A lot of cities have weeks set aside to promote design in some way, but they are all very different in scope. Some draw more attention to local architecture and some are exclusively focused on graphic design.The idea behind Birmingham’s Design Week is to be as multi-disciplinary as possible, to inspire those who do creative work, and to educate those who appreciate it. That ends up creating a wide spectrum of subject matter between thoughtful academic lectures and quirky screen printed goods. But I think creative people like to be exposed to a variety of events and are often inspired by professions different from their own.
By inviting speakers from all over the country, we have drawn visitors and attention from a lot of different areas to Birmingham to see what’s going on. Giving Birmingham a platform to be a voice in the national creative conversation is very important. Inside Birmingham, I am encouraged by how many students and young people attend the events and become exposed to our vibrant professional community. I think they see the opportunities to make an impact here and do the kind of work they want to do.
3. How will this year differ from previous years?
Each year takes on its own personality. This year we have two of our biggest events in the same space, creating a type of headquarters in Pepper Place. Sloss Real Estate has allowed us to take over a vacant warehouse and make it our own for the week. We added an agency open house event this year that shines the spotlight back on the firms that make our creative community so strong. Anyone can stop in and tour some really great offices here in town. We still have our staple events like Rapid Fire and now FEAST that we have done in years past.
4. How do you think we as a city can better integrate design into education?
That is a big task and there is a big need for design thinking to be incorporated into all levels of education. I am personally passionate about the collegiate level; because of how critical that time is in a student’s life. I think we have an obligation to mold that talent into a professional who can jump right in at any firm in the country and start contributing. I want UAB, Montevallo, Samford, and Birmingham Southern, as well as Auburn and Alabama, to produce the best graduates in the country, and they do. This year the Birmingham Flag Project has integrated students into the competition and allowed them to get feedback and recognition from the design community. Exposing students to events like that, creating more internship programs, and inspiring them to dream are ways we can equip the next generation to do greater things than we have seen.
5. Who are some other local designers that inspire you?
As far as design in Alabama, I am always inspired by the Rural Studio program. I may be biased (full disclosure: although I did not go through the program myself, I am an Auburn grad), but the work continues to receive international attention which is well deserved. That problem solving attitude is one shared by all the architects in Birmingham whether they have come from the Rural Studio or not. Birmingham also has a healthy graphic design community with roots going all the way back to the Southern Progress days in the 80s. The branding and design work being produced right now by many different firms is very strong.