With its roots as the annual meeting for the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA), the International Design Conference (IDC) has evolved into something much bigger. Today IDC is a global platform for amplifying the unique and bold voice of industrial design while celebrating the deep interconnection with other disciplines.
Returning virtually Sept. 22-23, 2021, the 24-hour IDC is packed with skill-building workshops, panel discussions, keynotes, networking opportunities, and breakout sessions for designers of all kinds, including industrial, UX, UI, graphic, branding, packaging, service, transportation, CMF, fashion, footwear, furniture, and social impact designers, with sessions for design managers, researchers, futurists, educators, and students alike.
Running on six tracks and incorporating IDSA's annual Education Symposium with the theme, "Breaking Down Barriers: Fostering collaborations for systemic change," IDC 2021 centers on forward-thinking solutions: rebuilding in the face of a crippling pandemic, incorporating DEI into emerging tech and hiring practices, and capitalizing on the technologies that designers and business leaders need to master now to drive innovation.
This year's IDC is open to a diversity of designers and creatives from around the world, with 50+ sessions led by global innovators at Amazon, IDEO, Samsung, and more.
The annual conference's start was much smaller, and much less high-tech, yet steeped in the IDC's continued goals of providing inspiration, challenging assumptions, and advancing the conversation about what design can contribute to the world's future.
56 Years of Bringing Designers Together
The first national meeting of IDSA was held September 30 through October 2, 1965, in Oakbrook, IL. This event included panel discussions on "Today's Design Education," "Designer's Responsibility to Management" and "Industrial Design: 1975." Famed designer Charles Eames delivered the keynote address.
Over time, these national meetings turned into national conferences, and expanded to welcome more designers whose disciplines overlap with and influence industrial design, both on stage and in the audience.
Attendees of these conferences can attest to many a memorable moment over the years, such as the Northeast blackout that happened during the 2003 event in New York City, and the start of a little company called Airbnb during the 2007 event in San Francisco.
Airbnb co-founders Joe Gebbia and Brian Chesky were living together in San Francisco at the time and anticipated a wave of conference attendees. As the story goes, Gebbia came up with the idea to rent out three air mattresses in their apartment, to raise money for Chesky's half of the rent. "We called it the Airbed and Breakfast," said Chesky in a commencement address at Rhode Island School of Design in 2017. "Three designers stayed with us that weekend…and with that, Airbnb was born."
As Paul Hatch, FIDSA wrote in the Summer 2018 issue of IDSA's INNOVATION magazine, the seed for this IDC rebrand was planted in 2015. Then-IDSA President John Barratt, FIDSA asked Hatch and Jeevak Badve, FIDSA to analyze the IDSA conference and what it could become. From these analyses and discussions, a new kind of gathering emerged: "a more inclusive, relevant, and cross-disciplinary event," wrote Hatch, that embraced the expansion of the industrial design profession and became an international platform for exchanging ideas across all areas of design.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated a virtual IDCfor the first time ever. Nevertheless, it was a hit with attendees and welcomed more participants from more countries than ever before.
Whether you're a design student, educator, executive, or designer at any level, you'll walk away from IDC 2021 with plenty of inspiration and an abundance of tools you can immediately implement into your practice.
Takeaways include, but are not limited to:
- How to improve your design process by identifying three killers of your ideas, and arming yourself with nine weapons to fight them off
- How to design more equitable and innovative creative teams, with tactical solutions to apply to hiring, internal reviews, meetings, critiques, and delivery
- How to achieve carbon neutrality in makerspaces with a circular design toolkit
- How to best market yourself and your work through design journalism
- How to anticipate, understand, and forecast trends for application in design
- How to safely and ethically navigate design with biometrics
- How to leverage 3D printing, NFTs, and blockchain technology
- How to harness technological advancements to build better software for the underserved
- How to enhance diversity in design education and practice
"For over 20 years, I have gained so much from this annual gathering and got to know so many awesome people." - Surya Vanka, multiple-time IDC attendee and presenter
"The IDC encapsulates what a contemporary design conference should look and feel like. It is an integrated blend of tech, traditional ID-ers, UX/ UI designers, graphic designers, and educators within a safe space to have thoughtful conversation." - Excerpt from the Core77 IDC 2019 recap
"IDSA seriously set the standard for online events that are engaging, diverse, thought-provoking, entertaining, and seamless, without skipping a beat on the soul of what these gathering are." - Spencer Nugent, virtual IDC 2020 emcee
Follow IDC on socials @intldesignconf and use the hashtag #IDC24HrLive.
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