Monday, March 30, 2009

picture the conference

institution, mobilization, action, empower, carrots, anarchist, Marxism, Socialism, david harvey, neo liberalism, occupation, gentrification, rights, history, bikes, organize, cultural producers, take back the land, civil rights, grassroots, collectives, sustainability, community, the lexicon of city from below picture the homeless, housing, represent, urban, re-zoning, power to the poor people, displacement, gardening, affordable, veggie burrito, rolled up pants, knitting, stencil, posters, bohemian beer, soul foods, compost, dog poop, dream, quality, interviews

tuxedo, corporate sponsors, design, research, consumers, branding, 4 star hotels, limo, ziba, ideo, lextant, panels, sustainability, materials, innovations, business week, collaboration, creativity, web 2.0, experience, context, understanding, products, market, target audience, interaction, the lexicon of IDSA conference, students, portfolio review, bars, hotel lobby, carpets, ideas, concepts, awards, education, social issues, international, networking, business casual, give aways, brochures, way finding, art, business, trends, insights, workshops, job search, business cards, i phone, catered dinner

I've been attending IDSA (Industrial Designer's Society of America, regional and national conferences religiously for the last 10 years in the states. This year, I took a slight discourse and decided to try something difference - city from below conference ( at Baltimore. It was my very first conference related to social issues such as housing, gentrification. Not An Alternative that I've been recently working with, non profit organization presented on the topic of collaboration between cultural producers and community organizers. Most attendees coming from activists background, I found the weekend to be an opportunity to insert myself as an ethnographer.

First off, I found it hilarious to see people knitting or chewing on their carrots as the lecture goes on at this conference. The attendance was free (or $10 I think - not sure) which means the door is open to the vast crowd who is interested in the topic. The organizers of the event let our group stay at their house, and provided air mattresses! While attending IDSA conference means you will be spending about hundreds of dollars on flight ticket, 4 star hotel rooms (like 250 a night - the event usually happens at the hotel) and the attendance fee (often a few hundred dollars) that pretty much means you are going to have attendees who is looking for ROI. A great start, open to the poor or the rich, points go to the city from below.

here is what I learned...

Rights + Homeless + failing shelter system
  • NYC is a police state. abundance of police force through out the city. 35,000
  • Picture The Homeless group advocates the rights to be in public space without being selectively screened. Penn. station sit in demonstration on St. Patrick's day 09
    - watch it here
  • When taken away from Penn station at 2 am, a homeless person would be shipped to a shelter in Brooklyn. At the shelter, one gets to go through all the procedure i.e. shot test and by the time a bed is finally assigned, it is 7 am, time to leave the shelter
  • Building occupation event organized by picture the homeless is seen here. Not An Alternative collaborated on the prop preparation.
City + Gentrification + their strategy
  • In Hamburg, artists and designers out of town who was not aware of local issues were invited to justify the city's loft development. The city allured them by offering affordable living space. The City also created SQUAT area and supported it as they recognized that it attracted tourists. This is an interesting point especially Richard Florida's Creative Class is often used by cities to justify their inconsiderate development.
  • Cities often promote the gentrification process as aesthetic transformation or brining in creativity in the area. The truth is... gentrification is suburbanization of culture, Adrian Blackwell says.
  • Cities around world are being smart about using its community history and artists/designers to justify their gentrification process. This strategy is also seen in the example of privatization of union square presented by Beka Economopoulos from Not An Alternative.
Creative approach to gentrification, housing issues seen at the conference
  • In Miami, Take Back the Land gives people home.
    The goal here is to cease land owned by government or corporations to give people home. Mark Rameau says gentrification or segregation is not the real issue. The real issue is people loosing control over our LAND.
  • Design studio for social intervention talks about borrowing methodologies from design practices to come up with solutions for social issues. The workshop at the conference was about coming up with ideas around topics of people facing home foreclosure, young people behind the bar, Darfur refugees, illegal immigrants facing deportation. I thought the attempts of bringing people of different backgrounds was great yet more preparation could be done to help people brainstorm around the topic , i.e. more background information on topic (visual) defining focus area for the short discussion...
What I think the city from below could learn from design conferences...
  • Visualize the conversation. Not every body has time to invest in creating PowerPoint presentation I understand. It doesn't have to be so finished. It can be as simple as a note taker diagramming the talk on a flip chart next to the presenter. It helps people focus and digest the contents easier. Adoptivepath does a great job at this... This is not the exact example but something like that...
  • Utilize the meal time/ breaks to encourage networking amongst crowd. More breakout session to make it more participatory.
  • Keep the open door to everybody!
  • I loved the dinner format and quality of food.
  • Amazing space - church. Yet the space was a little hard to focus on the talk as it was blurred into other areas (books, coffee...etc.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Pecha Kucha event highlights

12 designer speaking for 5 minute event in NYC last night - Pecha Kucha highlights here in case you didn't get to be there.

Jay Parkinson fixes health care online - be facebook friend of your dr, follow them on twitter.

Turn Brooklyn into meadow

Swiss design is better - starts with Helvetica.

These two were great yet I didn't have find connected websites to it...

Jonathan Harris Goes Whale Hunting

Glen Cummings On NYHC-X

Saturday, March 21, 2009

design activism

Industrial designers were the providers of hope for the better tomorrow during the Great Depression by introducing the public to an American Streamline style that represented efficiency. This celebrated occupation continued to grow into understanding people’s ideal experience and create emotional connections between products and its users. Today design is the leading force of innovation in the business world.

Design has brought success for corporations yet has done little for the interest of the public. We are going through a national economic crisis and we can and should bring hope to this time of despair again.

What is our role as celebrated industrial designers at the time of today’s financial crisis? The role of the people who were there to show the better tomorrow to the nation during the Great Depression? This presentation introduces designers to Design Activism. It is an active collaboration between designers and activists to create events and messaging that resonate with the public in order to bring about a social change. Activists will be presenting successful examples of recent events that utilized design thinking into their strategy in order to influence policies and benefit all, including the under privileged.

Where we came from: the occupation that delivered hope and better future during the Great Depression (Industrial Design)
The celebrated occupation of industrial designer rose during the Great Depression. As American streamlined products became the symbol of a bright future and hope in a dark era, the profession was spotlighted as the creator of that hope and change. The time of American streamline design that brought the excitement and pride into this occupation was about emphasizing efficiency. It defined what industrial design means. Eventually, this function focused definition of industrial design met its limitation. Industry people started realizing that the product that looks cool, functions well, and is priced right is not enough - there were too many of them. A new cool came to life...

The rise of emotional design (design research)
Creating an emotional connection with users became the next cool thing. This meant the rise of the design research field within industrial design. As design research combines anthropology and psychology, we all became much smarter about understanding people and the experiences they are having and want to have. We learned that what people aspire to be is more important than who they are. A car is not just a means of transportation but an expression of oneself and his/her aspiration. We realized that products are just a part of an eco-system that helps people love “(any company name here)”! Branding, marketing, the product itself, the interaction system, and advertisement are all components of creating a lasting experience for business. So, industrial design became a study of understanding experience for design.

Where we are: possibly another Great Depression
Today we industrial designers are the masters of business innovation through design and creative thinking. Yet, the world is falling apart and we are in the time of national financial crisis. What is happening? Our consumer insights have been used mainly by the people who could afford our service - the corporate world with their business agenda. Many corporations choose design to be the leading force of their innovation process. Millions of dollars have been spent to understand consumers. We as creative leaders have cleverly helped businesses shape their innovative systems and products and help them deliver a DREAM. But it’s a dream without warranty or warnings.

There are many of my ID peers that I am very proud of who have been the changing agents in the corporate environment, advocating design and people (not just consumers) around important issues like sustainability. This is design activism. What other ways? We are trained to think creatively and sensitively to people’s desires (empathy) yet work within limitations such as business agendas. Why not benefit the nonprofits and public systems that do not have monetary resources? I call this active design activism. Here are some smart design activisms happening out in the world. Not limited to speaking about the current issues but focusing on the dream and desires and the language of the public. What would happen if this kind of smart, creative thinking was applied to our public service system? We are idea addicts. We hold solutions in our hands for this economic crisis and it is our time to step up and pay attention to the less privileged.