To those of us who didn't go to school to be "creatives," the vocabulary of design reduces itself quickly to vague, dissociative jargon. Case in point: ad agency AKQA, who will present, with OMSI, a one-day "design challenge" for 10-to-14-year-olds at this year's Design Week Portland. The agency has asked the gathered tweens to form an independent agency called "SOLVE" which "encourages the use of design thinking to reimagine the way humans coexist with the environment."
This week, some of the TEDx-watching know-it-alls in the Adobe Creative Cloud will deconstruct the word "design"—and ask what it can possibly be worth in our divided, suffering, doomed, desperate America.
This year, Design Week Portland's most exciting events tackle the one thing every participant will probably have in common: social responsibility, the clawing desire to do one's part in addressing the crises we all feel suddenly faced with.
The discussion will range from literal (drawing through working definitions of "sustainable design") to sensory and ephemeral (an experimental musical art installation that calls into question what it means to listen). There will, of course, be plenty of difficult, ugly, fun and confusing ground covered in between. Aaaah, 2017.
What Will We Do After the Protest?
In critique of what he's astutely named "a movement movement," Charlie Brown of brand agency Context Partners poses the questions every "woke," digitally literate millennial should be asking themselves: Did my Instagram of the Women's March do anything to effect change? Why are my friends still talking about that comment Sean Spicer tweeted @ Dippin' Dots in 2010? Promising to reveal "the three must-haves in all movements," Brown will start a discussion about activism versus slacktivism, and how designers can work to effect tangible change. Revolution Hall, 1300 SE Stark St., designweekportland.com. 1 pm Friday, April 21. Included in general admission pass ($395).
Design Thinking for Social Impact Panel
The phrase "human-centered" gets thrown around a lot, especially in design circles, but this panel presents an opportunity to hear from professionals whose work has been focused on social impact. Exhibit A is panelist Cat Goughnour, whose Portland gentrification mitigation project Right 2 Root redevelops publicly owned land according to the needs and wishes of its long-standing residents, particularly the black community of North and Northeast Portland. Xplane, 411 SW 6th Ave., 503-548-4343. 7 pm Wednesday, April 26. $5.
Sustainable Design Is…
Another "what the fuck are we actually talking about when we say these words" kind of event, this talk admits right away that "sustainability" is, of course, defined differently by everyone. And yet, any cycle-based practices of creation and consumption that can be broken down and used across multiple design platforms will be broken down here. Steph Koehler of design firm Let's CoCreate will propose and draw out several patterned alternatives to the "take, break and make" American production framework. Hatch Innovation, 2420 NE Sandy Blvd, 503-452-6898. 2 pm Sunday, April 23. Sold out.
Place-Based Making: NW Vernacular Design
Portland's WildCraft Studio, beloved offerer of classes in everything from mushroom foraging to huarache sandal-making, examines the cultural connotations of being a regional artist. There are the Portlandia-backed stereotypes—hippie-dippy herbs, handmade organic artisanal everything—but what real opportunity is there to reflect on our physical landscape when identifying as a PNW craftsperson? And what role do the Northwest's Native traditions play in the art made here? WildCraft Studio and Fieldwork Design, 601 SE Hawthorne Blvd., 503-360-1437. 7 pm Wednesday, April 26. $5.
Music for an Empty Space and a Full Mind
Sort of a James Turrell light-and-color art concept with music added to the mix, this monthlong installation at One Grand Gallery is the brainchild of independent experimental record label Sounds et al, sonic artist Ben Glas and visual artist Tyler Snazelle. Designed to "question alternate modes of listening and experiencing," the listener will move through a fluctuating soundscape that changes physically as it changes sonically, and be called to examine the most basic relationship people have to the designed objects around them: the experience of those objects via their five senses. One Grand Gallery, 1000 E Burnside St., onegrandgallery.com. Through April 30. Free.