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NeoCon World Fair in Chicago

Last Tuesday, I presented with Ricardo Gomes, John Paul Kusz, and Dave Walker at the Chicago NeoCon World Fair. The session was sponsored by FocusOnDesign, an organization to support diverse designers in the Baltimore/DC area. I was a last minute replacement, but it was amazing how all the presentations aligned.

Ricardo Gomes, who is Professor and Chair of the Department of Design and Industry at San Francisco State, was the moderator and provided an overview of key themes affecting socially-relevant design today: (1) changing demographics in terms of aging, (2) climate change and sustainability, and (3) migration and globalization. He providing statistics on the effects of these changes and what it means for design. He had a similar user-centered design process model as mine, which was cool to discover. I knew Ricardo from the IDSA conference in Austin. He does a lot of work in Africa and sustainable/inclusive design.

John Paul Kusz is at the Stuart Business School at IIT.  He further developed Ricardo's arguments by providing historical and scholarly references and frameworks for socially and environmentally sustainable design. I was very excited by his call to develop metrics for the social and environmental return on investments as well as economic ones.

I was up next and I talked about design and government policy. I addressed in depth policy as designed and design standards from my mind map. It went okay, but it was not as polished as I like to be and the audience was more architecture and interior design focused, whereas my examples were from graphic design.

As the resident architect, Dave Walker's presentation was the one that garnered the most interest. He was describing a project that his former company, Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, did developing an environmentally and socially sustainable island for displaced farmers near Shanghai, China. It is truely amazing that they, commissioned by the Chinese government, designed from scratch 3 new cities, a nature preserve, villages, etc. in an environmentally sustainable way.

The Q&A focused mostly on Dave's presentation. In the audience was Myron Smith and Meshella Woods Johnson of FocusOnDesign. Myron is the one who suggested me as a replacement. Also, I met some of the local Chicago black designers Althea and Vernon Lockwood of Project Osmosis and other black designers.   

After the presentation, we all went out to dinner and had wonderful conversations about design, ethnicity, politics, and the best chocolate cake in the city of Chicago.  It was very life affirming to hang out with designers of color who cared about the social impact of designing.


Interior Decorators Designer

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