School is back in session, so you know what that means: The a Better World by Design Conference will be returning to Providence, Rhode Island, in just a few short weeks, for the weekend of September 19–21. Born as the collective brainchild of RISD ID and Brown Engineering Students in 2008, the conference has grown into one of Providence's most looked-forward-to annual events. Each fall, it draws an international audience of hundreds to discuss the impact of interdisciplinary design. But perhaps more impressive than the fact that it's now in its seventh year, the conference continues to be completely student-run, and has the tendency to completely take over the two campuses for three days that include not only talks and workshops but also design challenges, a design expo and of course excellent afterparties for attendees and speakers.
This year, the theme for ABW×D is Wayfinding':
Wayfinding is about orientation. It's about developing and reading signs, navigating new terrain, and processing the unfamiliar. It encompasses understandings of both where you are and where you are going—individually, and in relation to your community. The 2014 conference will challenge attendees to create a more comprehensive understanding of our relationships to spaces, problems, and experiences.
For a student event planned by first-timers with full course loads, the conference has had incredible success entering its seventh year. The audience comprises students, Providence natives and professionals, whose ranks include multiple-year attendees who prefer ABW×D over more established design conferences. The collegial atmosphere, in which presenters, attendees and students intermingle freely, is made possible largely due to the enthusiasm of the young group of organizers. With the implementation of last year's presenter "office hours" in combination with a number of social events, the team has further demonstrated its ability to achieve personal rapport in where many conferences fail. Likewise, boasting previous presenters such as former AIGA President Doug Powel, who also previously served as Chairman for the National Endowment for the Arts, or Lorna Ross, Design Director at Mayo Clinic Centre for Innovation, certainly doesn't hurt. It seems that the RISD/Brown penchant for innovation is alive and well. Not only does the ABW×D team find a way to pass institutional knowledge down through the ranks to new team members (who are often only freshman or sophomores), but they actually manage to improve the conference each year.
Here are a few of our picks for this year's must-see presenters during the upcoming weekend of design, social good, engineering and a healthy dose of sticky notes:
Posted by Teshia Treuhaft
| 15 Jul 2014
It should come as no surprise that the marriage of art and technology has had some difficulty finding a place in the institutional white cube exhibition spaces of most contemporary galleries and museums—after all, many practitioners reject the traditional art-object format on principle. Indeed, the incorporation of technology in art has vastly expanded the realm of creative possibilities, both aesthetically and with respect to distribution—auction house Phillips recently held the second edition of its forward-looking "Paddles On!" digital art auction—yet the modes by which it is bought, sold or displayed continue to shift and evolve.
Posted by Teshia Treuhaft
| 18 Sep 2013
We've seen our healthy share of design conferences over the years, but a Better World by Design in Providence, Rhode Island, takes the cake for top-notch interdisciplinary social innovation. Begun just six short years ago as a collaboration between students of the Industrial Design department at the Rhode Island School of Design and engineering at Brown University, the conference has since grown into a three-day event boasting some serious firepower in their recently announced line-up for 2013 covering a multitude of disciplines.
This year's conference will take place from September 27–29 at locations on the campuses of both the Brown University and RISD, who will host some of the major movers and shakers in design, engineering, education and more to share their ideas, stories and plans for action under the event's theme of "Pause + Effect."
The theme for this year's conference is Pause + Effect. It is a decision to make reflection a part of your creative process. Not stagnation, but rather, a state of dynamic equilibrium. Our conference is an opportunity for attendees to pause—reflect, revise and redirect their perspectives—and effect change wherever they go from here.
We asked the a Better World content team to give us a sneak peak. Here are a few of our most anticipated speakers and workshops.
Speakers Former AIGA President Doug Powell and Lead Breaker Juliette LaMontagne
Speaker Spotlight on Juliette LaMontagne: Breaking New Ground
The Breaker model of teaching and learning takes its lead from designers and entrepreneurs because these methods and mindsets help young people create value for themselves, for organizations, and for the world. Each short-term project answers a different challenge, convenes a unique set of collaborators and industry professionals, and results in viable business solutions. LaMontagne will discuss Breaker's most recent challenge, The Future of Stuff - a collaboration with the d.school at Stanford that tested a hybrid (online/offline) version of Breaker's design-driven model.
Speaker Spotlight on Doug Powell: Social Design - Where Do We Go From Here?
How does a designer who has been self employed for his entire career enter a new chapter, with a new employer, in a new city? Moreover, where does his passion for design-driven social change fit into this new experience? Doug Powell will tell the story of his life and career transition and connect this all to the emerging practice of design-driven social change.
Posted by Teshia Treuhaft
| 29 Aug 2013
Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) recently unveiled a new concept car to add to the plethora of electric and space efficient vehicles. The research group headed by In-Soo Suh, Associate Professor in the Graduate School for Green Transportation, revealed a vehicle inspired by how an armadillo in the wild responds when faced with a predator. KAIST has been making major contributions to the electrical vehicle movement recently with their road charged buses and now with their car aptly named the Armadillo-T. Employing textbook biomimicry, the vehicle achieves its armadillo-like transformation when the rear body of the car tucks over the front covering the windshield. The resulting decrease takes the body of the car from a fully extended 110 inches to 65 inches in its folded position.
Professor In-Soo Suh comments on the car,
I expect that people living in cities will eventually shift their preferences from bulky, petro-engine cars to smaller and lighter electric cars. Armadillo-T can be one of the alternatives city drivers can opt for. Particularly, this car is ideal for urban travels, including car-sharing and transit transfer, to offer major transportation links in a city. In addition to the urban application, local near-distance travels such as tourist zones or large buildings can be another example of application.
Posted by Teshia Treuhaft
| 28 Aug 2013
With aging populations all over the world, its no surprise that healthcare and health monitoring devices have become big business. Japan in particular boasts one of the lowest birth rates in the world and thusly one of the largest elderly populations. It is against this backdrop that the University of Tokyo's Exploratory Research for Advanced Technology (ERATO) research group led by Professor Takao Someya and Associate Professor Tsuyoshi Sekitani, in collaboration with Johannes Keplar University in Linz, Austria, have developed the world's lightest and thinnest circuit. In contrast to similar circuitry designed to come into direct contact with skin (the lick and stick circuits from UIUC come to mind), the ultra-thin electronics from U of Tokyo are incredibly robust for their discreet profile.
Professor Takao Someya commented on the design of the circuitry as having great potential in a number of different arenas.
The new flexible touch sensor is the world's thinnest, lightest and people cannot feel the existence of this device. I believe this development will open up a wide range of new applications, from health monitoring systems, wearable medical instruments, and even robotic skins in the future.
The prototypes of the feather-light circuits exist as a 12×12 array created by two thin layers, one a integrated circuit and the other a tactile sensor. Additionally, they boast a fairly incredible bend radius of 5 microns, ability to endure 233% tensile strain—impressive for electronics that are just one-fifth the thickness of your average saran wrap. While all of this may sound fine and dandy, its pretty incredible when compared to traditional IT device manufacturing that typically employs rigid silicon.