The annual AIGA (the professional association for design) design conference has consistently provided an opportunity for the design community to make connections through inspiring presentations, networking events, and educational sessions. The 2017 conference title “connect” went on to reflect the importance of fostering meaningful connections with other designers and across design work.

It was great to see so much engagement and commitment to the idea of inclusion within the conference. According to Tina Essmaker, the 2017 Conference Chair:

“Connection happens when we employ empathy in our work, when we include the stories and perspectives of others, and when we come together to move our professions and humanity forward.”

As part of the lineup of activities, conference speakers, symposia presentations, and workshop sessions explored:

  • How do we meaningfully connect with our work? Is it necessary to do good work?
  • How do we work in a way that purposefully connects with others?
  • How do we come together in a way that moves the profession forward?
  • How do connections inside design influence those outside of design?
  • How does connecting with our work transform us as individuals?
  • How can we help foster connection through our work and ideologies?

I was honored to be selected to present as part of the Design Education Community (DEC) portion of the conference (with Kelly Murdoch-Kitt, University of Michigan). Our presentation was entitled “Design Pangea” and discussed the complexities of unconscious bias in design education related to the theme of “The Designer of 2025.” This fast-paced presentation painted a picture of the intercultural competencies future designers should possess and encouraged audience participation with provocative questions about their own beliefs, practices, and biases.

During the presentation, we asked audience members to provide feedback using post-it notes related to overarching themes of context, language, and what the designer of 2025 might look like. Following the session, we collected the post-it note feedback and mapped the responses, as shown below.

Our hope is to continue this dialogue and learn more about the stories or aspirations the community holds regarding confronting bias, intercultural collaboration, decolonization of design education, and addressing difference through design.

If *you* are interested in reviewing or using our presentation slides, you may download them here. Feel free to use them with our blessing (and proper attribution) in your classrooms or workplaces. Bring a pile of post-its and markers to get people engaged. Please let us know how they work out for you; it would be great to see photos of your outcomes!

We have some projects on the horizon that we hope you might want to be a part of, too. Stay tuned for an update in the coming weeks.

We hope you enjoyed the conference and look forward to continuing this conversation with you!