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The 2009 Aspen Design
Summit, a partnership of AIGA and Winterhouse
Institute, was held at Aspen Meadows in November 2009. Thanks
to generous support from The Rockefeller Foundation and the
tireless work of our attendees, the Summit was a tremendous
When the International Design Conference in
Aspen was launched in 1949 in an obscure former silver-mining town
west of Denver, Colorado, the goal was to bring designers and
business leaders together to foster understanding of what design
could accomplish. Foremost, design was shown to be a strategic
force in improving business and cultural interests and enhancing
global prosperity. More than a half-century later, the 2009 Aspen
Design Summit restored a kernel of the conference's original
mission by uniting designers with the primary beneficiaries of
their talents and insights… - Change
The Aspen Design Summit is an interdisciplinary, global workshop
of designers, NGO decision makers, corporate leaders, and experts
who work together to design human-centered solutions to problems
that challenge the quality of life. The projects are those that
benefit real people without the means to address impediments to
human dignity and achievement. The projects may benefit people
directly or the environment on which human activity depends.
AIGA and the Winterhouse Institute have partnered with Change
Observer to report on details and outcomes from the 2009 Aspen
Chicago industrialist Walter Paepcke founded the International
Design Conference in Aspen more than fifty years ago. He and his
wife Elizabeth envisioned Aspen as a place where leaders from
throughout the world could gather to share ideas. Their vision was
first realized in 1949 when the Goethe Bicentennial celebration
attracted more than 2,000 people to Aspen to honor the 200th
birthday of Goethe, the great German humanist. Albert Schweitzer
opened the convocation.
In 1951, two years after the Goethe Bicentennial, Paepcke
established the IDCA as an opportunity to bring together designers,
artists, engineers, business and industry leaders. That first June,
some 250 attendees and their families assembled for four days of
presentations on the theory and practice of design. The title,
“Design as a Function of Management,” was chosen to ensure the
participation of the business community.
The IDCA, along with the Aspen Institute and the Aspen Music
Festival and School, grew out of the Paepckes' belief that Aspen
provided an ideal environment for nurturing the whole human being.
Isolated from the distractions of urban life and inspired by the
abundant natural beauty of the Colorado Rockies, people could take
advantage of Aspen's recreational, intellectual and cultural
resources. They would return home renewed in “body, mind and
spirit,” a concept that has come to be known as “The Aspen Idea.”
Today, Aspen is renowned for its wide range of cultural activities
and opportunities for learning.
In 2004, the IDCA board recognized that its design conference
had been so successful over the years in raising awareness of
design and its role in business and society that many other similar
conferences had been launched to advance this essential discourse.
The IDCA collaborated with AIGA, the professional association for
design, to protect the legacy of the IDCA by raising the funds and
making arrangements for the archives of the first fifty years (and
subsequent ones) to enter the collection (and curatorial care) of
the Getty Museum in Los Angeles.
At the same time, it was decided that the pioneering spirit of
the IDCA, in a 21st century form, would involve demonstrating the
role of creativity in defeating habit in society's response to the
larger issues threatening humanity. The IDCA was transformed from a
conference to a smaller summit, in which design thinking guided the
integration of concerns and solutions, often presented in the
context of broader forums of decision makers, like the Aspen Ideas
Festival or the World Economic Forum, instead of in the form of a
AIGA is now responsible for sustaining the contribution
originally engendered by the IDCA.
Aspen Design Summit was an invitational event held in Aspen by
the leadership of the International Design Conference in Aspen
(IDCA) in partnership with AIGA as an opportunity to rethink the
form and relevance of a design gathering in a world facing serious
challenges. The 2006
Aspen Design Summit, building on the formative outcomes of the
previous Summit, drew a diverse group of design-minded leaders from
around the world to work on problems in education,
woman-empowerment in the third world, post-Katrina recycling
efforts, water requirements in Africa, and sustainable development
in urban America.
The concept of the Summit developed in 2005 was to create,
concurrently, a parallel track of engagement by design students
worldwide. In May 2008, AIGA, INDEX: and Cumulus (International
Association of Universities and Colleges of Art, Design and Media)
launched the Aspen
Design Challenge, a project to increase public awareness of the
challenges in providing universal access to clean water. In March
of 2009 seven projects were selected as Finalists and ten
projects were selected as Honorable Mention.
Can design make a difference? Heller asks the founder of Project M about improving the world one community at a time.
Section: Inspiration -
graphic design, interview, social responsibility
This program encourages high school and college students to use design thinking and innovation to address complex social problems.
Section: Why Design -
A look at how this multidisciplinary design team sought to reaffirm the strength of the Comedy Central brand through a reengagement with Millennials.
Section: Why Design -
branding, identity design, in-house design, Competition, identity system, TV, entertainment
Architects have them, now designers do too. Already trusted by Fortune 500's and business celebrities, and endorsed by Ogilvy&Mather and FiDM, graphic design bLuPRINT poised to become new industry standard.
Section: Tools and Resources
The president of Grand Rapids–based Peopledesign discusses who will own the conversation of design and how they’re forever experimenting and adapting to ensure their relevance and success in the design climate of the future.
Section: Inspiration -
interview, business plans, human resources, collaboration, new business development, studio management
In the summer of 2012, AIGA Nashville paired three groups of design students with professional designers. The teams used design thinking to create short-term deliverables and long-term strategies for nonprofits and then presented the work to the community. This case study features work done with Urban Housing Solutions.
Section: Why Design -
branding, identity design, nonprofit, user research, web design, Design for Good, college, identity system, logos, partnerships, pro bono, social responsibility
Slice of Summer
External Resources (cont.)
Roca Barcelona gallery