The 2023 International Design Conference hosted by the Industrial Designers Society of America and held in the bustling city of New York was a true testament to the power of creativity, innovation and community. Co-created with the NYC design community and powered by NYC Chapter Chair Vincent Lin, this event served as a melting pot of the brightest minds in design, converging to discuss the future of design and its potential to address global challenges. It was as much a vibrant celebration of innovation and camaraderie as it was a stage for essential conversations about design's pivotal role in sculpting a resilient and sustainable future.
FINDING YOUR FLOW, TRUSTING YOUR INTUITION
The conference itself got off to an invigorating start with an insightful talk by Cormac Ó Conaire from PA Consulting. He explored the concept of staying in the 'flow', underscoring its potential to boost creative prowess. Cormac argued the value of pushing oneself to face challenges, which he outlined as key components in achieving a flow state. While he acknowledged that tools aren't indispensable to achieving flow, he suggested that they could enhance and sustain it. "Team flow is a unique state of mind," he noted - and the shared experience of the IDC, much like team flow, created a unique state of mind, fostering a heightened sense of engagement, collaboration, and innovation.
The conversation segued into a fascinating discussion led by Juliette Laroche and Ziyuan Zhu from IDEO about the potential of generative AI in product design. They envisioned a future where AI is applied to everyday objects, imbuing them with personality and interactivity. They explored how AI could be harnessed for material exploration, promising unexpected but beneficial outcomes. Afsin Mehnin from Card79 built on the intangible power of designers to harness these new tools, discussing the role of intuition in industrial design. He spoke about how intuition could be honed through experience and pattern recognition, and how physical creation was a unique form of learning and intuition.
SUSTAINABILITY AND REJUVENATION
The theme of sustainability was powerfully reinforced by Jarred Evans from PDR Consulting. Tackling the formidable challenge of achieving net zero in product design, he emphasized the crucial significance of material selection, lifecycle consideration, and financial sustainability. A case study on stroller design offered a practical example of how sustainability goals could be met through mindful design and material choices. "Product design has changed, and not everyone is ready. It's about picking the best worst solution. Better now is an improvement on perfect never," he advised the audience of designers and industry leaders from across the country and the globe.
Ranee Lee from OCAD University continued the narrative on sustainability and rejuvenation. She detailed the inspiring journey of DESIGNwith, a community-based creative collective from Toronto. The social and environmental lab collaborated with middle-aged women from economically disadvantaged urban areas to rejuvenate their communities through design. This successful co-design project demonstrated the enormous potential of design as a tool for socio-economic upliftment and the passion for a more caring world is evident in the work created by the team at DESIGNwith.
CELEBRATING THE INTERSECTIONS OF IDENTITY & DESIGN
One of the most emotionally resonant talks was presented by Joey Zeledon, who shared their journey as a trans nonbinary person in the design industry, highlighting the importance of authenticity and self-acceptance. They spoke about the intersection of cultural and personal narratives, suggesting that designers often wear a 'costume' that represents their professional identity. Zeledon emphasized the importance of challenging traditional design norms and questioned whether designers consider their own identities in the same way we consider product transformations. They proposed viewing product design as a means of helping products find their identities, thus creating new narratives around identity and design.
Shawn Williams expanded upon the role of one's personal journey and lived experience in design, focusing on the impact of mentorship and community in shaping your career and impact in the industry. He credited his mentors, particularly Ms. Johnson who bought him his first notebook, for fostering his talent. Williams emphasized that possessing a tool as simple as a #2 pencil can grow to symbolize power in design. As the youngest member of Diversify by Design (DxD), he shared how senior designers within the organization embraced and nurtured the next generation, fostering a sense of community. We too have the opportunity to support the next generation of designers, creating an industry that is more welcoming to all.
SEE YOU NEXT YEAR!
In conclusion, the 2023 International Design Conference was a vibrant celebration of design thinking, innovation, and community, showcasing the transformative potency of design in sculpting a resilient and sustainable future. The event was not merely a discourse on the future of design but also an inspiring testament to the power of community and mentorship in the industry. It left attendees inspired, enlightened, and looking forward to what design's future holds. We are thrilled to announce that the flame of creativity will continue to burn bright in Austin, Texas, the chosen location for the next year's International Design Conference in 2024. The design community worldwide eagerly anticipates the innovation, collaboration, and inspiration that the vibrant city of Austin promises to offer.Back to Insights + News