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SXSW Day 1 Recap

3 MINUTE READ | March 14, 2015

SXSW Day 1 Recap

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Alana Mandel

Alana Mandel has written this article. More details coming soon.

The day started with Princess Parking. That’s a thing that never happens but totally happened. I lucked out and found a street parking spot nearby my destination. $3 to park downtown during SXSW? Princess Parking. So I knew it’d be a good day.

After meeting up with the crew, picking up badges, sifting through the swag bag, and mapping out how far to walk to make my first session, I felt like I had my bearings on how to navigate this spectacle. I’ll be sure to provide a list of tips and tricks for doing Southby right at the end of the week. Til then, here’s a quick recap of Friday – Day 1:

Curious Bridges: How Designers Shape the Future – Keynote Speech by Paola Antonelli, curator at The MoMA

Paola Antonelli knows art. Her speech was focused on the in-between space that designers, she says, should be working within. She calls it Quantum Design, and describes it as designing in a comfortable dimension of ambiguity and ambivalence. Her speech made me think of causality and the need to blend our past and present ideas of design to create an almost abstract way of thinking about art and science. It’s all very fancy sounding, I know, but it’s a fascinating way to re-invent the standard “think outside the box” mantra we all know. She also showed a beautiful project by artist and designer Neri Oxman in which she studied the behaviors of silk worms and designed a structure to host the worms as they spun silk. The result was a mesmerizing blend of design and nature. Check out that silk cloud!

How To Be a More Inefficient Designer – Panel Presentation by Nathan and Marke Johnson of the design studio The Made Shop

I actually took 3 pages of scribbled notes during this panel discussion. I wanted to keep paying close attention, but these dudes kept saying so much shit I wanted to remember forever! The talk started with a blurb about how our culture hates inefficiency. And that’s true! Time is money, and therefore, efficiency is a virtue while inefficiency denotes incompetency and laziness and a bunch of things designers don’t want to be. However, efficiency isn’t the true goal of good design. If designers wanted to churn out the same project repeatedly, then we’d call ourselves production artists. But the goals most designers have when starting a project is to make something cool and new and meaningful. We ask questions and meander through a series of false starts and dead ends. We’re concerned with the process, rather than the product. The guys from the Made Shop reveal how inefficiency really is a virtue for creativity.

Another key takeaway that feeds into the benefits of inefficiency is the idea that friction leads to traction, and creative resistance is necessary when making quality work. They remind us to follow unknown trails and that the long, hard, stupid way can lead to extremely gratifying solutions to creative problems. I’m super stoked for the next journey of moving from not knowing to knowing, and accepting all the little inefficiencies along the way.

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Other cool things that happened on Day 1 of SXSW include receiving a ton of free Lyft vouchers, surprise run-ins with old friends, drinking a morning beer with my co-worker Jonathan, talking to a bunch of new people, and late night content-working sessions. That’s a wrap!

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