San Francisco Design Week Goes Digita

On Monday, June 15, San Francisco Design Week began in Alana Washington’s home. Wearing a crewneck top and white headphones, the SF Design Week advisor and senior design program manager at Uber Freight addressed the nearly 600 attendees who tuned in for her opening keynote address. Viewers’ comments populated a sidebar in real time, multiplying tenfold when Washington’s words struck a chord.

This event arrived at an extraordinary time. The U.S. Is still struggling to contain a global pandemic; in-person events seem a relic of the past. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others have galvanized the fight against police brutality and systemic oppression with renewed fervor. Amid it all, would a design festival—even one with a legacy such as this one—feel appropriate?

Rather than provide a rundown of the event’s programming, Washington offered six tips for turning one’s grief into action. One piece of counsel: “The time for protopian visioning is now.” Coined by futurist Kevin Kelly, a protopian society demonstrates incremental progress toward a more just and equitable future—an alternative to the impossible-to-realize utopia. As stewards of future visioning, Washington noted, designers have unique means to enact change and be receptive to it. “This is SF Design Week,” she said firmly and clearly. “It is an opportunity for creators to connect, sharpen your skill sets, and reflect.”

The 14th iteration of the Bay Area’s annual festival—which will run through June 25 with events featuring the likes of Ken Fulk, Yves Béhar, Leo Marmol, and AD’s own West Coast editor Mayer Rus—looks a bit different this year. For the first time, it’s online-only. Webinars and virtual tours will be hosted by designers in many disciplines: architecture and interior design, user experience and branding, even fashion and interactive design. With a theme of “Intentional Distortions,” the festival has challenged its more than 150 participating design firms to provide inventive solutions to a world undergoing shifts that will surely be felt long after the news cycle fades.

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On Monday, interior designer Gary Hutton—in conversation with design editor Zahid Sardar—presented his favorite projects, design solutions, and inspirations. (Art-world fans may know Hutton from his work on the many homes of collector Chara Schreyer.) Hutton spoke frankly, admitting that minimalism doesn’t suit the needs of most domestic lives, especially while individuals are spending more time than ever at home. “I’m a modernist, not a minimalist,” he said. “Why are we held captive to a concept that doesn’t really have anything to do with us personally?” Sardar will interview other architects and designers throughout SF Design Week, including Henrybuilt founder Scott Hudson and architect Takashi Yanai of Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects on June 19 and June 24, respectively. 

Another conversation tackled the digital realm. Two experts in the field discussed the experience and ethics of video game design: Morgan Tucker (senior director of product and design at Roblox) and Robin Hunicke (CEO of game studio Funomena, and known for her work on the games Journey, MySims, Boom Blox, and Glitch). The pair noted that with the appropriate tools, even those designing in the digital world can foster more inclusive, safe, and engaging environments. “When you think about inclusivity, you have to think about what you don’t see,” Hunicke noted.

pA Palo Alto home designed by Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects. Zahid Sardar will interview partner Takashi Yanai as...

A Palo Alto home designed by Ehrlich Yanai Rhee Chaney Architects. Zahid Sardar will interview partner Takashi Yanai as part of the programming.Photo: Matthew Millman / Courtesy of SF Design Week

On Tuesday, Maurice Woods—cofounder of Inneract Project and principal design lead at Microsoft—took the proverbial stage, delivering an impactful presentation on racial equity in the field. Woods founded Inneract Project in 2004 to provide black and brown youth opportunities to explore design. Serving mostly middle and high school–age students, IP provides free design courses, mentorship, and importantly, an introduction to a field to which many might not have access. Beyond the quantifiable metrics, Woods hopes to empower youth so that they leave IP more confident than when they began.

Woods has made it a mission to address the design industry’s pipeline problem. In order for real change to happen, he posits that the solution must be long-term, not something that can be corrected with a few diverse hires. “I work with a tech company; we work with data,” Woods said. “You have to look at this on a bigger scale. It’s going to take more time, it’s going to be a bigger investment, and people have to be in it for the long haul.”

Source: togel online via pulsa