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Monday, October 20, 2014

Public In Practice: PID in the Twin Cities

Public In Practice Infographic.jpg
Above: Chart overviewing the basic findings of the "Public In Practice" project. Organizations profiled are arranged from largest to smallest, with the largest group on top.

The above infographic is taken from the booklet "Public In Practice: A Field Guide to Public Interest Design in the Twin Cities." The document, published a year ago, was created by undergraduate architecture student Evan Hildebrand working under Professor Ozayr Saloojee as an independent research project under through the undergraduate research scholarship (URS). The goal of the project was to examine how public interest design was viewed and practice among designers, architectural firms, and other organizations in the Twin Cities. The following text is taken from the introduction:

"Twenty designers were interviewed, representing three large, three medium, and three small architecture firms, as well as three organizations involved with public interest design, in addition to the University of Minnesota's College of Design. They are all in some way involved in public interest design, and their interviews form the basis of this guide. The firms and organizations profiled were chosen for a number of reasons, including, but not limited to, their already publicized work and reputation for public interest design, their size and presence in the Twin Cities, and the recommendation of previous interviewees. Effort has been made to showcase organizations at a variety of sizes, practicing in a variety of different ways. This document is not comprehensive: it is intended as a representative snapshot of the overall field of public interest design as it currently exists in the Twin Cities. There are more firms, organizations, and individuals than the ones mentioned here involved in the practice of public interest design.

Each organization is profiled in its own entry, arranged and divided according to size. Each entry begins with a concise overview and a quote from the interviewee. Additional project examples, inspiration and/or precedents, and images have been included when applicable and available. The entries are bookmarked by an overview of public interest design in the Twin Cities at the beginning, including connections and inspirations, and a conclusion profiling some of the issues facing the future of public interest design."

If you are interested in reading more, the entire booklet can be found embedded below, or by clicking the link here.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Design Futures Forum Reflections [Part 2]

Malia Lee Panorama.jpgImage Courtesy Malia Lee

This past June, six students from the College of Design got the opportunity to travel, along with faculty member James Wheeler, to the second annual Design Futures Public Interest Design Student Leadership Forum. The gathering, this year held at Tulane University's School of Architecture in New Orleans, is an effort to bring together students and leaders in public interest design for discussion and exploration of design in the public interest. The event this past year included 10 workshops, 26 speakers, and 65 students from across the globe. Below are three short reflections on the experience, written by some of the Minnesota students who attended. [Part 2 - scroll down to see previous blog post with more student reflections].

Malia Lee Theresa Hwang.jpg Malia Lee, Theresa Hwang, and Other Forum Attendee - Image Courtesy Malia Lee

Malia Lee
The Design Futures Forum was an amazing opportunity where individuals from across the country came together with different interdisciplinary backgrounds to discuss visions of public interest design (PID) along with new initiatives and previous experiences on using design for the greater good. Through the many workshops I received training on financing public interest design projects, organizing, understanding communities, looking at case studies, investigating PID interests, and learning about the overall complexities of community oriented design. In addition to receiving some training, I was able to build relationships and camaraderie with like-minded individuals who were both professionals and students. The forum left me feeling empowered, knowing that as students we have the ability to create a lot change in fact we may even be in better position to do so while we are students. It was inspiring being able to listen to speakers such as Bryan Bell, James Stockard, Maurice Cox, Dan Etheridge, John Peterson, and Theresa Hwang. Theresa Hwang's project was one that really stuck with me. She is a Rose Fellow that focused on tackling the homelessness issue on Skid Row, in Los Angeles, California. The underlining question is, how can design thinking be used to empower communities in order to achieve longstanding results that can elevate communities to another level? The most effective outcomes occur when assisting and helping communities solve problems from within. To achieve the best results through our efforts we need to learn to let go of our personal values and beliefs and understand the values and beliefs of those in which we intend to serve. Through being at the Design Futures Forum I feel more confident and empowered moving forward as a designer and community activist and I have made new connections with other leaders from around the country who share similar interests.

Sarah Hayosh.jpg Image Courtesy Sarah Hayosh

Sarah Hayosh
One of the most rewarding parts of the Design Futures student leadership forum was the opportunity to form connections with a diverse set of students and professionals with experience in the field. For 5 days, not only did we have engaging workshops and presentations by current leaders in the field, we were surrounded by a cohort of peers, many of whom, over nighttime conversations over beers and oysters, or long winding walks home through muggy New Orleans neighborhoods, I learned were also grappling with some of the same questions regarding public interest design that I was. The scale ranged from the structural to the intensely personal. How do we move public interest design beyond subsidized or pro-bono initiatives? How do you take something akin to a movement, that is inherently human and messy, begin to translate its values into mainstream practice? What are the values upon which we should base our work? What are my values? How have my lived experiences shaped those values? Design Futures was a great place to discuss and debate, share ideas and learn from each other, but it's not the only forum where we can explore those questions and have those conversations. Kitty cat club, anyone?

Moriah Baltz Streetcars.JPG New Orleans Streetcars - Image Courtesy Moriah Baltz

Moriah Baltz
The design futures public interest design forum was a fantastic learning opportunity that inspired me to start thinking like a leader, define my learning goals and imagine my career path. Through the forum, I was exposed to PID leaders as well as architecture, landscape architecture, finance, housing, and urban planning students and faculty from all over the United States. Most importantly the forum provided me with the training and inspiration to develop my community engagement skills, invest in the PID network and maintain goal-oriented work. Overall, I learned that PID will look different for different people and might change throughout the course of any one person's career, but it is important to recognize that there are many ways to have an impact. It is not how this work is manifested but the quality of the goals that define what drives the work. At the forum, we talked about how specific goals may change but we must keep our aspiration and believe we can make a change. This discussion helped me realize the importance of identifying transferrable skills and the potential for learning in any role. More importantly, it gave me the confidence to recognize that, no matter my situation, I can find a way to do meaningful work. The forum inspired me to fight for idealism and believe I have the choice to name and claim the world I want to live in.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Design Futures Forum Reflections

Design Futures 2014.jpg
Above: Design Futures Forum meeting at the Grow Dat Youth Farm in New Orleans

This past June, six students from the College of Design got the opportunity to travel, along with faculty member James Wheeler, to the second annual Design Futures Public Interest Design Student Leadership Forum. The gathering, this year held at Tulane University's School of Architecture in New Orleans, is an effort to bring together students and leaders in public interest design for discussion and exploration of design in the public interest. The event this past year included 10 workshops, 26 speakers, and 65 students from across the globe. Below are three short reflections on the experience, written by some of the Minnesota students who attended:

Faith Lindner

A particular dialogue stands out from Design Futures 2014 when Bryan Bell spoke about establishing a "greater good by collective action." He mentioned a quote by Hans Henrik Knoop: "As advanced humans our adaptation now more than ever seems to depend on our ability to understand and create truthfully, beautifully, and in a moral and ethical way." There is such wisdom and truth in these words; they have challenged me to think about my intentions, standards, and morals as a designer. Participation, accountability, and transparency also hold much weight within the design field, and even more, emphasizing direct access to the end users of the system one is working with. As Maurice Cox brought out, "Nothing about us without us is for us" and this has truly set a mindset for me.

Elena Brown
One of the most significant lessons that I learned during the week, was the importance of collaborative efforts. Throughout the week I was able to network with a vast amount of like minded and driven scholars, professionals, enthusiasts, advocates, teachers, etc. It was in these interactions, that I was most able to learn. I feel that the ability to collaborate is a critical component of leadership. Collaboration increases the capacity of your ideas, missions, and efforts. It is crucial to the creation of projects that have a lasting impact. This conference pushed me collaborate. Throughout the entire week, the conference allotted abundant time for fellowship amongst fellow DF participants. In this time, we developed lasting connections as we got to know each other, expressed our motives and goals, and showcased our talents. During my undergraduate academic career, I was often surrounded by students of a similar positionality which limited the dialogues that could occur. The participants of this conference were of diverse races, ages, professional fields, academic tracks, geographic locations, socioeconomic backgrounds, etc. This led to very interesting discourse in and out of the classrooms. I REALLY enjoyed being able to work with the older, more experienced minds, a luxury that is less common in undergraduate academia. Graduate students have a way of pushing and contributing to class discussions in a way that most undergraduates fail to do. During this conference I was not only able to converse with numerous graduate students, but also with well-versed professionals, Ph.D. Students, and incredibly well-spoken and interesting public interest design enthusiasts. The dialogues that emerged from this interpositonality, was profound, inspiring, challenging, and very encouraging for people like me, who are fresh out of college, with no professional experience, and in a transitional period of life. I now have a solid contact list, to depend on when I need advice, references, or good conversations.

Evan Hildebrand
"I don't know." It was these three words that stood out most prominently at the end of the 2014 Design Futures Public Interest Design Student Leadership Forum in New Orleans; and this is a good thing. To explain: I was in Bryan Bell and Teresa Hwang's workshop "Good Deeds, Good Design, Good Work," exploring professional ethical standards for the field of public interest design. With a small group of students, our task was to have a discussion about ethics important for designers in the public interest. We ended up having a long, deep, open and incredibly honest conversation about race, inequality and the role of designers, a conversation that was brought back to the larger group and ended up in three words written by Bryan Bell in dry-erase marker: I don't know. They represent, for me, the first steps of public interest design - admitting you don't know what's best, and turning instead to listen to the community. They represent design with, not for. The open and honest conversation that led to "I don't know" is the same kind of discussion we should be having not just as students, not even just as public interest designers, but as designers period, to bring more of the empathetic focus of public interest design into a much broader sphere. So, after attending this forum, what exactly does the future of public interest design - and my own future in it - hold? I don't know, but I'm not afraid to admit it, and that seems like a pretty good place to start.