Here we don’t talk about the famous dessert, named after the Australian opera singer Nelly Melba (1861-1931), in honor of which the French master chef Auguste Escogie dedicates a sweet combination of ice cream, syrup, nuts and seasonal fruits. MELBA is our attempt to mix meaningfully various good examples from the design that are happening in the world and in our country. In the first edition of the Design Festival in Sofia, we succeeded in attracting local and international characters and selected successful, positive and rewarding examples of social, graphic, product, fashion design, illustration, jewelery, branding, media and others.

And while we are still trying to capture the emotions and glimpses from the experience of the first edition of the International Symposium MELBA on Nov. 10 in Generator, we share what has happened with great gratitude to all who took the time to be with us two weeks ago and helped us realize a professional dream, but also showed willingness, receptivity and encouragement for continuation in 2019.




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.



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. The insights that led us are: be disobedient, turn the brands into media (WOUF); remember that you are not your logo and you no longer need a logo (beteve); tell, do not sell (Fundacion Arquia); decentralize and transform through design (The Imperfect Barcelona); forget what you already know, explore new territories.



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.



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. “Show me and I will remember. Include me and I will understand. ” is basically the leading motto in their work. We saw Oculus doing miracles and how the combination of 3D scanning and smart applications is coming to life. Everything in the name of stimulating the senses (and more sales, of course).



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 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 put us back in the time when online media and social networks were a distant and still insignificant sparkle for the future. As a fashion specialist and journalist, she told us what the main criteria were for creating valuable media: content, aesthetics, political criticism and quality. This is the leading motif of writing The Gentlewoman. Besides being treated with ingenuity, respect and extreme attention, the women in the sessions are often not professional models, and the desire of their team is for each lady to feel safe. Penny Martin’s editorial position is uncompromising and meticulous at every level. “The events are cleansed by the strain of why you ever made a magazine.” The Gentlewoman is currently circulating between making print and meetings, between physical and virtual. Penny Martin’s role is to participate in special clubs and events all over the world, and days before her visit to Sofia she was the leader of Gucci’s tour in Florence. After finishing the lectures, Penny Martin signed the last 18th issue of the magazine.

Thanks again to everyone who helped us with the realization of the first edition of the Melba Design Festival and who are with us in this important undertaking. We hope you will not let you down and make a strong and good program again next year. See you soon.

Photography: Mihail Novakov