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Seattle Design Festival: Empowering Community Through Design

Since 2011, the Seattle Design Festival has celebrated two of the things we at Artefact cherish deeply: design and community. We were proud to be a partner and sponsor of this year’s jam packed celebration, which brought together designers, community members, experts, and city officials to share and explore how design improves the quality of our lives and our community. The theme of this year’s festival, POWER, was particularly poignant, as we as individuals, designers, and citizens seek meaningful ways to shape our future in a time of growth, adversity and change.

Seattle Design Festival 2017 provided a stage for the community to come together and explore creative design initiatives that elevate marginalized populations and challenge existing power structures. It also gave us a forum to share our thoughts on the role design in general and Artefact in particular can play in designing a future we all want to live in:

Humanity-Centered Design: How Ethics Will Change AI

One of the most frequently discussed technology topics today is Artificial Intelligence. The rise of AI is forcing us to have discussions about our values, our biases and the future of our symbiotic relationship with technology. Our co-founder, Rob Girling, who has been thinking extensively about the role of design in an AI world, joined Mira Lane (Microsoft), Scott Nazarian (McKinsey & Company), Warren Schramm (Teague), and award-winning author Ramez Naam for a discussion on the opportunities and challenges of designing AI that can empower humans and improve our world. Finding the right balance between accuracy and empathy, biases and optimized data sets, speed of innovation and time needed to reflect on potential impact will be at the core of designing a positive future, panelists agreed. In this AI gold rush, we should not absolve ourselves from the responsibility of thinking about and avoiding the negative outcomes that are all too possible.

Artefact co-founder Rob Girling joins other Seattle design thinkers on stage at SDF2017 to discuss the ethics of AI.

Artefact co-founder Rob Girling discussing the ethics of AI with fellow Seattle design thinkers.

Empowering Communities: Design Discussion

Artefact researcher Jeff Turkelson shared his experience designing for marginalized communities on the panel “Empowering Communities.” Jeff spoke about Artefact’s work designing for young adults experiencing homelessness as part of Artefact’s partnership with the Seattle Mayor’s Office Innovation Team. Panelists from Friends of Waterfront Seattle, Architecture for Refugees, and DLR Group discussed their experiences working with refugees, designing for incarcerated populations, and the role of shared public spaces. Small design thinking activities helped engage the audience and generated takeaways around themes such as the importance of empathy and collaboration in the design process, the dangers of jumping too quickly to a technology solution to complex challenges, and above all, avoiding the trap of defining people by their condition.

Jeff Turkelson, a design researcher at Artefact, speaks at the Center for Architecture & Design about designing for the community.

Artefact’s Jeff Turkelson speaking at the Center for Architecture & Design.

Empowered Youth: Human-Centered Design Beyond Tech

We opened Artefact’s studio to host and facilitate this series of lightning talks by change makers from Technology Access Foundation Academy, Sawhorse Revolution, Q Card Project, and KidsTeam UW. They shared how they have adapted the human centered design process to empower youth to succeed in school, live healthier lives, and design for diverse communities. The event also featured a panel discussion that shed light on the need to create space for young people to be co-designers, not passive users to be observed and interviewed; the patience required to build trust in collaborations and create meaningful change; and the importance of design mentorship, both in the classroom and in the community.

Genya Shimkin stands in front of a packed house at Artefact's Pioneer Square studio to share her experience designing the Q Card Project.

Genya Shimkin, founder of the Q Card Project, sharing her experience as part of a panel hosted at Artefact’s studio. 

Seattle is a huge part of Artefact’s identity. We are proud to be a part of such a meaningful initiative that provides a forum and a bridge between design, the community and the city we all call home. We hope to see you at SDF2018!

By Kevin Merrill, Joan Stoeckle, and Jeff Turkelson