What do vodka, a rubber band, and the 1970s Volkswagen Microbus have in common? The surprising answer to this comes in the form of the video blog entitled 'Thirty Conversations on Design,' the creative brainchild of the design firm Little & Co.
Developed last year in celebration of the company's 30th anniversary, the idea was to get different perspectives on design from thirty designers, or 'creative professionals,' as they are referred to on the website. The resulting eye-opening montage of inspiring stories was so successful that the blog has become an annual project.
The project itself is simple. Thirty creative professionals from a wide spectrum of specialties are selected to answer two questions: What single example of design inspires you most? and What problem should design solve next? The answers, submitted in the form of short homemade videos, are as varied and complex as the personalities behind them.
From the cliched to the unique, from the old to the new, nothing is too ordinary or too out-there to inspire this diverse group of innovators. There is the husband and wife team infatuated with the sleek craftsmanship of the iPhone, and the no-nonsense graphic designer enamored of the alphabet. A costumed father, who, inspired by the traditional Mexican Molcajete, teaches his son the art of making guacamole. The columnist and former speechwriter who nominates what he dubs 'the lowly eraser' for his inspiration.
It is only after watching a number of these short pieces that the larger picture emerges. 'Thirty Conversations' is not primarily about the designers or their work, and does not appear to be simply a promotional venture for Little & Co. 'Thirty Conversations' is about design. It is a successful part of an emerging movement that seeks to broaden the narrow definition that has unfortunately come to categorize the field of design.
Design can no longer be limited to an elegant sculpture in a gallery or an ornate gown on the runway. Design today is instead a product of the fusion of these traditional media with technology, modern society, and sustainable solutions.
Emily Pilloton, founder of Project H Design and contributor to 'Thirty Conversations,' sees design as an untapped resource for public education (see video). Pilloton, with a background in product design and architecture, now teaches high school as part of her nonprofit design-based project.
The director of Disney-Pixar's popular Up, whose submission is a cinematic pleasure after the poor video quality of many other responses, defines design as the purposeful arrangement of elements to produce an intended reaction in the viewer.
This generous interpretation of design does not devalue the field, as sometimes happens, but does just the opposite. In embracing the versatility of designers, the world of design can open itself up to unimaginable potential. 'Thirty Conversations' is perhaps the catalyst for this revolution.