hop scotch design fest

Hopscotch Design Fest

“An inaugural gathering of thinkers, makers, storytellers, and reinventors
who are shaping what’s next
right now.”

That’s the Hopscotch Design Festival.

I’m staring at my iPad and wondering how simple black letterforms on a white screen could possibly capture the vibrant energy I’ve experienced today.

Energy from all these thinkers, makers, storytellers and reinventors — presenters and attendees — striving as individuals to make the world a better place, making it happen through collaboration and working together as a community.

I am struck by the parallels of my past life as principal of my graphic design firm and my current role in sustainability for the City of Raleigh. Today I realized that design is really a whole lot more like sustainability than I ever realized: ubiquitous, pervasive. Hard to define but glaring when absent. Mission critical.

Good design creates a sense of place, order from chaos, a structure to know just how you fit into the big picture. Sustainability’s underlying tenets are inseparable big-picture connections between the environment, economics and equity.

I’m writing this in the lobby of CAM Raleigh, above the cacophony of happy hour, and the symbolism of the monstrous yellow door sticking as people try to leave is not lost on me. “Just push, it’s stuck,” I say, after people give it a go, it doesn’t immediately open, and I watch them question themselves whether they should really push or pull, or even if it’s locked. It’s exactly the same with a lot of the challenges we’ve been discussing here today…sometimes all it takes is a little guidance in the right direction and effort to move things forward.

I consciously chose Design 501 as Raleigh’s fictitious graduate course name since a lot of this effort happens after work ends at five.1 Yes, many Hopscotch Design Festival attendees are design professionals who solve thorny problems all day long, but many of today’s conversations reflect the bigger issues we face in our personal lives as well as those we need to address as a community.

After today’s sessions, I’m adding another E to my own personal definition of sustainability: empowerment. It came to mind as I was participating in the lunch workshop Gathering for Good: Designing a Better Food System organized by the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation. It was the 10th Gathering for Good event, and City Councilman Bonner Gaylord and Newkind’s Nation Hahn set the tone for what we would work on in the next hour or so: identifying what is true about food’s various issues today, what we hope to be true in the future, and what actions must happen to get us there. Ultimately it’s about empowering people to make change happen on the ground.

Ideas flowed freely as we enjoyed our healthy Happy and Hale lunch; our table talked composting, led by Justin Senkbeil of CompostNow and including keynote speaker Elle Luna, and education floated to the top as we talked around the issue: education, as in why is composting important to the food cycle, and education as in working to develop a pilot composting program with a school located in or near the Raleigh Food Corridor. In the end we settled on forming a compost action team in the near future to continue the discussion and figure out next steps.

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I’ll let other snippets of the day’s conversations speak for themselves…

Elle Luna, Artist + Designer
…The first of anything is a big deal, how magical is it that you get to decide what Hopscotch Design Festival becomes?
…It’s amazing to be here, it’s always exciting to be involved at the beginning of something when it exists at its purest essence
…the #choosemust story’s popularity is astounding; it’s been tweeted to over 5 million people and read by more than 300,000 people
…What unmet need is causing this resonance? At the highest level we are not living the fullness of our lives, using our gifts
…Mark Twain: the two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why
…Crossroads between Should and Must is not a one-time choice but a recurring choice
…Saying yes to small Shoulds makes it hard to say no to the big Shoulds
…Must is who you are, what you believe, your most deeply held convictions
…Must is your true authentic state; there are no carrots, no external rewards, you can only look inside for rewards with no guarantee that any of it will work
…Van Gogh painted his entire life without recognition; in describing his loneliness in a letter to his brother he said “What am I in the eyes of most people — a nonentity, an eccentric, or an unpleasant person — somebody who has no position in society and will never have; in short, the lowest of the low. All right, then — even if that were absolutely true, then I should one day like to show by my work what such an eccentric, such a nobody, has in his heart.”
…Choosing Must sounds fantastic right? Then why aren’t we all off running and doing that?
…Cement is the problem; the natural world is so beautiful but we build on top of it, we get so far from natural state of things that we can’t see them for what they are
…A flower has not other option to be but a flower, it has no scent but its own, no color but its own
…Every one of you has that budding flower inside; when you follow it through to the end the most amazing things happen
…Five ways to achieve a “sustainable Must”:
1) understand if you have a job, a career, or a calling and consciously choose
2) call your mom; Must can be traced to your childhood and found in play, and in suspicious little fantasies
3) go where there be dragons; what are the biggest reasons to not to choose Must? time, money and vulnerability so create your “What are you so afraid of?” list
4) divergence vs convergence; going wide before you narrow your choices back down – let’s go paint a million billion mistakes
5) stand at the root of the tree; pass on what comes from the depths, and let all things flow through you
…There will always be people who put ripples though the world; the only thing you can’t do is ignore them

Sarah Miller Caldicott, Author + Innovation Consultant
…Innovation is the process of starting, restarting, shaping…it’s ingenuity at its best
…Thomas Edison: “Men and women share equal capacity to think”
…Collaboration is key in digital age, shifting our view of what it means to be on a team; from 2010 to 2020 one billion working-age adults will enter the workforce
…Collaboration and teamwork are not the same: collaboration is the process of drawing the best from everyone on the team: their gifts, their expertise, their why; teamwork is “I do my part, you do your part, we’re done”
…4 phases of collaboration:
1) Capacity, be able to take risks together
2) Context, asking different questions, encouraging experimentation
3) Coherence, what does progress look like?
4) Complexity, networks beat hierarchies
…Need to intentionally develop collective intelligence, encourage team complexity rather than efficiency

Standard Foods, John Holmes and Scott Crawford
…Today we are robbed of authentic experiences; food taps into a specfic place and time
…What makes a great restaurant? Inviting, warmth, fresh food at its peak, knowledge and technique
…Need to respect food in its season; embrace and respect the connection to where it came from
…Design can mean many things, but placemaking is key: Raleigh City Farm started as wasted urban open space and grew up into a place to grow food
…On being authentic about food: why aren’t more people doing this? Because it’s hard!
…Access to real food is challenge for many people, there has to be a grass roots change
…Neighborhood markets are gone; we have not only food deserts but place deserts, we need to re-establish connection between food and community
…Consistency is key for farmers, they need solid markets to make it; things that chefs want are different than what will sell at farmers markets

Brian Singer, Design Manager, Brand at Pinterest
…Inspiration is all around us; my artwork lets me reconnect with why I got into design
…Idea for 1000 journals project was based on what people wrote on bathroom walls
…If you’re not getting death threats you’re not trying hard enough
…How you get rich in design depends on your meaning of the word rich

The first day of Design 501 was an incredible class. Let’s get started on our homework.

  1. Or should end at 5; one discussion point today is that many of us never truly disengage from work with 24/7 email.
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