What is design? Design Vancouver will have some answers

Design Vancouver event, the brainchild of principal architects at LSW Architects, is set for Oct. 4-5

Alexandra Bradford
ALEXANDRA BRADFORD The Section Magazine/LSW Architects

Vancouver is a city brimming with creativity and forward-thinking entrepreneurs and on Oct. 4-5, LSW Architects, a leading Northwest architecture firm, will celebrate this by hosting Design Vancouver, a two-day conference in downtown Vancouver.

Design Vancouver is the brainchild of the firm’s principal architects – Casey Wyckoff, Esther Liu and Ralph Willson – who saw the need to highlight creative collaborations and fuel connections to build stronger relationships within Vancouver’s community.

Jake Hendrix, the conference’s executive director, said the idea for the conference stemmed from LSW Architects’ core values: namely, that design matters and that the Vancouver community should be celebrated.

“The principals at LSW are deeply vested in Vancouver and they care about design,” Hendrix said.

The idea, according to Hendrix, is to challenge the notion that innovation, entrepreneurship and elevated design can’t happen in Vancouver. For years, those looking to take part in a dialogue about design, network with other entrepreneurship or watch a conference devoted to spreading innovative ideas had to go to Portland for Design Week, The Seattle Design Festival or watch TED Talks from their homes.

The leadership at LSW Architects asked themselves: “Why can’t we have a design conference in Vancouver that brings community together?” The answer they arrived at was: “We can. And we will.”

Hendrix, who joined the Design Vancouver team nine months ago, said the conference came together in just nine months.

“From the start, I was like let’s go – we can do this,” Hendrix said. He thinks the timing is right for this type of design conference in Vancouver. “People are starting to congregate and share ideas in Vancouver. We have seen the success of VanTalks and we have experienced the success of other design weeks in Portland and I think there was a sense that Vancouver is at a point where we have creatives, entrepreneurs and resources that we should be highlighting.”

Design Vancouver is designed to bring in outside talent and push the perspective that design offers solutions to the problems we see around us.

“Our presenters at the conference are people who are solving problems and we get a chance to be inspired by them,” Hendrix said.

The heart of the conference is to highlight design thinking across a broad group of disciplines while driving the message that relationships are of ultimate value. Hendrix and LSW Architect’s owner, Casey Wyckoff, let those two principles guide the decision-making process for what the conference would look like.

What is design? That is the fundamental question that Hendrix asked himself throughout the planning process. Hendrix doesn’t have a background in design or architecture like Wyckoff does, which means that Hendrix’s definition of design crosses all boundaries.

“I really think the common thread around design is a deep level of thoughtfulness and intentionality,” he said.

It is true that design is about how a building is constructed or what the interiors of a room look like but Design Vancouver will highlight “design thinking” in the presenter’s respective areas of passion. This means Design Vancouver will cover topics about the process of creating a movie, founding a start-up and bringing a community together to find solutions to homelessness.

Design Vancouver presenters reflect the breadth of Hendrix’s definition of design: Slumberkins founders Callie Christensen and Kelly Oriard; interior designer Jessica Helgerson; architect Akasha Lawrence-Spence; Laura Allcorn, founder of the Institute for Comedic Inquiry; and Harper’s Playground executive director Cody Goldberg are all speakers at this week’s event (and local to Portland and Vancouver).

Brothers Rob Bredow and Dennis Bredow are Design Vancouver keynote speakers.

Rob Bredow is the academy award-nominated visual effects supervisor and a co-producer for Solo: A Star Wars Story as well as the executive creative director and head of George Lucas’s special effects company, Industrial Light and Magic.

Dennis Bredow is a senior look development artist in the cinematics division at video game company Blizzard Entertainment. In the past, he created groundbreaking images for animated films like The Polar Express.

“We are expecting powerful and creative collaborations to spring up from what Design Vancouver has to offer,” Hendrix said.

Design Vancouver begins on Oct. 4 at Kiggins Theatre in downtown Vancouver. Tandem Hall, will host the core speakers on Oct. 5. Tickets can be purchased at designvanwa.com.

Alexandra Bradford is a freelance journalist working with LSW Architects and the Editor-in-Chief of The Section Magazine. She spent three years covering war, conflicts, politics and humanitarian issues for English print.