Every month or so, a diverse group of Baltimoreans gather to talk about design of all kinds. In the past, these Design Conversations, have focused on sustainability, food, and bikes, but the most recent conversation was about invention. Design writer Elizabeth Evitts Dickinson MC'd the event, which featured an eclectic lineup of speakers who talked about how to spark those ever-elusive eureka moments.
Neuroscientist Charles Limb started the night by presenting his research about the brain's relationship to creativity and jazz. Another speaker, David Peloff, from Johns Hopkins Center for Technology in Education, talked about a pilot program where high school students use gaming and simulation technology to learn math, science and literacy. Both brought fresh perspectives to the conversation. Click their names to watch videos of them describing their research.
The design-focused talk of the night came from Ellen Lupton, design luminary and curator at the Cooper-Hewitt Nation Design Museum, and product designer and teacher Inna Alesina. They introduced their new book, Exploring Materials: Creative Design For Everyday Objects.
Their book, published by Princeton Architectural Press, is divided into five sections that cover topics like: how to get inspired by materials, how to use materials to solve design problems, and how to transform prototypes into sellable products. Another section of the book reminds designers to make a positive impact on the world by considering topics like sustainability, accessibility and social responsibility. This theme appears throughout the book since many of the products are made from repurposed materials.
The largest section of the book is a gallery of products that are organized by the material they are created from. Cardboard, felt, foam, mesh and yarn are some of the 29 materials that illustrate some new and unexpected inventions. This is a good book for students, educators, designers, and those like to make and tinker with objects.
Lupton and Alesina spent most of their time leading a 10-minute workshop where participants were given cereal boxes, straws, bubble wrap, yarn, and rubber bands to invent products that can "beat the summer heat." Most participants made some kind of fan but nobody made the same kind of fan. The results demonstrated how the same raw materials can lead to many different innovations.
This was the 18th Design Conversation since they started in 2008. The events are sponsored by D:center Baltimore, which has "spurred creative projects across the city through a number of collaborations born at the event[s]." Check out their website to learn more about this multidisciplinary group and to keep current with the conversation.
Event Photos by Marian Glebes