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Design conference opens with focus on interface

Steve Benson
Yellow dots have sprung up throughout Aspen as the 53rd annual International Design Conference swings into motion. Aspen Times photo/Devon Meyers.
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If you haven’t yet figured it out, the yellow dots scattered around town are bear traps. Just kidding. They are part of the 53rd annual International Design Conference in Aspen, which kicked off last night and will run through Saturday with a series of speeches and discussions from a number of renowned designers. The conference attracts architects, urban and graphic designers, artists, filmmakers, educators, scientists and, this year, a lingerie designer.

This year’s theme is interface, which may explain the yellow dots. Interface is the notion that everything interacts with its environment, and nothing is neutral. “Everything interfaces with everything else,” said conference President Agnes Bourne. “It’s about relationships.” Benjamin Bratton of The Culture Industry in Southern California, said all design is interface design, regardless of the discipline. “Design has a crucial role to play in the fabrication and organization of our shared world,” he said.

Participants in the conference, which is open to the public for a small fee, will be challenged with several questions, such as how interface-driven software affects the way people conceive complex environments, and how architecture functions as an interface through which people experience the social world. But throughout the years, the overall theme of the conference has been interaction. “The conference acknowledges the critical importance of direct interaction among the design disciplines and of personal interaction among designers,” according to a prepared statement from event organizers. “Scheduled programs and intimate informal discussions take place around the campus site – under tents, alongside the river, in a meadow, or in an outdoor cafe.” Walter Paepcke and his wife, Elizabeth, started the conference in Aspen in 1951, and it’s now regarded as one of the most renowned design forums in the world.

The conference is highly progressive and emphasizes the importance of discussion, education and interaction among various designers, rather than simply training. “[It] addresses issues that are relevant to all design disciplines,” the statement reads.The conference is being held at the Meadows in Aspen. Steve Benson’s e-mail address is sbenson@aspentimes.com


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