By David Burn
Portland—Portland is Beervana, Stumptown, Puddletown, Rip City. There are as many descriptions for Portland as there are prisms to view the city through. From an industry point of view, Portland is a sustainabilty mecca, a hotbed for tech startups, a sportswear capitol and a friendly home to thousands of independent makers and doers.
Eric Hillerns, principal at Pinch says, “Everyone’s an innovator here.” He adds, “Portland is shaped by the idea of design,” hence, the small downtown core and Urban Growth Boundary. By “design” he is speaking about something much larger than graphic design. “Design is manifest in any product we use,” says Hillerns.
With this expansive definition in mind, Hillerns — who also runs the popular single-speaker series, Designspeaks (with with 52’s Brooks Gilley) — teamed with Tsilli Pines of Creative Mornings and a group of stellar event producers to offer something new to members of Portland’s design community, and those interested in the many forms design takes. The collective’s new baby is Design Week Portland, a five-day cross-disciplinary event scheduled to kick off for the first time on October 9. The opening party is at Ace Hotel’s event space, The Cleaners.
Drawing on the exceptional design programming that already exists in Portland, DWP is a new opportunity to promote design as a key industrial sector in Portland (along with the city’s focus on clean tech, advanced manufacturing, software, research and outdoor industries). DWP’s organizers want to highlight much of the existing programming that not everyone in the community knows about or participates in. “We want more awareness for these existing events, many of which are open to the public and free,” says Pines. “The rising tide raises all ships,” she notes.
Gilley, a sponsor, echoes, “In a city this rich in creative talent, we need more than a week to celebrate and showcase what’s here, but this is a great new beginning.” Gilley also notes that the expansiveness of the content—from industrial design to food design and beyond—is an essential part of the larger story. “Like Minneapolis, Portland is a design center, and thousands of people in Portland and elsewhere profit from this fact.”
Interestingly, DWP already has significant momentum behind it for a first-year event. Much of that momentum is due to the uber-talented event organizers, say Pines and Hillerns. The power of word-of-mouth is also helping to get the word out. For Tina Roth Eisenberg, a.k.a. Swiss Miss, a designer based in Brooklyn, DWP is the “only place” she wants to be during the week of October 9-13.
Some of the existing design programming to be featured during DWP includes Kate Bingaman Burt’s “Show and Tell” series at Portland State University, which Pines and Hillerns both describe as amazing, open and free programming. DWP is also bringing in programming unique to the event, including a Design Film Fest featuring six to eight short and full-length films curated by Felix Ng of Singapore. In addition, there will be 50 tours of studios and making spaces.
Portland-based WebVisions put a special workshop together for DWP called “Designing Narrative Media Experience,” and WeMake is hosting “Put A Bird In It,” an event where local designers will create 100 custom birdhouses to be auctioned off to help fund art in public schools. Plus, the 2012 Letterpress Printers Fair takes place on Saturday, October 13, and Power and Light Press’ Type Truck will serve as the event’s mobile headquarters.
For the full slate of events, see designweekportland.com. The conference does not have a single wristband of lanyard for access to events — every event during the conference is managed independently. So, you’ll need to arange your calendar and secure tickets ahead of time for many of the more popular events. For example, Aaron Draplin is speaking, and that means a room full of people. Guaranteed. Note some events are free, while others require a minimum fee.
David Burn is Chief Storyteller at Bonehook, a Portland-based content marketing and brand identity studio. He’s also the co-founder and editor of AdPulp.com, which covers media, marketing and advertising from the practitioner’s point of view.