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3 things you can expect to learn at Austin Design Week this year

When we asked for proposals that centered around the theme “Open Doors,” we emphasized that designers take as broad of an interpretation as they see fit. We had no clue what would come to us from the other side of that submission portal.

One reason for this: Part of learning new things is discovering new things to learn. Asking designers to conform their proposals to our motivations behind “Open Doors” would’ve not only contradicted the theme itself—it would’ve resulted in a far less interesting and illuminating week of programming.

What will that week of programming look like, exactly? We’ll spare you the details until the end of September, when our full schedule goes live. However, if you’re eager to know how ADW can help you grow as a designer and a person, we noticed a few common lessons sprinkled throughout this year’s programming that excites us to share right here and right now.

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Useful design is good design

Usability and accessibility frequently find their way into design conversations, but it’s still far too easy to find oneself caught up in the artistry of a design at the expense of its purpose.

During their event, the designers from Good Snake will facilitate a conversation, demonstration, and hands-on activity filled with tangible best practices to take back to your designs and illustrations. As they succinctly put it, “Good design should be obvious and useful to everyone, not just to professionals who work in the design field.”

Also, you know what industry really relies on usefulness? Aviation. GE Aviation solves some of the most complex system problems that interface with visceral, human problems. In their workshop, they’ll breakdown what they do, and practice design thinking with participants. Even if you never think about planes or airports in your daily work, their methodology’s transferable across different practices.

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Vulnerability is a strength

What’s the value of failure? Many people will say something along the lines of, “I learned what not to do.”

In their proposal, In-House International and what.it.is noted, “Now imagine we take all that hidden value and share it with each other. Not only would we immediately feel less alone, but we'd all be better supported and better prepared to face tough challenges.” Their event will create a safe space to share and troubleshoot your most embarrassing failures with fellow designers. You’ll come away with collective lessons learned, and a group of people you know how to express vulnerability with.

Brooke Robinson of Goodtype also wants to breakthrough taboos through conversation. She’ll moderate a panel of creatives and a therapist in a discussion about the mental health of graphic designers and creative entrepreneurs.

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Design has the power to open doors

How can we use design to open doors for people who historically and systemically find them closed? A few events intend to dive into that challenge.

Barbara Brown Wilson, author of Resilience for All: Striving for Equity Through Community-Driven Design, will lead a discussion of academics and creative leaders to further an understanding of how designers from various disciplines can assist communities in solving complex, urban problems.

More broadly, she says, “This event explores what it means to be a resilient community, how resilience often means disruption of existing power structures, and how design professionals can be allies in building a more just and resilient environment for all.”

AIGA Austin will host a panel of people who used design thinking in a non-profit setting to help marginalized and at-risk populations. These panelists will share both their wins and their missteps, along with the logistical challenges that come with this line of work.

Finally, Service Design ATX, City of Austin Office of Innovation, and Bloomberg i-Team will come together to host a panel on social innovations for people experiencing homelessness. You can come to learn about projects in the pipeline, and even volunteer to help bring some of them to life.

That's just a taste of what you can expect this year. There is so much more to share, learn and explore this Austin Design Week. The celebration is less than two months away! We'll be announcing the full schedule and registration very soon. Stay tuned!