a graphic designer, artist, author, lecturer…the list goes on. In addition to more commercial graphic design work that most everyone has seen (e.g. Desigual’s logo), his more experimental creations are simply brilliant. Thanks to methods like screen printing, the unexpected use of found objects (e.g. shooting targets) or recycled waste (cardboard, newspaper) combined with color, Patrick Thomas creates gorgeous (poster) series that are memorable and uplifting. They are all about everyday beauty as well as the merits of (traditional) craft. Our verdict: right on, back to the roots!

A short break and it’s already 6:30pm. After wrangling up a glass of white wine at the bar, it’s time to go back for more.


Now we’re in for an absolute treat. London-based French illustrator Malika Favreis incredibly likeable and unique, with a style like no other. Her boldly graphic, colorful illustrations consist of stark grids, patterns, forms, light and shadow, positive and negative effects that often hold a special twist.
A critical voice of our times, political, feminine…those are the attributes that best describe Malika Favre’s work for The New Yorker. On the other hand, she has also produced unbelievably funny and stereotypically feminine or even “sexy” work, as she describes it, something that has always been one of her pet projects. Thanks to her amazing sense of color, color combinations and patterns, Malika Favre creates a graphic perspective of everyday life with an utterly captivating aesthetic.

It’s time for a longer break. Everyone pours out of the room and does all the typical break stuff. At 8pm, we’re feeling the weight of the day. Sooo much talent, expertise, success, eloquence, confidence and conviction!


Next up is Jared Tarbell. Very unique, very American, very likeable.
The simple version of what he does: computer-programmed artwork, aka “beauty in code”.
The complicated version: Jared tells the story of genesis through his self-propelled fractal pixel structures.
The explanation was actually very clear and straightforward, especially for all the non-programmers in the audience. But the speaker did get a bit lost in the beauty of his own algorithms for that late hour. Somewhere on the continuum between “way-too-much-theory” and “I-totally-get-it,” it was fascinating to see the level of abstraction and mathematical prowess that Jared Tarbell brings to his art, especially compared to the previous speakers. So, it’s all the more interesting that his pieces ultimately have an organic aesthetic. Like one exquisite project he did with his new company levitated, using lasers to cut complex objects from natural materials.

Time to lean in, because we’re in the home stretch. It’s 10pm and there’s one more talk to go. With all this deliciously rich brain food, my head might actually be bigger, I think.


Our last speaker of the night is Mr. Bingo. He takes the stage wearing pink shorts, because, well, why not? We think he’s great (it’s not the first time we’ve seen him speak). So does he. As the main act, he puts on a perfect show. Super funny, interesting, self-confident – and with a dash of British infantility (We like!).
First, he sets some clear rules for his talk:
1. If you need to heckle, FUCK OFF.
2. If you get bored, FUCK OFF.
3. If you don’t understand anything, you are stupid.
4. [Uhh, too long to write.]
5. If I rap, clap.

Then he takes us on a chronological journey through his own projects (commercial illustrating was too boring at some point) like “Hate Mail” (send him your address on Twitter and you’ll get a postcard that, in the best case, says something like “You are shit with boats”) or a rub-off Advent calendar with real people of every age and stature from all over England, found in a casting process and illustrated naked. For each day of Advent, their clothes can be rubbed off, one by one.
Of all the speakers, Mr. Bingo is the one who not only uses social media as a means to an end, but who also applies the communication medium with a keen awareness in his work. He also uses crowd-funding platforms to pay for his projects (something he swears by). Meanwhile, Mr. Bingo has started to receive more and more offers to do projects that he can implement as he chooses. And there is very little he won’t do (shame is really not his thing). Two examples:
wallpaper for a conference room with patterns that consist of numerous meeting illustrations, but on closer inspection reveal splatter fantasies projected onto the meetings. Or a beer label for a brewery that hits fantastically far beneath the belt.
Mr. Bingo’s approach to illustration and his humor (“I’m a charming sociopath”) are probably not for everyone:
Q: “Do your mum and dad understand what you do?”
A: “They have a vague understanding of what I do but I don’t think they’ll ever understand how and why it works.”

…for our part, we could listen to him for hours on end, provided those hours were not spent on these uncomfortable chairs in the congress hall where we’ve been sitting for almost ten 10 hours. Uff!

And now applause and more applause. Everyone takes the stage and there’s another round of applause. We’re looking forward to a nightcap…

Our takeaway from the event:
Looking at all the speakers and despite their differences, there was a common thread: everyone had found their very own creative and individual path and followed it without wavering. With an open mind and plenty of curiosity. And they continue to persist!

Hope is deliverance. Or in the spirit of Mr. Bingo: If you don’t understand what I’m doing, you are stupid!

That was TOCA ME 2018 in Munich: yes, yes and YES!
And we were there! Ciao ragazzi! See you next year!


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