August 28, 2013

Going to Cusp Conference 2013 in Chicago

Image courtesy of Andy Eltzroth of Multiple

A few years ago, I discovered the Cusp Conference. While its focus resides in the practice and influence of design, it does so with a wide lens. Its annual roster of speakers span an eclectic range of design-related areas, from literature to business to music to education.

The macro zoom of the Cusp Conference particularly reminds me of design history professor and author Victor Margolin’s coining of the phrase “product milieu.” From his co-edited collection of essays called Discovering Design (1995), he wrote:
“The product milieu is an interactive presence in the lifeworld. We are always in the midst of it and we experience it as something lively, flexible, and even aggressive. … Conceiving design broadly enough to include buildings and corporate identity programs, spoons and towns, computer software and health care delivery systems, adds a new and needed dimension to our reflection on it as a social practice.”
The artificial landscape is a designed landscape, that is always undergoing constant iteration and adjustment. Each year, since its inception on 2008, the Cusp Conference presents a slate of perspectives centered toward the all-encompassing nature of design. Dissecting the event’s name reveals the meaning of “cusp”, a turning—not tipping—point. Furthermore, the event’s mission is boldly expressed in its tagline—“The Design of Everything.” Without flinching, the Cusp Conference has been addressing the intimidating, yet profound, phenomenon of everything.

A seasoned project by strategic design firm Multiple, the Cusp Conference has been piquing my curiosity, which has now turned (pun surely intended) into opportunity. Big thanks to Andy Eltzroth, principal at Multiple, for generously offering me a media pass to attend and experience the Cusp Conference on September 18 and 19 in Chicago. Matching the event’s proactive lean toward diversity in creativity, the Museum of Contemporary Art is a fitting venue, which also pays close attention to the imaginative application of ideas.

Here’s to an anticipated and vigorous spoonful of everything, by design.

• • •

With the Cusp Conference’s yearly location in mind, consider this quote which is also from the book Discovering Design:
“Chicago has become an important center of design thinking in recent years because of the cooperative activities of a number of scholars, researchers, and practicing. … This is based on a shared belief that out of a plurality of voices will come new ideas for the study and practice design.”
A sense of plurality is clearly evident in the event’s presenters for 2013.