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SF Design Week, A Deep Dive Into Design

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| June 18, 2014

How long does it take you to reignite your passion for design? For Bay Area residents, it takes seven days right about now, thanks to SF Design Week. SF Design week is just one of the many design week events run by local AIGA chapters all across the country each year in cities and metropolitan areas ranging from Portland to Chicago, Cincinnati, New York, Boston, Phoenix, and more.

An AIGA Design Week is a chance for companies, designers, design educators, students, and design savvy citizens to find out what’s happening, what’s new, and who’s doing it, networking and sharing experiences as they go.

As a recent NYC-SF transplant, I simply had to check out the SF Design Week event to see how SF compares to the Big Apple. And let me tell you: in San Francisco, it’s a pretty awesome event. According to AIGA data, the Bay Area hosts more than 24,000 design professionals. There’s a fascinating symbiosis between the design community, the tech companies, and the many art and design schools on the West Coast.


Above: Studio Tours attendees helping celebrate its 25th anniversary.

What’s hot right now at SF Design Week?

Working Smart and Avoiding Technological Burnout. On Monday, a panel called Life Hacking: Technology and Practical Design for Every Day debated how to be sane and productive in the flow of emails, social media, and other communications that comprise the designer’s daily life. Tuesday’s inspirational speaker John Maeda, author of the acclaimed The Laws of Simplicity and recent president of RISD, echoed this idea of searching for a healthier approach to professional practice in an Arkitektura Assembly.

In a dTalk panel on Wednesday called Harvard vs. Khan Academy, educators and students debated the potential and pitfalls of using MOOCs to transform education. Presenters and audience members seemed equally nervous and enthralled by the prospect of technologically enhanced education.

User Experience Design (UX). Everyone wants to design interfaces for other humans (right?) and so all panels on UX were predictably sold out. No wonder, as fascinating perspectives were available. On Wednesday night, Juliette Melton, Design Research Lead at IDEO delivered a talk called UXNight: Everyday Habits to Fuel Design Innovation with an appealing Zen theme: the observation of daily habits, a practice of Buddhist monks for centuries, can be key to UX. In contrast, Huge SF hosted a discussion on “game changing” UX — on how to help users change behaviors and how this can maximize a brand’s impact.

(Incidentally, everyone it seems wants to work at IDEO, the global design consultancy with offices in San Francisco and Palo Alto.)

Design Thinking and Leadership. A two-day national AIGA workshop on Facilitation: By Design seemed to be a best-seller. The workshop promotes design thinking, collaboration, and communication strategies to run design projects better, and judging by attendee testimonials, almost everyone gets something out of the workshop that improves their professional life.

The interaction of leadership and design will be front and center Thursday night in an interview with Obama campaign designer Josh Higgins called Designing for the President of the United States, a task he calls “a pretty sweet gig.” No pressure designing for a POTUS-to-be!

SF Design Week wraps up on Friday with a third reincarnation of a crazed competition called Pixels of Fury which pits five designers against each other in a live (real-time) poster design competition. If you’re in the Bay Area, you should check it out and find out who’s pixels are judged most perfect. It’s a fun way to wrap up the gathering of a thoughtful and collaborative design community with some kick-ass creative talent.


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