From industrial design to fiber crafts: NYCxDESIGN’s annual extravaganza

NYCxDESIGN, New York’s celebration of the city’s design community, kicks off its fourth season today. Its lead organizer, the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s (NYCEDC) Ed Hogikyan, spoke with me about the role of design festivals in the five boroughs and beyond.

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When and why was NYCxDESIGN conceived?

It was originally conceived in 2012, when then Speaker of the city council Christine Quinn approached NYC & Company, the agency that oversees tourism, with an idea to help promote and support the local design community. The concept involved creating a platform under which different design events taking place in New York could be aggregated and promoted as one big event, giving people a reason to come visit, to come do business, and to patronize these organizations.

In the first two years there was a lot of figuring out what we were doing and ensuring that we had the design community’s support. We created a steering committee comprising some 30 different people representing different design disciplines and organizations in the city, from the design schools and museums to different businesses, trade organizations, and professions.

Cooper Hewitt

The Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, one of the institutions participating in NYCxDESIGN

One of the really interesting aspects of NYCxDESIGN is that it features all different types of design, as opposed to celebrating just, say, architecture or industrial design.

One of our objectives was to ensure that NYCxDESIGN was on the calendar of people that go to design weeks around the world. There are 100-plus design weeks globally, and we wanted everyone to know what NYCxDESIGN was. What you have pointed out is something that I find to be unique about our event and that has helped us achieve that goal of offering the world something new and exciting.

Why are we all so fanatical about design right now? Why has design piqued the public’s interest?

I think there’s greater awareness of what design is and how it impacts our lives. Educating people about design is one of our programming objectives for NYCxDESIGN. We want to help people appreciate how design impacts everything we do and see during the course of the day, from how your alarm clock looks and functions to the clothes you put on to the way you get to work.

There are 100-plus design weeks globally.

Technology has also opened up a lot of doors. Many people are engaging with technology and its potential, which often has a lot to do with design questions — for example, thinking about how you design something for a 3-D printer that actually becomes a functional piece of furniture or jewelry.

I saw Maria Torres-Springer, NYCEDC’s president, talk about the importance of the design sector to the city, and she spoke a lot about equality.

Making design accessible to a very broad and diverse swath of the population is one of our most important goals.

Another aspect that touches on accessibility and diversity is collaboration. We’ve seen that grow exponentially. Because we’ve been engaging and collaborating with the design community, they now get what we’re trying to do. They understand that we aren’t trying to create something that competes with their events but rather enhances them and tries to bring their message to an even broader audience.

NYCxDesign event at Center for Architecture 2013

NYCxDESIGN event at the Center for Architecture, 2013

We are also collaborating with the press. Metropolis has produced a dedicated NYCxDESIGN guide, and it’s being distributed to its global subscription base, in addition to being distributed around the city during the festival. And the New York Times is producing a special design section on May 5 that will cover NYCxDESIGN.

Now people are coming to us; we don’t have to go to them.

What are your goals for 2016?

One of the challenges we initially faced was skepticism from the local design community. There were a lot of organizations and individuals who vaguely understood what we wanted to do, but they weren’t going to support NYCxDESIGN until we proved ourselves. Once there’s something tangible for them to see, they’re more willing to invest time and resources. In order to succeed we really needed the community’s support. Now we have that.

Tokyo Designers Week

Tokyo Designers Week

Looking forward, we can focus on bigger goals. International collaboration is one, because that provides exposure to brands that are growing their businesses globally. I’ve personally spent a lot of time on a new organization that’s being created. The concept came from the organizers of Tokyo’s design week. The premise was to have a global design-weeks organization to share knowledge and best practices — to, again, foster more collaboration.

Different design weeks were seeing each other as competitors, but really we should be partners, because at the end of the day we’re all trying to grow the global conversation about design.

 

NYCxDESIGN runs May 3–17 in all five boroughs of New York City. Find events and open showrooms in the Metropolis guide.

 

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