If we were to assemble a series of design events in Portland, how might we best reflect the culture here?
That was the question I had posed to Tsilli Pines over coffee one wet morning in early spring. Tsilli had recently launched the local franchise of the wildly popular CreativeMornings series and I was working — along with Brooks Gilley — on the latest volume of Designspeaks with Steve Sandstrom.
I liked Tsilli immediately. Our paths had crossed a few times by that point and when news spread that CreativeMornings would be coming to Portland, there were whispers that our respective events would ultimately compete for the time and attention of Portland’s relatively small creative community. We felt differently. We went on to discuss how we could further support one another and how we could provide real benefit to the community. We talked about how that benefit could be realized by highlighting the world-class programming that Kate Bingaman-Burt was bringing to Show and Tell at Portland State University; that Brad Smith was sharing with WebVisions; that Yvonne Perez Emerson was building with WeMake; that Namita Gupta Wiggers was creating at Museum of Contemporary Craft and in conjunction with PNCA. And the list went on and on. Film, industrial, food, digital, fashion, typography. We weren’t really starting anything new. It was already here.
The answer to the posed question ultimately took a series of turns over time. It landed somewhere between let’s keep it organic and see how it takes shape and let’s continue to reach out to those people and organizations who are already producing amazing events and experiences. A single week, we agreed, could provide a snapshot of what is happening here and now. We reasoned that in whatever form it took that we would strive to be inclusive and we would approach design with a capital D. That meant celebrating all design disciplines. We weren’t selling anything except the local culture of design.
Above all else, we would put a stake in the ground and do it.
So we asked them all — Kate, Brad, Yvonne, Namita, and a committed all-star band of others — to join us in making something big and loud. Design Week Portland would be the platform but the value was in the individual events, how they were different, and how they would inform the topic of design.
And they all said yes, when do we start? Not who? Or what? Or how?
Just when? That’s Portland for you.