is participating in this year’s Hopscotch Design Festival
, an event in its third year that attracts designers from multiple industries into the heart of downtown Raleigh ahead of the annual Hopscotch Music Festival.
Throughout the day, nearly 350 designers from a wide swath of industries heard speakers and panel discussions about the latest innovations in design thinking and emerging academic research in transition design. They also played in creative installations at CAM Raleigh and other venues throughout downtown Raleigh.
Organizer (and New Kind
Chief Design Officer) Matthew Muñoz
kicked off the event by sharing the stated purpose of the event with the audience: to create a space that breaks from the normal routine and creates collaborative collisions among creative professionals in the region.
Here are nine themes that emerged on Thursday
The Triangle’s Entrepreneurial Economy Still Lacks Diversity
The early afternoon panel discussion centered around the lack of diversity in the entrepreneurial economy of the Triangle, after Dr. Tashni-Ann Dubroy, president of Shaw University, presented data on diversity within the tech sector. She also detailed how Shaw is addressing this gap through partnerships with Raleigh’s employers.
"Once we determine that equity matters, we can lift as we climb,” said Dubroy. Locally, Shaw University can and must be an anchor within the community and also a connector for its students and Raleigh’s economy.
, co-founder of HQ Communities
and Forward Impact
, highlighted the important work that the Triangle has already undertaken to bridge connections between entrepreneurial hot spots and too-often underrepresented neighborhoods. Still, the Warehouse District in Raleigh is not very far from Southeast Raleigh, yet, is vastly different in the location’s appeal to entrepreneurs, Gergen pointed out.
Despite these challenges, both Gergen and Dr. Dubroy noted that Raleigh and the Triangle are working to design solutions, which would give the Triangle the opportunity to leap into the “Top 5” entrepreneurial economies in the country in the near future.
"Progress is only sustainable if it is inclusive," said Gergen, reiterating the challenge to design and connect systems that are equitable and for the benefit of the entire region.
The key to this challenge? Creating and designing physical, lasting connection between communities in geographic and socio-cultural spaces.
Guys, the NC Museum of Art is REALLY COOL
Have you noticed the long, slow, meticulously designed transformation of the NC Museum of Art in the past 25 years?
Dan Gottlieb, director of design, planning and museum park, showcased the physical transformation of the museum property, infrastructure, landscape and access points throughout the past three decades, all of which is leading up to the launch of a fully-integrated, redesigned facility in October 2016.
"We too often put emphasis on the product,” said Gottlieb,” It's our responsibility to act ethically and with compassion." Doing so, said Gottlieb, ensures that spaces meant for public benefit can be accessed and enjoyed by the entire community, not just the niche subset of the stereotypical “museum guest.”
Gottlieb’s talk took general concepts raised earlier in the day and presented specific examples in how intentional, community-focused design could create meaningful and lasting change within an institution, for the benefit of the entire community.
Stop Complaining. Make Something Better.
Keynote speaker Tina Roth Eisenberg framed her talk as 10 life lessons that she wished she could teach a younger version of herself. Number three on her list, “Stop complaining. Make something better,” resonated with the audience, so much so that it was still being discussed at the conclusion of the day.
One of the themes of the Design Festival, according to organizer Marie Schacht, is to provide participants an opportunity to engage with other creative professionals to consider the possibilities of leveraging design in order to make the world a better place. This message and this theme were present throughout many of the presentations, and Eisenberg’s tweet-worthy line hammered this home.
Design is Relevant for Everyday Life—and to Create Change
We experience good and bad design every single day. Good design often goes unnoticed; bad design creates inbound customer service requests. Great design is memorable, surprising and unique, like a hotel offering guests an instant poolside popsicle hotline, complete with an English butler delivering your flavor of popsicle on a chilled silver platter.
Keynote speaker Dan Heath asked the audience not to share the underlying research specifics of his talk ahead of a forthcoming publication (his fourth, in collaboration with his brother, Chip Heath), yet it centered on design as a creative mechanism for memory retention.
Terry Irwin, dean of the school of design at Carnegie Mellon University, gave audience members a rapid-paced history of design principles, showcasing the transitions from pure product design to service design and now to transition design, arguing that design principles just might be overlapping into all aspects of our daily lives, including difficult systems-level change.
Be Intentional When Saying “Yes”
Another lesson from Eisenberg to her younger self: be careful in what you commit to, in what you say “yes” to in your life—for once you agree to do something, the expectation is that you will fully commit yourself and your being to it to bring it about in the best possible way.
As Mahatma Ghandi said, “A 'No' uttered from the deepest conviction is better than a 'Yes' merely uttered to please, or worse, to avoid trouble.”
Eisenberg referenced the idea of living a life by design, and the power to choose the opportunities in which you say yes—and the opportunities in which you say no, with conviction—as an important lesson that young designers and entrepreneurs ought to take away from the event.
Your Peak Experience Matters—More Than You Realize
What audience members will remember from today’s keynote address from Heath is an exercise that he tested for the first time at Hopscotch: designing a flippant, slightly irreverent experience for an audience member’s mother.
Heath asked audience members to spend just five minutes, and to allow themselves to be a little silly, to create a meaningful and lasting experience for a stranger. In this instance, the stranger was Phyllis, the mother of an audience member who has anxiously been planning a trip to Poland and was in need of reassurance in the final days leading up to her flight.
Research from behavioral economists Barbara Frederickson and Daniel Kahneman demonstrates that the peak experience and the ending experience matter far more than we might otherwise expect, when we reflect and remember past events (called the Peak-end rule).
Given that this is true, this changes how we might think of service design and delivery. There’s all of a sudden far more “junk data” that influences our design decisions. How might this change how an entrepreneur thinks about customer service, or website design, or email communication?
Systems Change Takes Resources
Long-term systemic change is possible, however, it takes considerable resources and a willingness to fail multiple times. Shana Overdorf of Raleigh-Wake Partnership to End Homelessness presented data used in reporting homelessness metrics to Housing and Urban Development (HUD) compared to shelter usage data and housing stock data, demonstrating a clear need to consider a full system redesign that might enable better service delivery to a population that is often marginalized.
It’s not all doom-and-gloom, said Overdorf, as long-term investments in community building, relationship development and cross-agency collaboration have resulted in the successful design of physical spaces that can be leveraged in order to produce better outputs than we’ve seen in the past.
This effort also carries weight in the food production and farming system, according to Erin White, the founder of Community Food Lab, a design firm that works to design systems that deliver better health outcomes for communities in urban, suburban and rural areas, through rigorous landscape and infrastructure design based in community connections and relationships.
"If you design for food and food systems, you design for healthy communities," said White.
This work takes resources: time, human capital, financial investment, community input, trust and patience. Yet, if we are to create long-term systemic change, said White, our systems must focus on design from the outset.
Want Change? Start Where You Are.
What tickles your heart? Eisenberg introduced this question, showing a video of Steven Spielberg’s inspirational “Listen for the Whisper” speech, to the audience, urging attendees that if they wanted change, to listen to the whispers that tickled their heart.
This theme was echoed in talks throughout the day: if you want change, start where you are.
Start in your community, by working on what interests you the most. What challenges do you face? How might you flip those challenges to find creative solutions? When we turn challenges—individual, business, societal—into opportunities for creative and playful design, we just might find solutions that work to create a just, better world.