Sam’s Insight

This year, the Design Thinkers Vancouver Conference 2019 curated an impressive and diverse lineup of talented speakers across a range of industries, each bringing a unique perspective from their field.

We have curated our key takeaways from the conference to share with you because we believe sharing is caring.


1. Creative Impact: Equity in Information and Experience Design

Community organizer, scholar, researcher and designer Jessica Bellany is from the neighbourhood of Smoketown, Louisville Kentucky. During the Obama administration, dilapidated community housing in Smoketown was targeted for destruction and replacement. People were kicked out of homes and unable to afford new places for living. As Jessica put it, “developers came in with swollen money bags…” These developers loved that Smoketown was next to the downtown core of Louisville and tried to prime the area for further development. Jessica responded by designing infographics and with the help of volunteers, she began handing out brochures to inform and educate her community. During later development meetings, Jessica felt like she had given her community a weapon. Suddenly people were able to speak up and argue with real facts against further development that might have further displaced people from their neighborhood. As a viewer, I felt so inspired by listening to Jessica’s story. This is what good design has the potential to do. It can help empower people to move what might’ve seemed like an impossible mountain.

2. In Regards To Beauty

Leland Maschmeyer has a bone to pick with the phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.” He was tired with how that phrase would just stop the discussion from going deeper than just the surface. Utility often trumped beauty. Leland considered anti-design and talked about the grunge era of the 90’s when design was put through a shredder and heroin chic ruled the fashion world. Leland pointed to a lot of historical people and movements of design including brutalist architecture designer Louise Khan who is quoted to have said, “It isn’t architecture till you’re hit by the light.” Essentially we understood from Leland that beauty caters to our deepest spiritual needs. As the finite contacts the infinite… beauty is mediation. Beauty pulls us out of our narcissism and connects us to mystery. Beauty has the power to rearrange and break old narratives for new understandings of our place in the world. I found it particularly impactful when Leland showed us a video that just showed people’s facial reactions to the most recently uncovered painting by Leonardo Da Vivinci:

Says Leland, “Beauty is not an escape but an intensification.”

3. Lightning Talk: Ten Tips to Empower and Engage Organizations in Co-creation

Jane Vita talked very quickly about her passion in service innovation and design. What stuck out to me was this idea of liminal thinking “Everything we hear is an opinion,” said Jane. “Not necessarily fact.” She reminded us of the story of a group of blind men, who have never come across an elephant before and who learn and conceptualize what the elephant is like by touching it. So if ever we were to conduct a co-creation session, Jane reminded us that service design is a bridge and our role as a facilitator is to build understanding and make a positive impact.