Design Can (and Will) Transform Lives

IDSA is my favorite conference to attend because it’s not just people talking about good design; it’s filled with conversations about how design can transform lives. It’s a very powerful message, especially in today’s society of design-centric businesses.

I did it again, but I don’t think anyone could hardly blame me. Four days of sun, cocktails, mind bending conversations on the world we live in, and tons of newly blossomed friendships. No, I’m not talking about Burning Man; I’m talking about the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) Annual Conference held in the heart of Chicago on perhaps one of the most beautiful weeks of the entire year. 

Chicago is one of the most amazing cities in the world; it’s clean, cosmopolitan, and progressive but still manages to maintain a down to earth feel. It’s the perfect location to bring together more than 600 industrial designers to talk about the importance design plays not only in product development, but in world of social entrepreneurship.

Byron Bloch

IDSA is my favorite conference to attend because it’s not just people talking about good design; it’s filled with conversations about how design can transform lives. It’s a very powerful message, especially in today’s society of design-centric businesses. The conference had many truly exceptional speakers, including a presentation on design in auto safety by Byron Bloch, an expert in car safety who has dedicated his life to making sure that design flaws on vehicles don’t happen.

A true advocate of consumer safety, Bloch has testified in front of congress on multiple occasions regarding car company oversights on design defects that have led to many death and permanent disabilities.

Bloch stood in front of the crowd and demanded that, as designers, we must put our foot down and take the side of the consumer. He stated that no matter what, it’s on the shoulders of the designers to take care of the passengers and make sure that they are protected. It was a powerful message and Bloch is to be commended for his dedication on the subject.

Jim Couch

I don’t want to write too much on this one because truthfully, the written word will just not do it justice.

I think this pretty much sums up the caliber of speakers that the IDSA puts together every single year. Watch and enjoy.

Dean Kamen

Following Bloch was Dean Kamen. Come on, you all know Dean Kamen, the guy that invented the Segway. It’s a marvelous specimen of engineering no matter how ridiculous people (especially our law enforcers) look upon them. Kamen is a self-described inventor, entrepreneur, and tireless advocate for science and technology, but not a designer. He is a soft spoken visionary that came to the IDSA conference to spread his vision for what he believes we as adults and thinkers and doers can enable our youth to do in the future. He came to talk about the program he began more than 20 years ago, FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology).

You may have heard about this program as a result of PD&D’s extensive yearly coverage, but if you haven’t, I suggest you look into it. It is truly one of the most inspiring stories of dedication to the future engineers and scientist of the world. Kamen agreed to speak at the conference so that he could spread his message about FIRST and help raise awareness for his pet project. And boy did he raise awareness.

“There are over 350,000 student participants annually with over 130,000 volunteers,” Kamen said. “Over 28,000 robots that have been built over the past 20 years. Over $16 million in college scholarships have been awarded to FIRST students. A recent study done by Brandeis University in Waltham, MA found that students that participated in the FIRST program were four times more likely to attend college and major in science or engineering. FIRST is about changing our culture and what we value as a culture. We have been obsessed with athletes and entertainers for far too long; it’s time to get excited about something that will have a far greater impact, science and engineering and collaborating.“

A powerful message that put forth powerful results. As a result, I started a Junior FIRST LEGO League team in our local elementary school. We don’t have anyone to compete with just yet, but my hope is to inspire other rural little towns to participate so that we can showcase our hard work together. It’s an amazing feeling to create something and to actually make it work. The more we participate in our future leaders’ educations, the better off that landscape will be.

Every year, I attend the IDSA annual conference and I’m always amazed by the exceptional quality of speakers. They present material well, and the messages are unique. I encourage anyone and everyone to attend this conference as it’s really more about inspiring individuals than it is about design. I find designers to be kindred spirits as they know that design is a collaborative and iterative process.

Questions? Comments? Contact Louise Rainone at lrain1@pcdworks.com, and visit www.pcdworks.com.

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