Following people's comments in the blogosphere, I realized that people may have an incomplete picture of what the Summit was about. I guess when people think of Summits, they are thinking of "important people" getting up giving presentations on what, in this case, a design policy should be. The Design Management Institute had a couple of these types of forums captured in their Design Management Reviews in 1993 and 2004. And as Ric Grefe of AIGA had pointed out to me, there had been other attempts to get the design organizations together to build a unified policy.
So this Summit was NOT a talking head Summit, where we needed to gather anyone and everyone who represented the design communities, design education communities, and government design. To put together something like that was way beyond my volunteer resources of five unpaid students and former students and my non-existent budget. Also, it was of no interest to me to have another discussion about the merits of a US National Design Policy. I was beyond that because I had been travelling the world looking at the design policies of other countries and felt that the US design communities and government were already engaged in design policy, they just wasn't calling it that. My question was "What would a US National Design Policy need to look like?"
Thus, I got the German Marshall Fund to lend us the 2nd floor conference room of their DC headquarters (very swank). The 2008 US National Design Summit was organized as a two-day super-intense workshop with the goal of creating a shared actionable agenda of U.S. design policy for economic competitiveness and democratic governance among the professional design associations, design educational bodies, and the design-related Federal government agencies.
Borrowing from the theme of the first US Federal Design Assembly held in 1973, the first day was about outlining the Design Necessity, in terms of the initiatives, programs, projects, and even legislative rules that design needs from the government to support the government’s meeting of the economic and democratic needs of the US people. This was accomplished by:
- Providing an inclusive framework for design policy based on my research, which included as design policy the activities of design promotion, innovation policy (both design innovation and human innovation), design standards for safety, inclusion, sustainability, and quality; and Policy as designed (which is the role of design in the formulation and implementation of government policy). I provided a global tour of what others in the world were doing around design policy.
- Presenting an overview of the Federal Design Improvement Program in the 1970s, which provides a precedent for having a US National Design Policy. It was established by mandate of Richard Nixon, and run by then Nancy Hicks of the National Endowment for the Arts.
- Having participants add to a map of all of their current design policy related activities, so that we knew we were actually doing the same activities as many of the countries with national design policies. This was done with the aid of Nina Simone music in the background.
- Doing rotating brainstorming of ideas based on the four-area framework of design policy and building off of one another's ideas. This was faciliated by the Jeopardy game show thinking music in which participants posted policy proposals under one policy area and then rotated to the next when the Jeopardy music played.
The group developed over:
- 70 proposals to support Design Promotion for economic competitiveness
- 46 proposals to support Innovation Policy for economic competitiveness
- 60 proposals to support Design Standards for democratic governance
- 80 proposals to support Policy as Designed (i.e. the role of design in the formation, understanding, and implementation of policy) for democratic governance
In the evening, there was a group dinner at Cafe Trope, which was excellent if anyone is looking for a DC resturant near Dupont Circle.
Borrowing the theme of the 2nd US Federal Design Assembly held in 1974, the second day was about outlining the Design Reality in terms of the feasibility of any initiatives, programs, projects, and legislative rules that we proposed within a US national design policy. We approached this by giving a quick overview of the priorities for the incoming Obama administration. This was important because one of the conclusions for why the Federal Design Improvement Act disappeared in the 1980s was that it did not align with President Reagan's political priorities. The criteria for prioritizing proposals was in terms of their value to the American people and the design industry and their operational and political feasibility within the priorities of the design institutions and the government.
Value to the American Criteria:
- A 04 ranking is for proposals that contribute directly to both the economic competitiveness and democratic governance of the US
- A 03 ranking is for proposals that contribute directly to either US economic competitiveness and democratic governance
- A 02 ranking is for proposals that contribute indirectly to both the economic competitiveness and democratic governance of the US
- A 01 ranking is for proposals that contribute indirectly to either US economic competitiveness and democratic governance
Value to the Design Community Criteria:
- A 04 ranking is for proposals that provide direct value to three or more design fields, professions, or bodies (professional and educational). Direct value could be increasing leadership reach, increasing the number of members/employees/students, or providing additional funding for programs.
- A 03 ranking is for proposals that provide direct value to one or two design fields, professions, or bodies (professional and educational),
- A 02 ranking is for proposals that provide indirect value to the design community as a whole. By indirect, we mean it basically provides good design PR for the design communities, increasing the perception of their value to government.
- A 01 ranking is for proposals that provide indirect value to only one or two design fields, organizations, or bodies. These provide mostly good PR for those fields.
Operational Feasibility Criteria:
- A 04 ranking is for proposals that require both funding and staff resources from only one or two design organizations or bodies. So if a proposal required only IDSA and AIA to support it with staff and funding, it would be given a 04 ranking.
- A 03 ranking is for proposals that require both funding and staff resources from more than three design organizations or bodies. For example, a proposal for the establishment of the American Design Council would require staff and funding from almost all the design organizations.
- A 02 ranking is for proposals that require only staff resources in partnership between government and multiple design organizations. For example, the introduction of a new government regulation might only necessity the labor and skills of staff members in design and government.
- A 01 ranking is for proposals that require both funding and staff resources from both government and multiple design organizations. For example, holding a Federal Design Assembly like those held in the 1970s would require significant funding and staff from government and design organizations.
Political Feasibility Criteria (Brad McConnell from Senator Durbin's Office helped with these. I had invited him to provide some insight into the political process, so that people had a realistic sense of how much effort it would take to get something on the political agenda):
- A 04 ranking is for proposals that fit within existing and continuing political priorities already in motion. In other words, the proposal can tag along with existing regulations or policy.
- A 03 ranking is for proposals that align with the top priorities of the incoming Obama administration. They directly contribute to the implementation of policies regarding supporting state and local government, major infrastructure projects likes bridges, dams, roads, schools; helping unemployed workers and working families; enhancing education, especially early education; creating green jobs and alternative energy sources to reduce American dependency on foreign oil, expanding health care to the uninsured, and ending the war in Iraq
- A 02 ranking is for proposals that align with secondary priorities of the incoming Obama administration. It may not be the top ten priorities, but it contributes to others on the list.
- A 01 ranking is for proposals that introduce new political priorities. They may not be on the Obama radar, but we want to put them on there.
This gave us a sense of the level of impact and effort for each proposal, which is helpful to know when crafting a policy. The last missing pieces are which areas of government it would affect and how much would it cost versus return on investment, which we are working on now. We concluded with a clear articulation of next steps following the Summit, which was the first of many conversations that need to be held to develop an actionable US National Design Policy.
So this was not a conventional Summit as we might imaging one, but rather a designed two-day process to get all participants on the same page about what would a US National Design Policy might look like. The immediate next step is to finish the report from the Summit in preparation for Obama's Inauguration. Then there will be lots of activities after that to follow.