This week, at Bend Design Conference, creative people came together to share how they think and shape the world – I found a vast wealth of knowledge. I heard and spoke with people as they shared convincing wisdom on how design is actively forming our future for good.
The below ideas started some of the most astonishing conversations I had over the last two days:
1 . Create Space for Dignity
John Cary, the author of “Design for Good” talked about design in public places. At the core, he shared that design can treat people with dignity. He said “dignity in design is like law in medicine” and “good design is a right” and “dignity (is) the state or quality of being worthy of honor or respect.” His perspective on dignity is compelling, a thought worth exploring in whatever work you do.
2. Acknowledge The Past
The architectural designer, writer, and activist Bryan C. Lee spoke with beautifully specific and compassionate language on power, privilege, and culture. He spoke in the context of space and places and shared that we have to acknowledge our past so we can move forward. He also shared how “design can serve as protest.”
3. Always Be Observing
If we want to change the world around us for the better, we need to open our eyes, start looking at others, work for understanding, and think in terms of hypotheses. Ryan Summers is a creative director at Digital Kitchen. He talked about applying the scientific method to design. One thing that stuck out to me was when he said we should “always be observing.” It’s a call to action that connects us to others.
He also had a creative workshop to build pitch decks, he came around and red-penciled all over peoples pitches deck — dulling out creative direction knowledge!
Put Questions DIFFERENT Contexts – Individual, Group, Collective
All these ideas (dignity, acknowledgment, observation, design as a right) can seem lofty – far away from practical actions.
Half the people I heard speak the last two days shared ideas in a way that was very intentional, they asked questions in many contexts. For instance, Tanner Woodford the executive director of the Chicago Design Museum asked a thought-provoking question – “what is worth preserving.” He then contextualizes his question by asking what was worth preserving to an individual, to his museum (a group) than to our culture (the collective).
Exploring questions in various contexts allows us to find profound threads, clues, and hints about new insights.
With any question, we can look at it from the level of individual, group or collective culture and find different ways to engage each.
Grounding Inspiration in Individual Action
Leaving the event, I’m left thinking about how design can effect change in the world. But having lofty ideas about doing good leaves me to wrestle with questions on a personal level as well.
I wonder – If I want to treat people with dignity in my work, I need to start first with my relationships.
What good are all these design ideas if I can’t first apply them at the individual level.
Design is the manipulation of form and content and content.
Design is intent.
Design needs dignity.
Also published on Medium.