Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Next, Please! A review of the 2007 AIGA Next conference, Part II

[This is the second part of a three part post about the Next AIGA conference. Written by our kick-ass guest blogger Brian E. Smith who is the Associate Art Director of the Visual Arts Press and friend of pica and pixel]

     The next day, Janine Benyus lectured about how nature’s preexisting design structures can help design. Her organization, Biomimicry, pairs designers with biologists. Together they discover and learn from nature in order to apply natural structures to the products they create. Many of these design adaptations foster more sustainable solutions for the end product. The design solutions she presented use more natural power (i.e. wind, solar), and as a result, use less fossil fuel. The audience and I was awed at the possibilities. We realized that the ability of man to look inward toward nature will solve many of the looming challenges ahead.

     Following this dramatic presentation came a less serious one by Paul Budnitz of Kid Robot. These two lectures couldn’t be more different, but Budnitz’s presentation wasn’t any less important. Budnitz creates addictive limited-edition toys that everyone including my 35 year-old wife collects. Budnitz told us that creativity is given to us when we are little and then swiftly taken away by our parents when they tell us to stop doing things that annoy them. By learning to be good, and not play with our food, we learn sub-consciously that having fun is frowned upon. The creative block is a symptom of this problematic way in which we have learned to exist. He said to get past this, we need to start doing things that may make us feel a little uncomfortable. It turns out all those food fights I enjoyed so much weren’t so bad after all. Take that Ms. Griffin (my 1st grade teacher)!

     Probably the only presentation that fully embodied the Next theme was Marian Bantjes. Her mesmerizing presentation consisted of still and moving images that perfectly complimented the verbal inflections of her voice. She spoke with both confidence, and naïveté. She told us her story of moving from typesetter to graphic designer, to quitting her design practice in search of getting something more out of life and her career. She took the leap that most of us want to take, and many of us never will. She persevered through failures, and near defeat,to become one of the more unique voices in design today. Even with all her success, she is beginning to ask what is next. What happens once you have achieved what you set out to achieve? Is this a more scary notion that setting out to achieve it in the first place?

     Christoph Niemann, the genius illustrator who has contributed so much to the reemergence of quality illustration, gave a presentation of his new book The Police Cloud. This beautiful book is a sweet story about a cloud struggling to find its identity in a world that doesn’t know what to do with him. It is a perfect metaphor for children who feel out of sorts. He is a great example of someone who has moved beyond illustrating someone else’s ideas and towards authoring his own work.

     Momus (a.k.a Nick Currie) is clearly smarter than I will ever be, and wore a disarmingly awesome eye-patch. Unfortunately, he is bad at presentations. He brought up his blog on the gigantic screen in front of two thousand people and scrolled through it and babbled about his various blog topics. The posts reminded him of the topics he “planned” to discuss. He invents poetic terms for his ideas and asks whether digital “worlds” will replace the more tactile relationships we with actual objects. This is a scary prospect for someone like me who enjoys tactility and texture. Either way, he is wildly inventive and thoughtful in a non-linear way. One day when I feel my brain is functioning flawlessly I will visit his blog.
     After all the presentations were done there was a Happy Hour to drink and chat with friends and colleagues in preparation for the big Design Observer party at the Milk Bar.
     The Design Observer Party was crowded, but full of life. My friend’s perceptions of designers as “stiff” were unfounded due to the large number of people heavly dancing till the wee hours of the morning. I was more of a spectator taking it all in. It was awesome to see everyone enjoying themselves including a young couple making out on the dance floor. Exchange of bodily fluids aside, I got to spend time hanging out with friends and meeting new ones. When I complimented the party DJ Gary Hustwit, director of the Helvetica documentary on his musical choice of Wire, it turned out that he was actually playing Gang of Four. I was a little embarrassed, but this seems like an honest mistake since it has been a few years since I actually listened to either of these bands. I left the club alone and wasn’t sure exactly how to get back to my hotel. I eventually asked some people leaving the club and they offered to give me a ride. They ended up being local Denver designers from Art & Anthropology, who designed the AIGA NEXT identity, which is really a whole different story that I won’t get into here.

1 comment:

jemma said...

In addition to being the founder of the Biomimicry Institute, Janine Benyus is also the co-founder of the Biomimicry Guild, the Innovation Consultancy for Bio-Inspired Design.