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Project

Designing the 2013 Design Research Conference

In 2012, I volunteered at the DRC and I was truly inspired by the speakers and design community. When the call for conference chairs was announced, I was excited to engage with such a great community on a deeper level.

I was aware that serving as a conference chair was a considerable amount of work as a volunteer position, but I was excited by the challenge. The conference was also a chance to work with fellow students on a long-term project and represent my voice in the design community.

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Conference attendee photographing conference signage. Copyright © 2014 Paul Sheetz.

As a team, we decided on a conference theme, identified and invited speakers, selected a venue, created a brand and core marketing message, solicited attendees and coordinated 30 student volunteers. While aligning as a team was sometimes difficult, it became an asset as every major decision was made with due diligence and robust discussion.

Prototyping frameworks for structuring the conference theme during the planning process

Prototyping frameworks for structuring the conference theme during the planning process

Our conference theme, “Exploring Creative Balance in Design,” juxtaposed the forces of ego and empathy, in addition to, technology and humanity. These forces effect designers internally and externally throughout the design process. Good design, we argue, requires a balancing act of these forces to develop truly user-centered design. We selected speakers and environment that encourage designers to confront how these forces influence their actions.

I essentially served as the lead co-chair, coordinating meeting and production schedules, interfacing with the school administration, managing key portions of the budget, and keeping the team and volunteers on track. I was  responsible for managing the graphics team that developed event collateral and signage and the teams responsible for lunchtime flow and interactions outside of the main conference hall.

Volunteers preparing installations the morning of the day one. Copyright © 2014 Paul Sheetz.

Volunteers preparing installations the morning of the day one. Copyright © 2014 Paul Sheetz.

As a student conference, we aimed to create some debate in the field and select speakers that brought with them strong opinions and open minds. Our stage included Rhiju Das, whose lab created the EteRNA online game and Don Norman, a legendary designer. Social innovators Linda Pulik and Siobhan Gregory shared a stage with Darlene Damm, a alum of Singularity University. Additional speakers from Google Creative Lab, Stanford University, IDEO, MAYA Design and others sparked dialogue on how and why designers do what they do.

Don Norman, the opening speaker on day one of the conference

Don Norman, the opening speaker on day one of the conference. Copyright © 2014 Paul Sheetz.

After the event, participants really enjoyed our choice of the Field Museum as a venue and thought it a unique and exciting difference from typical design conferences.

Day one evening reception in the Hall of Mammals at Chicago's Field Museum

Day one evening reception in the Hall of Mammals at Chicago’s Field Museum. Copyright © 2014 Paul Sheetz.

I took on this project as a challenge to contribute to the broader discussions in design. In the process, I also learned a good deal about my own working style, assets and areas to improve.

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Celebration at the end of the conference. Copyright © 2014 Yasu Sasaki.

More details about the conference can be found here: http://drc.id.iit.edu/

Core77 produced sketchnotes on the conference, which can be found here: http://www.core77.com/blog/sketchnotes/sketchnotes_of_iit_institute_of_designs_design_research_conference_2013_by_stefani_bachetti_25727.asp