BMAA Winner, Marissa, shares her experience of SXSW19

Published on Monday, 20th May 2019

We caught up with Marissa Lewis-Peart, winner of the Bristol Media Ben Martin Apprentice Award, two months after her trip to SXSW in Austin, Texas to find out more about her experiences of the festival. Read on to hear Marissa's story and how she ended up at the world’s largest annual celebration of the interactive industries.

"During Easter 2018 I attended a two-week placement at Epoch Design, after presenting a leave behind in the form of a personalised water bottle label to the CEO at a 3rd year university talk. Later that year, one of the managers told me about the Ben Martin Apprentice Award opportunity and encouraged me to apply for it. I was asked to submit a short video and/or 500 word paragraph about my design strengths. After speaking with studio staff from Epoch, one of them asked me what my ‘why’ was which prompted me to spend the next couple of weeks filming and editing a 40 second video about why I wake up every morning excited to design. One face-to-face interview and a few weeks later, I was announced as the 2019 Ben Martin Apprentice Winner! As part of the opportunity I was able to attend the world’s largest Tech, Media, Music and Film conference festival: SXSW 2019 in Austin, Texas.

My first day at SXSW was International Women's Day and so it was only right to begin the day with a women’s led panel talk about how adaptive design is transforming brands. The physical ability and racially diverse panel of four women spoke about how brands are becoming more inclusive to cater to all audiences and the possible downsides such as diversity being a ‘trend’ rather than a genuine brand value. I attended 4 more conferences throughout my first day ranging from a Black Women in Tech conference through to a talk by author Laura Otting about Becoming Limitless – How to Live Your Best Life.

That evening I attended the IPA welcome drinks at a local hotel with Chris Thurling, Chair of Bristol Media and my mentor, and a couple of others where I had the chance to network with many people who are established in their industries. By the end of the day, I was shattered!

I attended many more talks over the course of the next few days however one that stood out to me was ‘An Ad Guy and a Psychologist Walk Into an Ad Agency’ where an ad guy and a psychologist deconstructed a few of the most iconic TV advertisements and explained why they were so successful through behaviour economics. I found it really interesting to see how psychology can have a real impact on how an audience engages with creative media and how I can introduce some of the tactics in my own work. Later that day, Chris introduced me to Ann Hiatt who worked in executive positions for both Amazon and Google for 15 years at her talk; Grit, Reinvention & Pivoting for Success, which was inspiring as she spoke about how she grew to end up in her executive positions. On the final evening at SXSW, Ann hosted an open invite dinner where attendees who work in the tech, media, music or film industries could network and build connections, which was interesting as everyone had such diverse experiences.

"Having this experience and the support has really helped me to feel more confident in getting ready to start my career."

There were a few pop up buildings scattered around the local area from brands such as Amazon, Sony, Samsung, LG, Snapchat and Twitter, where I could get interactive with their latest tech prototypes like robots and sensory gaming as well as network or listen to smaller talks. As a graphic design student I’m aware of how artificial intelligence and augmented reality are changing how brands communicate with consumers however, before this trip I was feeling confused as to how I can harness this new technology and take my work to the next level. Having the chance to play around with new tech helped to open my eyes to the possibilities and I ended up including augmented reality in a D&AD submission back at university.

Aside from the overall SXSW experience and opportunities to network being huge highlights within themselves, a smaller highlight of SXSW19 was seeing one of my favourite rappers, A$AP Rocky, talking about ‘Using Design Differently to Make a Difference’ with the Chief Design Officer of Mercedes Benz. As A$AP Rocky is an artist and general creative that I’ve loved for both his music and style for years, it was exciting to see him on stage and for once not rapping but talking about something that I’m also passionate about; design.

Thank you to the companies and organisations that came together to give me this opportunity, I've learnt so much and now have a clearer vision of the direction I would like to take my career in. As I'm currently completing my final months at university, having this experience and the support has really helped me to feel more confident in getting ready to start my career."

Tickets for SXSW2020 go on sale 1st August 2019. If you'd like to find out more about joining Chris Thurling and the Bristol & Bath delegation at next year's event, please email: Lynda@bristolmedia.co.uk

Read on for more highlights from SXSW >>>