Seattleites Get A Sneak Peak At This Year’s Seattle Design Festival

by Beverly Aarons

The Seattle Design Festival gave the public a free sneak peek of this year’s festival on Tuesday, August 21st at the Center for Architecture & Design. The sneak peak event was jammed with eager participants despite the cloud of wildfire smoke stifling the entire city. The event provided screen printing for attendees who brought t-shirts, and there was food and a slate of presenters who gave attendees just a small sampling of how the 2018 Seattle Design Festival will explore the theme of “trust”—how to build trust between communities, public space policymakers, businesses, technology companies, architects, designers, advocates and all the other community stakeholders who have an impact on how space is used in urban settings.

Design in Public, AIA Seattle, and 120 partners will host more than 80 events and installations in dozens of venues across greater Seattle from September 6 – 21, 2018. Last year’s festival attracted 30,000 attendees allowing a large number of people inside and outside of the design community to participate. This year’s festival is expected to top that number.

“Seattle is far from immune to the corrosive effects of mistrust and misinformation we’re seeing in our society,” said Lisa Richmond, Executive Director of AIA Seattle + Design in Public. “This year’s Seattle Design Festival is an opportune moment for public conversation on how the design of our places, objects, information, and experiences builds trust between diverse communities.”

The Seattle Design Festival’s exploration of trust—in a time of “fake news” and eroding trust in everything from politicians to next door neighbors—offers a unique opportunity to openly discuss declining community trust and present solutions for repairing those relationships. Debra Webb, the Director of Design In Public stressed the central importance of the Seattle Design Festival as a space that centers the public in all forums, where they can participate and not simply listen to “professionals” talking. Every year the festival puts out a call for proposals from the public, which gives community members an opportunity to share their perspectives even if they’re not designers.

“They can propose a performance. They can propose an event, a tour, a film screening, a community dinner. They could do a workshop, a panel discussion. They can do an installation down at the block party,” Webb said. “So there are a lot of entry points.”

Webb also discussed how this year’s festival is different because organizers decided to completely engage with the community’s demand to have some hard conversations about society’s current challenges. She stressed that it is the aim of the festival to provide a platform to have conversations that may be controversial and challenging but that are necessary.

“We need to have hard conversations about trust amongst diverse communities, trust amongst the press, and social media,” Webb said. “We want the festival to be a mirror for what’s happening in society and what’s relevant and what’s interesting.”

The discussion around trust won’t just be explored in the most expected ways. This year’s sneak peek has made it clear that the 2018 Seattle Design Festival will have programming from civic leaders, urban designers, design review boards, the governor’s office, artists, activists, and conversations about trust in technology such as autonomous cars. If this sneak peek is a good indicator, the 2018 Seattle Design Festival shouldn’t be missed.

Featured Photo: The 2016 Seattle Design Festival Block Party (Photo: Trevor Dykstra)

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