Design Week 2018 just wrapped, and it’s left us feeling inspired and a little nostalgic at the same time. The week was split into three main events meant to be a celebration of design itself rather than focused on the business of design: A collaborative installation that got the firm making something with their hands; an old-school style lecture like the formal sessions we knew in college; and a design exhibition that showcased the company’s personal artwork. Here’s how the week went:
The goal was to create a collaborative installation that was inexpensive, scalable and simple to execute. We found that origami cranes checked all of those boxes—the challenge was just figuring out what to do with them and how many would be needed to achieve that.
Enter: The Crane Test. We took a 3D model of our office and populated the lobby space with different configurations and volumes until we landed on the magic number. They say 1,000 paper cranes brings good fortune, but in our case the lucky number is 500. For days, people jumped in to fold the little birds, but the end result was a surprise for the majority of the firm. A small team dedicated six hours of a Sunday to measuring out string and hanging everything up before the next business day. The final installation spans through two lobby walkways connected by a staircase, and serves as a small reminder of the impact that simple, creative design can offer.
Many architecture schools hold a lecture series, and being invited to speak or attend one is typically a prestigious affair. So, we decided to hold one of our own to energize the firm by sharing design perspective in a more formal environment than we observe day-to-day. Principals Kevin Gordon and Jay Thomson have been working on projects in China for more than 20 years, and we saw the lecture as an opportunity to share some of their experiences abroad. Pursuing new work in China is uniquely challenging—it’s a grueling competition style process, where every phase is presented in front of a formal panel. Bottom line: wins of this scale don’t come easy. It takes some serious fortitude to repeat this process over and over again for 20+ years, but the projects we’ve built in China represent many of the jewels in the tvsdesign portfolio.
Design for all
The week was capped off by a company-wide design exhibition with more than 40 submissions across all levels and departments of the company. The exhibition is Democratic in a way—with Principals, different studios, admins and interns alike all showcasing their personal creative work. We saw all kinds of submissions, from watercolor and oil paintings 20 years in the making (literally!), to 3D wood models and photography, but what stood out to us was the distinct uptick in the number of digitally-created pieces. Not only that, the two People’s Choice winners were a digital collage and a pop-culture inspired graphic illustration, which speaks to the wave of young designers in the company and the shift in design approach and inspiration at all levels.
The design expo is a strange beast—historically it’s been a sketch contest, but the submissions have evolved into more digitally-driven pieces. This leaves us asking: What role does working by hand play in the today’s architecture and design industry? In a way, the design competition mirrors the direction that our firm (and many like ours), is headed in the industry. Until recently, designers largely worked by hand since high-quality, digital renderings weren’t a reality. The precision that digital offers is unbeatable, but sometimes there’s nothing like pen-to-paper to capture the essence of an idea. The two schools of thought can and do indeed co-exist, but we’re wondering if, like Polaroids and Vinyl, a comeback for hand drawing is just around the corner.