This past weekend I attended the Industrial Designers Society of America, Midwestern Design Dialog Conference. This was the first design conference I’ve been to, so I really didn’t know what to expect.. Unfortunately, our school-provided transportation didn’t run early enough for me to check out the workshops, so really, for me, the whole thing consisted of a bunch of 25 minute talks. I have to admit that I was pretty bummed out that all I got for my $175 registration fee was a “live” version of watching TED talks on Youtube, and free beer at an after party put on by my own school. I suppose I should acknowledge some other benefits though:
Of the approximately 6 total vendor booths, one of them was useful. They were promoting a new software that the marketing material suggested was named “Evolve”. It is both NURBS and parametric, which is particularly helpful for industrial designers; saving the step of translation of a pretty Rhino model to a manufacturable SolidWorks model. The spokesman told me the software was free for students, which is awesome because neither Rhino or SolidWorks are free. When I got home and tried to find the software, I couldn’t find anything called Evolve, but further review of their handbill sent me to the site of a company called solidThinking who have a product called solidThinking, which I assume is what they were actually advertising? I couldn’t find any free student downloads so I sent them an email inquiry.. still haven’t heard back.
Another benefit, albeit not design related, was getting to chat for a bit with Dave Mucci from the moto mucci blog. For the uninitiated, his blog is mostly about nice looking motorcycles including his own CX500 project, which I snapped a photo of in person. It turns out that he is an Industrial designer and works at TEAMS, the design studio where we had our senior show.
Getting back to the talks.. There were a handful of good ones, some boring ones, and a few that totally seemed like ego trips. (Sorry Motorola) The theme was “Exploring creative fusion”, although from what I took away, it should have been “The rise of the design proletariat”. Perhaps my personal leanings steered me towards this perception, but I think it was backed up by Chris Pacione’s talk “Design Literacy: Why Design is Emerging as the Next Pervasive Human Literacy” and Zach Kaplan’s “Bringing the Factory to the Desktop”. The latter yielded a great find in Zach’s Inventables.com which is kind of like a hardware store for the modern DIYer. Joe Graceffa from IDEO had a nice talk regarding the necessity to include fun in the design lifestyle, that interestingly referenced a “for fun” project that his office outsourced to an Etsy seller.
There were other good topics, especially “Mobile apps must die”; a call to kill off ultra specific, redundant apps, and replace them with a system of local area service discovery. I guess I’d like to focus on the idea of DIY encroaching on design though. I’m pretty new to this game, only really knowing what Industrial design is since 2009, and only now starting a graduate program regarding it. I get the creeping feeling that “professional” part of it is about to fall out, much the way it did with computers and IT in the 90’s. Now, as then, the tools are just becoming more readily available. Then it was the IBM PC, now it’s the 3D printer. I feel like maybe the design industry should be thinking about how to collaborate more readily with the DIYer. Certainly there can be a synergistic relationship.
So yeah.. My first design conference was an interesting experience, and quite a bit different than the Independent music conferences I’m used to. There were some valuable tidbits to be had, but at the same time, I really don’t think it was worth $175. I doubt I’ll go back next year. Until then, I’ll just keep watching TED talks for free.