HarvardXDesign - a blast of a student conference
The weekend of 25/26 January was the first in a Student-run conference that boldly aims to "build a platform of innovation by engaging key stakeholders through the creative process." A group of students from Harvard managed to bring a whole lot of designers and design and business students together for a weekend to talk and to work through a design challenge.
Crossing the streams of the design and business schools may be a huge deal, but it didn't look like two worlds. The conference moved across Harvard Innovation Lab, Harvard Business School, and the Graduate School of Design, and brought some really interesting people together. And then there were the students. What a bunch of confident, openly networking the room look demons they were. And how friendly and talented and up for taking on something as tough and demanding as a 5 hour challenge of a huge gnarly problem, in which they have had a particular experience which they needed to put aside in order to think in new ways.
I'm always impressed by people who can move out of their own experience and viewpoints and are able to see differently, despite either difficult experiences or entitled ones. And these guys could too, and then be enthralled by the new things they were thinking about. That's not about being smart or privileged, but about agility of thinking, and that is a skill for life.
Friday night had a group of speakers setting the tone of a more contemporary and diverse kind of design. Apart from agreeing with each other, the really interesting voices came from an ebullient Marco Steinberg from SITRA, and the wonderfully eloquent Sanford Kwinter, who obviously has a huge support from the audience there. He's came to Carnegie Mellon a couple of weeks later for Liss Werner's Encoding Architecture Conference.
Saturday had parallel tracks of either listening to speakers or working on a challenge, and I'd been talked into running one of the (winning) challenge teams. "The challenge is a studio workshop of interdisciplinary teams – designers, students, faculty and professionals – who work on a particular challenge problem."
Selecting a challenge of new forms of education was big enough to keep us spinning for a few hours, and finally coming up with a more person-led, life educating concept and framework, with a clarifying bee and flower metaphor that put people at the heart of deciding what they learn. An interesting concept, and well worth further thinking if any of the participants get a chance to work on it again. You never know how these things recur over time…
The final session was a large critique of the ideas from 2 teams (mine included, did I mention?) and some feedback from Bruce Nussbaum, Patrick Whitney, Harry West from Continuum, Charles Adler from Kickstarter. Core77 suggest that the other team had the better idea, but the trashing they got from the panel suggests a diifferent outcome...having been there...And see
Bruce Nussbaum's critique below...
You can find their HarvardX Design manifesto here
Credit needs to go to Roderick McMullen, Jonathan Arena and Miriam Roure for great organisation and brilliant harnessing of stablished designers who on the whole brought less ego and more energy. Really great event.