November 9th 2007
New York City

Design, Wit, and the Creative Act

Leveraging the power of humor towards great customer experiences

Ze Frank
Digital Age Satirist

As a designer, performer, and consultant, Ze Frank explores the ways that technology shapes the human experience. He has worked as a consultant on issues surrounding online community building in a number of large and intimidating offices, most of which are painted white and have more walls than doors. Ze frequently lectures about things that make him anxious, such as the creative process and airplane safety. As a designer he has won a number of awards that are written on heavy-weight paper and feature hand-written calligraphy. Ze continues to spend far too much time on his hobby:

Tobias Wong

Originally from Canada, Tobias Wong studied art at Cooper Union in New York City, where he graduated in sculpture. Veering across disciplines and materials, Wong has created an oeuvre that is immediately accessible, yet contentious. He pursues his own brand of conceptualism, the self-coined "Paraconceptual," and "Post-interesting," and uses design as a medium, as he says, to expose the similarities between art and design, rather than to blur their boundaries. Producing work more often for high design showrooms than art galleries, Wong has received a glut of editorial praise in glossy design magazines that highlight the beauty of his objects, the cleverness of his actions, and ironically, Wong as an enfant terrible. Wong is the first to note that his work "continually questions the notion of authorship, the role of the artist and the value of art. [I am] uncomfortable with uniqueness and preciousness as well as ownership."

Wong's work is available and exhibited on an international level, from Colette in Paris to Comme des Garcons in Tokyo, Paul Smith in London to MoMA in Berlin and New York City, Art Basel and at Cappellini, Cooper Hewitt and the like

Paul Budnitz
Founder, Kidrobot

Paul Budnitz, has always had one foot in art and the other in technology. The son of a nuclear physicist and a social worker, Budnitz grew up in Berkeley, California, and began programming computers at an early age. By the age of 17 he was writing code for both safety analysis programs for nuclear power plants and video games. After that, he "made a resolution on the first day of college," he says, "not to do any more computer programming." He studied photography, sculpture, and film at Yale, earning a degree in Fine Art, with honors in 1990. His first feature-length film, 93 Miles from the Sun, won awards in Berlin. He sold two other films, Ultraviolet (a short film) and 93 Million Miles from the Sun (a feature), and wrote another for award-winning Belgian director Koen Mortier entitled Kilroy.

About Kidrobot: Founded by designer Paul Budnitz in 2002, Kidrobot is the world's premier creator and retailer of limited edition art toys and apparel. The products sold at Kidrobot merge urban street trends and pop art to produce limited edition, collectible toys and apparel. Many Kidrobot products feature unique collaborations by famous artists with backgrounds in graffiti, fine art, industrial design, graphic design, illustration and music. Kidrobot operates three store-galleries, one at 126 Prince Street in SoHo, New York City, another at 1512 Haight Street in San Francisco and a third at 7972 Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles. Kidrobot products can also be found at n

Kelly Dobson

Kelly Dobson grew up in a junkyard. From the age of four she was doing odd jobs such as smashing windows and hauling machine parts from one area of the yard to another. Later, studying medicine and art, Dobson became focused on alternative approaches to machines approaching them as relational and reflective objects. Working in the realms of art, design, engineering and social and critical theory, she has developed the domain of Machine Therapy while earning a Masters of Science degree from MIT's Visual Studies Program in 2000 and a PhD from the MIT Media Lab in 2007.

Her current work combines research in digital signal processing and machine learning, technology and society studies, and art and therapy. She builds empathic machines such as Blendie , Wearable Body Organs such as ScreamBody, and organizes engagements with existing culturally implicated machines. She is currently a visiting assistant professor at Cornell University in the Department of Architecture, Art & Planning.

Steven Heller

Steven heller is a senior art director of the New York Times and the co-chair (with Lita Talarico) of the MFA Designer as Author Program at the School of Visual Arts. He recently co-founded (with Alice Twemlow) the MFA in Design Criticism at SVA. He is the editor of VOICE: The AIGA Journal of Design and The Nose (with Seymour Chwast). He is contributing editor to PRINT, ID, Eye, Baseline and a contributor to Metropolis, the New York Times Book Review, Varoom, and Grafik. He has edited, co-edited or authored over 100 books on design an popular culture, including "Paul Rand," "Merz to Emigre: Avant Garde Magazine Design of the Tweniteh Century," "Stylepedia: A Gude to Graphic Design Mannerisms, Quirks and Conceits," "Euro Deco: Graphic Design Between the Wars," "Anatomy of Design," "Design Literacy Second Edition," "The Education of a Photographer," "The Graphic Design Reader," "Graphic Wit: The Art of Humor in Design," and "Teaching Illustration." He is currently completing "Iron Fists: Branding the Totalitarian State" for Phaidon Press and is working on a biography of Alvin Lustig. His website is

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