The historic SCAD Trustee Theatre where panels and lectures took place.The historic SCAD Trustee Theatre where panels and lectures took place.
The Design Ethos: Vision Reconsidered 2012 kicked off yesterday morning with Do-ference, the first part of the two-part conference focused on less talking, more doing.
Scott Boylston, a Professor of Design for Sustainability at Savannah College of Art and Design, founded Design Ethos a year and a half ago with the goal of having a conference that simultaneously offered participants the opportunity to take action.
A sign at a preschool on Waters Avenue, thanking the Do-ference participants.
Bringing together speakers, students, designers, and other locals, the Do-ference divided these participants into six 'teams' who, over the course of the next three days, will strategize ways to empower existing assets along Waters Avenue in Savannah, GA. Each group was assigned an area of focus, taken from the City of Savannah's Waters Avenue Revitalization Initiative: Empowering Community, Empowering Business, Empowering Youth, Empowering Culture, Empowering Place, & Empowering Renewal. In each group, roles were assigned for design voices, a regional voice, municipal voice, as well as a community leader.
Meadowlark Studio and Indigo Sky Gallery Community. Jerome Meadows and some of the planter installations. Team Empowering Culture, brainstorming in Meadowlark Studio.
I joined the Empowering Culture group, which met in artist (and RISD Alumnus!) Jerome Meadow's Meadowlark Studio, housed in a historic icehouse off of Waters Avenue. The stunning studio has an adjacent gallery, Indigo Sky Gallery Community, also run by Meadows, which serves as a community space for events and exhibitions. Given the task to initiate a unique, yet sustainable system that celebrates the culture of Waters Avenue, our group immediately set to work brainstorming and discussing various approaches to the problem.
Kate Bordine talking about the planters in the community.Kate Bordine talking about the planters in the community. A walking tour of Waters Avenue.A walking tour of Waters Avenue.
To further expand our scope into the culture of Waters Avenue, SCAD Graduate Candidate Kate Bordine took us on a tour of the street and gave us some insight via a project she had been working on in collaboration with Meadows. Bordine's fascination with understanding the local community's needs, led her to take an interest in a series of abandoned planters around the area. Categorizing them from 'orphaned' to 'loved,' Bordine and crew would pick up trash and leave signs behind, like the one below asking "What do you love most about this place?"
What do you love most about this place? Installation sign.
Bordine then took us to another project on Waters Avenue called "Before I Die." Initially a project done by artist Candy Chang in February 2011, Chang with the help of friends and neighbors, turned the side of an abandoned home into a public chalkboard and invited people to share their dreams. The project quickly spread to other cities, including this wall on Waters Avenue as well as another on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd.
Writing on the Before I Die... wall. Search #bidsav for tweets about the project.
As the first day of the Do-ference drew to a close, the Ethos Conference, sponsored by SCAD Graphic Design, was just beginning. Easily the highlight of the first day, David Berman gave a powerful lecture titled "Design and Responsibility: Making the Planet Your Client." A Canadian communication designer and author of Do Good Design, Berman spoke in the SCAD Trustees Theater, on how "the client has become the planet."
Berman epitomized what Design Ethos was all about, asking the audience of designers, thinkers, and makers—"Now that we can do anything, what will we do?" The answer to this question lay in a series of examples, both of good and bad design, which Berman addressed throughout his lecture.
A self sustaining project that kept people employed in their own communities.
"We think about our legacies," Berman told the crowd. "Personally, I want to think that I left things just a little bit better than I found them. Perhaps a lot better." Berman spoke about his "Do Good Design Pledge," essentially a Hippocratic oath for designers to commit themselves to not work on projects that worsen the world and harm others or the environment.
A guessing game with Berman—one of these is not like the others.
In a following Q&A, a SCAD student asked Berman where he thought young designers should be focusing their energy if they hope to positively impact the world. "Universal Design," Berman answered immediately. To prove this, Berman listed a series of disorders and handicaps, asking the audience to stand at the end if they identified with any of the before mentioned. The result was a nearly unanimously standing audience. "Look to your right, look to your left. These are the people you are designing for," Berman told the audience. The audience left the lecture inspired and motivated to use their skills to "do good."
The first day of Design Ethos ended with an opening reception hosted at the Gutstein Gallery, fit with an open bar of organic ciders and locally harvested honeycomb.
Tomorrow promises a morning Keynote with Ezio Manzini as well as panel sessions featuring "Do-ers" ranging from Liz Ogbu to Josh McManus and a film screening of "URBANIZED" directed by Gary Hustwit.
Design Ethos 2012 Do-ference Coverage
» A Conversation with Liz Ogbu
» Day One
» Day Two
» Day Three
» Spotlight on Scott Boylston, Founder