There are a lot of design events happening in Canada this Fall that have caught my eye. Here are three conferences/expos that I will be attending.
The World Design Summit – to be held October 16-25 at the Palais des Congrès (1001 Place Jean-Paul-Riopelle) in downtown Montréal – is a multi-faceted series of design events appealing to practising professional designers, manufacturers, entrepreneurs, design policy advocates, design critics, and design educators. The price is rather steep, but the experience promises to operate at a variety of scales. There will be a Summit gathering together representatives from International Design Organizations; a five-day Conference offering delegates a wide variety of presentations from both established and new voices in the world of design; an Exposition of innovative displays; and a series of intimate gatherings and workshops with design luminaries to be held off-site across Montreal.
The Conference features speakers and exhibitors from six disciplines: Architecture, Industrial Design, Graphic Design, Landscape Architecture, Interior Design and Urban Planning. In addition to its interdisciplinary configuration (as opposed to trans-disciplinary or non-disciplinary), I am interested in the strength of the event’s idea-based structure. It is imagined as a web of six multidisciplinary topics: Design for Earth; Design for Beauty; Design for Participation; Design for Sale; Design for Transportation; and, Design for Extremes. This simple foundation has the power to open up honest investigation design’s strengths and weaknesses, its opportunities and threats. More than a simple SWOT structure, however, this matrix both underpins and scaffolds thoughtful critical investigation about the field without the grandstanding that often comes with disruptive calls for complete overhaul. I am looking forward to grappling with many new ideas about how design can and should interface with our world.
The WDS Schedule is not yet confirmed, but when I’m in Montreal I anticipate attending a variety of sessions across the disciplinary spectrum. Montreal has long been the home of ICO-D, a non-governmental agency focusing on national design policy, design education, and the professional development of practicing designers around the world. With this well-established international focus, Montreal has much to offer delegates and speakers. I’m hoping that these diverse points of view will spark a robust and invigorating design discourse that will continue long after the event.
Closer to home is EditDX, a project of the Design Exchange being held on September 28 – October 8 at 21 Don Roadway (the old Unilever Detergent Factory in Toronto’s east end at the foot of the Don Valley Parkway). The building and its surrounding landscape are currently being redeveloped, and EditDX will be one of the first events to showcase this evolving Toronto district.
Ultimately, EditDX will be an immersive expo that explores how design, innovation and technology are making the world a better place – for all people. Calling itself a “Festival for the Future” this expo is inspired by the United Nations Development Program’s Sustainable Development Goals. It promises a dizzying assortment of subjects and types of experiences, but it seems to trade primarily on an optimistic and spectacular vision of what our world can be. Truthfully, at time of writing, the EditDX program is still being rolled out. What is clear is that this will be an expo for disruptors, as imagined by Shauna Levy, Bruce Mau, and their team of advisors. It builds up DESIGN as an answer to the world’s problems while at the same time breaking down existing barriers between design communities. The result is sure to be a lively mix of platforms for ideas and examples meant to motivate and astonish. My hope is that while disciplinary silos are being torn down, new communities will be built up in which people can learn to talk with each other rather than talk at each other. Proposing the UNDP’s ethical guidelines as impetus for working together is an inspired unifying device.
This affordable and accessible event will expose a broad-base of visitors to diverse displays. I’m looking forward to joining the crowd and gaining a renewed appreciation for the transformative power of (design) innovation by thinkers and makers from a wide variety of practices. The challenge will be to harness and sustain this transformative energy for the future.
Finally, on Friday, October 27, 2017 at the Design Exchange (234 Bay Street) in downtown Toronto, POP/CAN/CRIT 2017 will offer a more pointed discussion about how design discourse can be extended beyond a specialized audience. I attended POP/CAN/CRIT 2016 last year in Ottawa. That event brought together many of Canada’s leading critical architectural voices to discuss and debate the current state, effectiveness, and future potentials of a professional criticism intended for the general public. (video clip here) POP/CAN/CRIT 2017 will focus on marketing and promotion of architecture. The list of speakers includes critics, photographers, marketing and communication specialists, architects and educators. After attending two super-sized expos highlighting big ideas, it will be refreshing to consider the mechanisms of communication used by the design community. Still and moving images, words and sensations, stories and histories – all are techniques and technologies that support our critical interaction with the built and designed environment. Perhaps it will be this focus on communication that will chart a community-based, transformative, and sustainable path for the future.
In any case – from my view, it’s going to be a very stimulating couple of months!
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