The socio-political events of the last decade have forced a broad debate on education, policy and creativity. While the '50s heralded a structured, rigid perspective on everything from family to business to broad social norms, the chaos and complexity of technological advancement has provoked a new conversation of systems, creativity, adaptability and agility. The unpredictability facing millennials and the aging boomer population is underscored by the unpredictability of the future of our government and country, and the sense of urgency is amplified by status updates and all things gone viral. Design, if it was to be considered at all, was traditionally thought of as a craft, focused on superficialities like styling and aesthetics.
Design is now at the heart of this national conversation of urgency. TED luminaries like Sir Ken Robinson have demanded creative design thinking in our schools. Silicon Valley has discovered that design plays a fundamental role in driving value for startups. And outlets like Fast Company and BusinessWeek have realized that the work of designers is alluring and likely to drive web traffic. The non-linear thinking of design, it is said (I've said it myself, in various public forums), will save us from ourselves: through innovation, service design and abductive reasoning will come a new humanism.
How? What are the more exacting and specific tools, techniques, theories and methods that will help realize this promise? Where are the case studies of success and failure that we can learn from? What is the nuance of this magical "design" thing?
On October 5th and 6th, Austin Center for Design is proud to host Design Extravaganza, a two-day reflection on these questions, topics and themes. Our speakers represent a multiplicity of professional roles and include educators, strategists, executives, curators, authors and practitioners.
Speaker Dave Cronin is part of GE's new drive to embrace the experiential qualities of digitization; he'll discuss and consider the power of design at the level of large-scale infrastructure. Anya Kamenetz has authored books on the future of education and the massive debt facing the millenials. She'll describe the failure of large-scale systems like the One Laptop Per Child, and question the efficacy of high-tech in broad education.
Jon Freach, a director at frog design, will speak to design's evocative qualities of persuasion. Freach's perspectives are juxtaposed by World Economic Forum Young Global Leader Heather Fleming, who will describe the challenges she has faced in building a company focused solely on unraveling the complexities behind the creation of well-designed products and services for marginalized communities.
Steven Tomlinson, master teacher at the revolutionary business school Acton, will investigate the complexities of entrepreneurial approaches to design-driven change, while Intel's Genevieve Bell —one of Fast Company's '100 Most Creative People in Business'—will discuss the ways a juggernaut like Intel embraces immersive, thoughtful anthropological research to set the strategic future for their business.
These speakers, as well as MoMA's Senior Curator Paola Antonelli, educator and Core77 Editor in Chief Allan Chochinov, authors Ralph Caplan and Alan Cooper, and creatives Bryony Gomez-Palacio (of Brand New) and Joe Stewart (of Huge) will discuss, debate, and consider the role of design in changing the tenor and pace of our culture. They'll offer these humanist views against the backdrop of Austin in October, a world away from the overwhelming technology celebration of South by Southwest. The conversation will continue through the night, during our receptions sponsored by Huge, Microsoft, and Tito's Vodka.
If you have come to believe the hype, this event will help you fill in the missing details and nuance. And if you are skeptical of this powerful force of design, this event will provide you with an emerging point of view of equal skepticism, colored by actual cases and experiences. This is a challenge for the discipline of design to move beyond top-ten lists and 18 minute feel-good stories. Join us in Austin in October to hear our twelve speakers present in-depth views of design's role in culture and society, and join us in debating the emerging role of our discipline.
Learn more, and purchase tickets, at http://www.designextravaganza.com
About Jon Kolko
Jon Kolko is the Founder and Director of Austin Center for Design, a progressive educational institution teaching interaction design and social entrepreneurship. His work focuses on bringing the power of design to social enterprises, with an emphasis on entrepreneurship and large-scale industry disruption. He has worked extensively with both startups and Fortune 500 clients, and he has a breadth of experience in consumer electronics, mobility, web services, supply chain management, demand planning, and customer-relationship management. He has worked with big-brand clients such as AT&T, HP, Nielsen, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Ford, IBM, Palm and other leaders of the Global 2000, as well as with startups like Socialware, Spredfast, Vast, Attivio, and more.