May 11 2017

DWP: Good Design Solves Problems

On April 28th, Upswept Creative hosted a panel discussion at HQ as part of Design Week Portland. What started as a fun idea tossed to the group in one of our team meetings very quickly evolved into a fully realized, (and totally booked!) event. Creative Director and Benevolent Overlord Sarah had been thinking a lot about design, and what makes good design really work. So we assembled a diverse set of design professionals for our panel and happy hour, to help us explore the topic, “Good Design Solves Problems.

Our hope was to represent perspectives on design from multiple design disciplines, so  panel consisted of Design Scientist and Innovative Strategist Stef Koehler, Architectural Designer Callie Coles, Apparel Designer and Founder of Hubris Apparel Rita Hudson-Evalt, and Upswept Creative’s very own Sarah Giffrow, who specializes in website design and branding.

THE DISCUSSION

 

Design Week Portland panel
Our wonderful panel, from right to left: Stef Koehler, Rita Hudson-Evalt, Callies Coles, Sarah Griffrow, and the moderator, Josselyn Haldeman.

The panel dove right in, addressing the question at hand. How does good design solve problems? Kohler spoke on her practice of making the problem bigger, “see all the parts,” she said. “Look at it as a system. Don’t make it simple, complexify it.”

A major piece of creating beautiful, problem-solving design is finding out exactly what a client’s problems are–and that can often be tricky. The panel agreed that most clients don’t have the language to communicate exactly what they want, and that means it’s a designer’s job to pull it out of them. “The client may not know what the problem is. Get ahead of the problem…Make the dress that lets them feel like themselves,” said Hudson-Evalt.

Sarah chimed in with an approach all of the panelists could agree with: communicate with your client. “Have a conversation. Engage with the client to pull answers out.”

As an architectural designer, Coles described how she will go into a space to observe how people use it. When do people start looking confused? Where do they look for direction? “[There is] no substitute for observing what people do real space,” said Coles.

“[Create a] balance between ‘brand’ and what the user actually wants to get to. First impressions- big photos, catchy phrases- can get in the way of finding the pie or buying the shoes. What is the interaction the end-user wants?” said Giffrow.

Design Week Portland nametags
Professional name tags. So fancy!

This touched on a major theme of the evening, empathy. To get inside the end user’s head, a designer has to be empathetic to that experience. Hudson-Evalt suggested, “Talk to people constantly, what they need from the dress/what they want. Realizing themselves in the mirror.”

UNTIL NEXT TIME

Team Upswept Creative had such a blast putting on the event, and we hope everybody who came out enjoyed themselves, too. Thank you to all of the panelists, Design Week Portland, and our lovely audience for braving the heat to make it out to our little event.


Dec 18 2009

Help-Portrait Project

I’ve had a ridiculously busy few weeks recently, but I somehow still found room in my schedule to be a part of the Help-Portrait event held here in Portland last Saturday. The mission of Help-Portrait? Find a needy person, take their portrait, create a print and give it to that person. Helping one person just wasn’t enough, though, and after several planning meetings and a flurry of e-mails and Google spreadsheets, we had over 30 volunteers coming together to shoot portraits for dozens of people in need!

I could only stay for the first half of the day, but the energy of the experience lifted my spirits all weekend. The atmosphere was warm and collaborative, and considering how many professional photographers were in the room, the space was ego-free. We’d share tips and chat about gear, lend a hand holding a reflector or testing lights, and back each other up whenever someone needed an assist. The volunteers who weren’t photographers were on-point and ready to help with hair and makeup, contacting organizations, sorting through images, or even just staying with folks who were waiting to have their portrait taken, so they wouldn’t feel lost in the shuffle. It was all about the people we were helping, and making it a positive experience for them.

No matter how many times I see it, it’s always a little surprising for me, to see the faces of the less-fortunate. When I visited China back in the summertime, I found myself shocked at the extreme circumstances of some of the disadvantaged people I encountered on the streets. At Help-Portrait, however, those less-fortunate faces didn’t look much different from my own. A lot of people, from all walks of life, have come up on tough circumstances these days, and it’s not hard to see it, if you look around you. Still, there were some very sweet families and freakin’ adorable kids who came to get their portraits done, and it was a lot of fun to meet all of these people, and watch them truly enjoying with their photo sessions and interacting with all the volunteers who came out.

Honestly, it’s hard to know what else to say that would even begin to encompass this experience, for someone who wasn’t there… it was just an amazing event all around, and watching the slideshow this morning was such a treat. I’m absolutely doing this again next year, and I know it’s only going to grow bigger and better!

Here’s the slideshow, with plenty of photos (including quite a few of my own) documenting the events of the day. It’s always enjoyable for me to simply watch people being themselves, and capture the bright moments. 🙂