By KENDRA SITTON | Downtown & Uptown News
Many major cities from Bangkok to Los Angeles host annual design weeks celebrating the creativity, innovation and design in each landscape. San Diego was gearing up for its first-ever Design Week when COVID-19 hit. The inaugural event will still occur, but through a series of virtual and safe in-person events including talks, workshops, chef demos, bike rides, self-guided tours and studio tours.
From Sept. 9–13, all San Diegans will have an opportunity to explore the way design impacts the city and learn from professionals in the industry. The year’s theme is “Design+,” examining the ways designers collaborate across industries to serve the community.
A sample live event bringing professionals together is “Equality by Design: Events,” which features brand specialist Loren Cobbs, creative director Erwin Hines, entrepreneur Jessie Medina and communications expert Ramel Wallace. The panel will discuss how events and the agencies behind them can redesign from top to bottom to include people of color.
Wallace is also in a solo pre-recorded video called “On Brand: Hip Hop as Storytelling,” which examines the four elements of hip hop (DJ, MC, B-Boy, writer) as elements that are part of creating a brand.
Being in two types of events helps him see the benefits of each. The live Zoom panel can be instructive but visually flat. Editing the solo video allowed him to make it more visually stimulating.
In addition to the Zoom panels, film screenings, virtual exhibits and pre-recorded videos that have become emblematic of the pandemic, the event planners found ways to get people off the screen as well.
The website lists architecture, public art, installations, restaurants and landmarks throughout the city that showcase design in action. An audio section includes podcasts and music. Tours of projects and workshops are available as well as self-guided tours such as a bicycling BIPOC History Ride. Some events are still taking places in person, such as a mask fashion show at Fair@44 which will showcase masks made by City Heights fashion designers on Sept. 12 from 11 a.m.–1 p.m.
With the many options, people participating are able to curate the experience to fit their interests as well as their safety needs.
The series of events began as an idea from the Mingei International Museum. Once a lead sponsor was found, Intuit, a core group of designers began working together on what such a week could look like in San Diego. They reached out to other west coast neighbors to learn about how they created their design weeks, including Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Vancouver. The team also traveled to Mexico City in October 2019 to experience an established design week in person.
When COVID-19 hit, instead of postponing the event to have a typical inaugural year, the planners redesigned it to meet safety requirements.
“We felt we needed connection more than ever. A large driver for Design Week is to create this sense of connection not only throughout the community of San Diego at large, but also with the different disciplines of designers because it’s such an incredible opportunity for different disciplines of designers to come together and exchange ideas,” said Stacy Kelly, who planned Design Week.
These designers in different fields like architecture, communications, fashion technology, food packaging and interior design can facilitate innovation and new possibilities when they collaborate. Like connection amid lockdowns, new designing and redesigning is a necessity if vulnerable communities are to be protected.
“The need for design for community organizing the need for design for a future, for sustainability and resilience – those all feel very immediate,” Kelly said.
After a recent Creative Morning event, Wallace looked at the design of a sign directing people toward Downtown. He saw the need for the design of a sign to correctly direct people toward their destination as important. Other areas design can be used are also important to Wallace, such as politics or equity.
“Design is simplicity. Design is the user experience – like how do you actually use what’s in front of you. People have great ideas but they’re not accessible. Design would make something accessible for anybody to use,” Wallace said.
The broad definition of design is one of the reasons the new week can be so interesting. People can examine how design impacts a customer service experience as well as how food is presented or a bridge connects a community.
“The idea behind Design Week is to show the public and the community… that design is all around us, and design can really be doing many different things and take so many forms,” Kelly said.
To learn more about the programs offered during Design Week, visit www.sddesignweek.org.
— Kendra Sitton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.