All photos by Catalina Kulczar-Marin
Like with any other conference aimed at sparking innovation and creativity, you're going to leave the event with too much information to process. (Moan and groan about buzzwords all you want, but at the end of the day "inspired" is the only way to describe it.) Which, of course, were my feelings concerning PSFK 2014, a one-day conference titled "Connecting the Unexpected." On April 11, the staff of PSFK hosted an auditorium full of marketers, designers, entrepreneurs and other creative types at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York. For the sake of Internet brevity and my own sanity, I'll break up a few of my favorite take-aways in accordance with the three speaker categories: Keynote, Spotlight and Refresh. I hope that you might find some of it—yup—inspiring.
Marc Kushner of Architizer
The day got off to a great start. The first presenter—and possibly the most interesting to me—was Marc Kushner, CEO and co-founder of Architizer. While his message was strong on its own, it might have been the easy delivery and candid approach he took to presenting it. Nothing seemed over-rehearsed and instead of cramming a career's worth of work into 20 minutes (speakers were allotted 10- and 20-minute presentation times), he walked us all through one design his firm HWKN took on: "Wendy," the 2012 winner of the MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program. He addressed the topic of creating things with personality and pushed his message even further through presenting the thought process behind one of his own successful designs. (His words: "They tweeted at her. They added her on Facebook.")
By taking us through the design process by means of various sketches and photographs of the finished product, Kushner successfully (at least in my instance) reminded us all that architecture is an interactive part of society. My favorite words from the entire event came from Kushner: "Math is intimidating. Architecture shouldn't be intimidating."
Keith Yamashita also served up a noteworthy performance and controlled his presentation (which you can view here) from his phone, which was pretty nifty. His focus was the importance of teamwork in discovering with a successful solution—design-specific or not—and took us through a few steps, or lessons: "Start from a pure place—with equal parts empathy and aspiration," "never delegate understanding," "virtually all acts of greatness are the work of an ensemble" and "greatness is a choice," to name a few.
Brooklyn Boulders's "Cultural Chameleon" Jesse Levin shared his stories of volunteering in disaster areas and drew similarities with the atmosphere and team he has built in Brooklyn. Hiring music acts and housing graffiti artists in exchange for wall decorations are only a few things he has utilized to create a collaborative space—not to mention he's created a co-working space inside of the Brooklyn Boulders gym, complete with standing desks and pull-up bars (no joke). While he wasn't speaking about design per se, the notion that taking creative leaps keeps ideas fresh applies to any domain.
The Spotlight speakers may have shown off the most variety in terms of design work. Another noteworthy presentation was from We:eX founder, Billie Whitehouse. It may have been her quick start into the world of vibrating underwear (created for long distance couples and others of the like), but her drive to create wearables that don't look like wearables resounded with me. There's just something about bulky watches and strange-looking eyewear that doesn't sit well, style-wise. And as strongly as she started off, she left us wanting more with the mention of her newest design—a jacket with GPS built it that gently guides you in the right direction (sans iPhone) via shoulder "taps." Sold.
This section of speakers was stacked with young designers, including Chris Curro and Henry Wang, the Cooper Union students behind the Rapid Packing Container. Aside from breaking down the design process and class assignment that brought on the ingenious concept, they also set up a demo space for attendees to see the product in action.
Following suit in the young designer trend was Will Berman—the teenaged founder of Unwashed Denim, who runs his business from his bedroom. While he didn't go too deep into his design process, he did mention that he's been hand-stitching and selling his products since the ripe age of 15. If that's not worth a deeper look, I don't know what is.
Left to right: Scott Thrift, founder of ThePresent; Emilie Baltz, food designer; and Abe Burmeister, founder of Outlier
"Refresh" sessions were lead by speakers who have presented at previous PSFK conferences and gave a quick update on their work since their last appearance. Among the line-up were Scott Thrift of ThePresent, food designer Emilie Baltz, Abe Burmeister of Outlier, Ricky Van Veen of College Humor and Rodrigo Niño of The Prodigy Network.
While these presentations were short and sweet, I did have a favorite: Emilie Baltz has a collaboration coming up with Bompass & Parr. She may not have been able to share many details, but considering her past work with food design (remember Lickestra?), we can't wait to see what she comes up with next.
Alongside the speakers, PSFK brought on Jon Burgerman—the "guerilla doodler" behind those gory subway ad mods (titled: "Head Shots") that've been making the rounds on the Internet. He created a giant outline of a doodle for the attendees to color in. And what's more fun than a bunch of adults trying their hands at coloring within the lines? Watching them try to follow a color template while doing so.
It was a lot to take in—but aren't the best conferences? Check out the tweets from the event by searching #PSFK2014 on Twitter.