Alan Deare from Area Design on all things Ramp.

10 months ago by

On the eve of the 25th festival we catch up with Alan Deare to ask to talk all things Ramp.

Alan’s studio, Area, has a long-standing, collaborative relationship with Wintec | Te Pūkenga Ramp Festival since 2011 when they began working on the brand identity and over the intervening years have had a design intern work alongside their team. In this article, Alan shares with us his highlights of co-creating the event over the last 12 years.

This article is sponsored by Wintec | Te Pukinga


Alan when you were a Wintec student back in the mid-1990s what do you recall about Ramp Festival, in its former incarnation as Spark International Festival of Music, Media, Arts & Design?

There seems to be something obligatory about being a student and not appreciating what is in front of you sometimes! In those early days the talks were in the R Block spaces, our daily stomping ground, which took the shine off it a bit. So, whilst Spark was in its infancy in the late 90s my first decent recollection wasn’t until 2003, after I had graduated, where mostly I was struck by Warren Olds Spark3 festival design, with its fluorescent green tendrils and Futura Black. I really loved it. I wouldn’t have a clue who talked that year! In hindsight Warren’s design feels like a connection to what we’ve been thinking about this year — speculating about what it would look like if nature forcibly took space back for itself. We see the creative practice akin to a rewilding of sorts. Probably my strongest memory of the earlyish years was browsing a festival line-up and coming across Sarah de Bondt’s name and thinking, ‘holy shit how did she get to be in the Tron’, what a treat! And it was a very sweet, poetic talk. I was too shy to say hello afterwards.

With your experience of having student interns working on the festival, from conceptualisation to execution, what are some of the things you’ve noticed changing over time?

In the last decade or so the students seem to have a broader knowledge of design and the arts and are generally more au fait with their tools (the computer/programmes). There seemed to be a lapse in the teaching of design history and specifically, typography in the 2010s which we noticed. With the rise of social media and other independent platforms to publish on, working your way up in the industry is not necessarily seen as a desirable pathway or a viable entry point into the industry these days. In this regard there can be more of an inflated sense of one’s ability within the echo chamber that is the internet. The biggest shock for interns is usually the level of scrutiny of their work that happens on the job and within the studio in general. On the upside, we’ve noticed the students we’ve interviewed for internships are much more articulate about their work conceptually.

Here’s what previous Ramp interns Georgina Jervis and Alice Leonard had to say about their experiences.

Due to the collaborative nature of this relationship what are some of the highlights of ideas you’ve had a hand in co-creating?

Last year was fun. We were just coming out of various lockdowns and the theme was ‘Home’. The 2021 Ramp intern, Georgina Jervis, and I came up with the idea of the floor plan of a house as a grid. We took black and white images of everyday items from around our respective homes and mashed them up in the grid. I have to say over the years, when larger print runs were still viable and the festival ran over many days, we had a lot of fun with the design and production of the programmes. In 2018 Anna Wilkinson (senior designer at Area) worked with the intern, Alice Leonard, to create a Bauhaus-inspired identity with a brilliant palette inspired by Alice’s portfolio. The campaign culminated in a triple folded diecut programe cover and a great social media campaign which everyone loved. It was probably a pivotal job for us, not shying away from using loads of colour.

Of course, being in the industry you would have already known many of the speakers as friends or colleagues, can you name some of the most memorable talks that have had an impact on you?

There have been so many! Kris Sowersby’s first talk was an outrageous cuss-a-thon and then years later the second talk was intelligent and poignant, mapping the maturity and development of his craft and career (haha, he’ll hate that). I was really taken with Tyrone Ohia and how he spoke to his immaculate work in such a beautiful way, conversing simultaneously with his young daughter, Wharepī, along-side him at the lectern in te reo. The Seachange duo had a great inter-work/life partner banter teetering on the cusp of an argument which you can only get from living design 24/7. Sons & Co were brilliantly lateral, smart and funny. And of course, anyone who has seen a Christopher Doyle talk will know how great he is.

What do you think is the value of attending in-person events like Ramp Festival?

It’s a moment for a bit of discourse — we don’t necessarily do much of that in our industry, even more so in Kirikiriroa, it can clear the room sometimes for sure. I think because you are in a physical space you are more likely to see something you wouldn’t necessarily consider. I think of Peter Robinson’s free ranging ‘steal like an artist’ talk which was wonderfully genius, irreverent and super relevant to my practice. Mostly for me though, it’s been getting to meet some really great people who happen to be designers from Aotearoa and abroad. There are some things that we do in the studio now that came directly from conversations with designers in the context of the festival. Sometimes this sharing normalises what we thought was a bit dysfunctional about us (it probably still is). Because the scale of the festival is humble and without pretension, it has always been easy to connect with people and share some time together. For several years there was even a koha lunch (catered by my darling wife) at the Wharekai on campus, where you could sit and share a wholesome meal with folks you wanted to connect with! That felt pretty unique. These are the things that have been truly amazing about Ramp Festival that I will miss incredibly. A thanks to all of the Festival Directors along the way, and more recently Megan Lyon, who has been a dream client. She even brings us home baking!


About Alan Deare

Alan Deare owns and operates Area, a boutique graphic design studio specialising in communication and brand identity design.  After graduating from Wintec, Alan went on to Inhouse Design in Auckland where he worked for a decade before returning to Hamilton and establishing Area, which has grown to a staff of five.

Area started out primarily in the cultural sector, designing books and working with various galleries and museums around the country, creating exhibition identities and small publications. More recently they have established a broader client base operating across all sorts of spaces.


Ramp Festival is going on this week, 8-10 August. For more information on talks and workshops, visit the event page here.

2024 Hot New Things: Catherine Pascual, AUT

On the eve of the 25th festival we catch up with Alan Deare to ask to talk all things Ramp. Alan’s studio, Area, has a long-standing, collaborative relationship with Wintec | Te […]

10 months ago by

2024 Hot New Things: Fiona Yoon, University of Auckland

On the eve of the 25th festival we catch up with Alan Deare to ask to talk all things Ramp. Alan’s studio, Area, has a long-standing, collaborative relationship with Wintec | Te […]

10 months ago by

2024 Hot New Things: Adam de Jong, Victoria University Wellington – Te Herenga Waka

On the eve of the 25th festival we catch up with Alan Deare to ask to talk all things Ramp. Alan’s studio, Area, has a long-standing, collaborative relationship with Wintec | Te […]

10 months ago by

2024 Hot New Things: Judy Jin, University of Auckland

On the eve of the 25th festival we catch up with Alan Deare to ask to talk all things Ramp. Alan’s studio, Area, has a long-standing, collaborative relationship with Wintec | Te […]

10 months ago by