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And, the rest of the (AIGA Conference) story

Here’s a sampling of the rest of the AIGA Design Conference, stuff that I haven’t covered yet and didn’t belong in a post of it’s own:

  • Juan Enriquez gave what was probably my favorite talk about what’s going on in the world of genetics right now. I’ve heard him give a variation of this talk before (at PopTech, I think). He started off talking about coding systems and how when they get more efficient (in the way that the Romance languages are more efficient than Chinese languages), the more powerful they become in human hands. Binary is very powerful because you can encode text, images, video, etc. using just two symbols, 1 and 0. Segue to DNA, a four symbol language to make living organisms…obviously quite powerful in human hands.
  • Enriquez: All life is imperfectly transmitted code. That’s what evolution is, and without the imperfections, there would be no life. The little differences over long periods of time are what’s important.
  • Enriquez again: The mosquito is a flying hypodermic needle. That’s how it delivers malaria to humans. We could use that same capability for vaccinating cows against disease.
  • Along with his list of 20 courses he didn’t take in design school, Michael Bierut offered some advice to young designers:

    1. Design is the easy part.
    2. Learn from your clients, bosses, collaborators, and colleagues.
    3. Content is king.
    4. Read. Read. Read.
    5. Think first, then design.
    6. Never forget how lucky you are. Enjoy yourself.
  • Nicholas Negroponte: If programmers got paid to remove code from sofware instead of writing new code, software would be a whole lot better.
  • Negroponte also shared a story about outfitting the kids in a school in Cambodia with laptops; the kids’ first English word was “Google”, and from what Negroponte said, that was followed closely by “Skype”. He also said the children’s parents loved the laptops because at night, it was the brightest light in the house.
  • Christi recorded Milton Glaser’s mother’s spaghetti recipe. “Cook until basically all of the water is evaporated. Mix in bottle of ketchup; HEINZ ketchup.”
  • Ben Karlin and Paula Scher on the challenges of making America, The Book: Books are more daunting than doing TV because print allows for a much greater density of jokes. In trying to shoot the cover image, they found that bald eagles cannot be used live for marketing or advertising purposes. The solution? A golden eagle and Photoshop. And for a spread depicting all the Supreme Court Justices in the buff, they struggled โ€” even with the Web โ€” to find nude photos of older people until they found a Vermont nudist colony willing to send them photos because they were big fans of The Daily Show.
  • Bill Strickland blew the doors off the conference with his account of the work he’s doing in “curing cancer” โ€” his term for revitalizing violent and crime-ridden neighborhoods โ€” in Pittsburgh. I can’t do justice to his talk, so two short anecdotes. Strickland said he realized that “poor people never have a nice day” so when he built his buildings in these poor black neighbohoods, he put nice fountains out front so that people coming into the building know that they’re entering a space where it’s possible to have a good day. Another time, a bigwig of some sort was visiting the center and asked Strickland about the flowers he saw everywhere. Flowers in the hood? How’d these get here? Strickland told him “you don’t need a task force or study group to buy flowers” and that he’d just got in his car, bought some flowers, brought them back, and set them around the place. His point in all this was creating a place where people feel less dissimilar to each other…black, white, rich, poor, everybody has a right to flowers and an education and to be treated with respect and to have a nice day. You start treating people like that, and surprise!, they thrive. Strickland’s inner city programs have produced Fulbright Scholars, Pulitzer Prize winners, and tons of college graduates.
  • I caught 30 minutes of David Peters’ presentation of Typecast: The Art of the Typographic Film Title and realized I should have gotten there in time to see the whole thing. I could sit and watch cool movie titles all day long. Among the titles he showed were Bullit, Panic Room, Dr. Strangelove, Barbarella, The Island of Dr. Moreau, and Superman. The title sequence for Napoleon Dynamite (which was discussed on Design Observer last year) was shown later in the main hall.
  • At the closing party at the Museum of Science, we checked out the cool Mathematica exhibit that was designed by Charles and Ray Eames, two designers who were also pretty big science/math nerds.
  • And some final thoughts from others at the conference. Peter Merholz says that “form-makers”, which make up the vast majority of the AIGA audience, “are being passed by those who are attempting to use design to serve more strategic ends”. (That’s an interesting thought…) A pair of reviews from Speak Up: Bryony was a bit disappointed with the opening Design Gala but left, like everyone else, in love with emcee John Hockenberry while Armin noted that the preservation of digital files is a big concern for museums in building a collection of graphic design pieces…in 35 years, how are you going load that Quark file or run that Flash movie?

For more of what people are saying about the conference, check out IceRocket. There’s a bunch of photos on Flickr as well.

Reader comments

TimSep 20, 2005 at 10:55AM

Any idea if any of these talks were recorded and will be posted? I was hoping some place like itConversations would be carrying them...but haven't heard anything.

chris vivionSep 20, 2005 at 1:10PM

What is meant by "... attempting to use design to serve more strategic ends". Is this the same thing as watching one 'design' show after another and never seeing the Graphic Design discipline covered?

Or is it more of a statement about designers who are only concerned with making interesting or entertaining things, rather than thinking how design applies it self to, say, a corporate strategy ( or government, personal, educational)?

CatalinaSep 20, 2005 at 1:16PM

I was fascinated by the article about Bill Strickland. I've spent all morning devouring any article I can find about him..a genius indeed. I never would have heard of this man had it not been for thanks.

jkottkeSep 20, 2005 at 1:48PM

The conference organizers told me that mp3s of the main stage talks and the behind-the-scenes interviews will be made available soon somewhere. The visual presentations will be available as well, I think.

hbg3Sep 20, 2005 at 1:51PM

In the US (unlike Britain) commas and periods ALWAYS go inside quotation marks (at least according to the VAST majority of editorial style books.)

"Holy cannoli," he said. A "cannoli," which is an Italian pastry, can be said to be "delicious," but rarely "holy."

like that.

that's because in Colonial America ( and for some time after the revolution), printers lacked the mechanism in their type boxes that locks periods and commas into place outside the quote marks.

Semicolons, exclamation points and question marks can go outside quote marks where appropriate.

Ed KnittelSep 20, 2005 at 4:27PM

Did you really mean to write "Pittsburg", Jason?

Alas, the city where my alma mater rests is better known as "Pittsburgh"

It's a wonderful city, by the way.

LucianSep 20, 2005 at 8:31PM

Amazing recap. Thank you so much Jason.

kingbennySep 21, 2005 at 4:00PM

Hooray for the Paul Harvey Rest Of The Story reference.

ElsieSep 22, 2005 at 12:24PM

It was nice meeting you (and Peter and Jesse on Friday at the open bar -- I'm the girl that has a visual memory similar to yours).

Good recap of the conference. I missed Enriquez (that sounded interesting) and missed the morning of Strickland unfortunately. Hopefully I'll get to see him speak sometime, but at least there's lots of info on him. Good to know that AIGA will post mp3s.

Nice post on Sagmeister -- he's an awesome guy -- liked the Hillman Curtis video on him.

Good luck with work -- enjoy it!

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.