Designing What’s Next

Next week more than 2,000 designers will be heading to denver for the AIGA 2007 conference. One of the presentations I’ll be looking forward to seeing will be made by Khoi Vinh, the design director at NYTimes.com.

Khoi will be speaking on the topic of ‘Control’. Here’s how the program describes it:

There’s a fundamental shift going on in design: CONTROL is passing from designers to design consumers, and it’s changing the way we practice our craft. For most of design history, we’ve judged the best designers on how successfully they’ve exerted control in their work. Control over ideas, over typography, over imagery, over the means of production–the more control the better.

It’s interesting that someone who works for the New York Times, one of the most carefully controlled websites in existence, would choose to talk on this topic. In this case, I mean ‘carefully controlled’ as a compliment – for the dozen or so years I’ve been using the web, nytimes.com has been my primary news portal for all of them. Of course, Khoi does other terrific design work as well – his blog, subtraction.com is a fantastic source of information on a variety of topics. And, he also takes good care of his dog, mister president, which is the best name ever for a dog.

I’m interested in his presentation because for the past nine months I’ve been working with a number of other Colorado designers exploring the topic of what’s next in design. We’ve talked about (and designed the conference materials by) collaborating in small groups, doing rapid prototyping, using design charrettes, and a lot about giving up control.

We’ve had over 30 different designers working on various components of the conference marketing collateral, and we developed a ‘brand’ that was all about providing a framework for design, rather than a heavily controlled set of rules. It has been a robust and valuable discussion, an exciting exploration, and a lot of work.

Now, as the conference approaches, we’ve launched an opportunity for the conference attendees to get involved in the discussion; through aiganext.com we’re hoping that the framework we’ve created will provide a launchpad for more discussion and more design innovation. We’ll be adding some additional features as the week goes on (including flickr photo tags) but at this point we’re hoping that conference attendees will add their profiles and their thoughts on ‘what’s next’, venues for visiting, and ‘bird of a feather’ events beyond the substantial events already sponsored by the AIGA.

None of this would have been possible without the substantial efforts of numerous colorado designers, including my core group cohorts, Fred Murrell of RMCAD, Craig Rouse of R Design, and Jason Otero of Art & Anthopology. aiganext.com is largely the result of a collaboration between myself and Sean and Todd at DayJob. Now, we’re giving up control. Visit aiganext.com and help decide what’s next.

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