Icograda-Arriving in Cuba
My Design Observer article

Cuba and photos on Flickr

I've posted on Flickr my photos from Cuba this week. The Icograda Design Conference in Havana was interesting but less truly international than I expected. Westerners and Caucasians felt more present on the panels than in the audience which had lots of Cubans and felt more international. It was cool that they had simultaneous English and Spanish translations.

On the panel on Indigenous Design, the lack of indigenous representation on the panel was appalling, given then significant theoretically critique of the representation of indigenous people by non-indigenous people. That panel left me feeling that the indigenous element in design is more decorative than a significant part of national design practices, which even if the case, it should have been addressed as such.

The highlight presentation was of Ahn Sang Soo of Korea. His presentation on Hangul, the Korean alphabet, was the perfect example of design anthropology by combining the physical, material, cultural, and linguistic manifestation of human identity (both personal and social) with the highest standards of technical and aesthetic form-making. I was on the verge of tears with the poetry of his presentation (especially with a 50 hour trip and only 2 hours of sleep). He received the longest ovation from the audience.

Other highlights were the presentations of Maria Rogal, whose work and as a person I adore; Joi and Carmen of Motorola, Rafeal Vivanco and Sandra Tineo's presentation on cross-cultural design in the Peruvian design curriculum. They have four units of human development in their design curriculum at  la Escuela de Artes de la Universidad Católica Pontificia del Perú.

I got to meet lots of fascinating people. Not many Cubans because we were somewhat isolated by language and the Conference did not encourage much real mixing in some ways. I did get to spend some time talking to a Cuban family and visiting the City when I played hooky from the conference one day. But I don't have a real sense of Cuban life, which is hard to say as an anthropologist. All of this means that I have to return to explore more deeply the real life. I am determined to do so. 

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