What You Need to Know About Design Week

The annual celebration of creativity takes over Portland April 15–23.

By Marty Patail and Caitlin Collins March 25, 2016 Published in the April 2016 issue of Portland Monthly

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Designing for the Next Generation (April 19)
Millennials: so over! Gen Z is where it’s at. How will this emerging consumer group change our design?

You Are Sound (April 21)
Director Park transforms into a “meditative sonicscape.” Blissful.

99 Bottles of Art on the Wall (April 21)
Craft your own indie beer labels. (Must be 21 or older)

CODE: Debugging the Gender Gap (April 22)
A frank discussion of why women and people of color are desperately needed in software development.

Futurelandia (April 21)
Artists, graphic designers, and illustrators present 20 visions for Portland 100 years into the future.

For all Design Week events, visit designweekportland.com


Why does the world need another design conference? There are a lot of other conferences out there. The thing about Design Week we feel has been really successful is that it spans all disciplines. It’s not an architecture or graphic design conference. We have an opportunity to look at what’s happening in Portland: what are we known for, and what are we trying to solve here? We’re looking at systems: small-scale manufacturing, the relationship between analog and digital, sustainability, urban planning.

Do ideas cross-pollinate between disciplines? There’s an interest in new ways of thinking that are not natural to you. So we see architects attending graphic design events. We see product designers attending fashion events. Sometimes a literal collaboration comes out of it; sometimes it’s just an insight into coming at a problem from a new viewpoint.

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How has Design Week evolved since 2012? We started out just as a collective of event organizers—very naive in the beginning, honestly. It dawned on us about a month ahead of the first event that we might need a central entity to get a permit for the headquarters and fund a website. We realized after that first year we needed to build that infrastructure. We’re not trying to replicate SXSW up here, but they have this structure that we’re leaning towards: core programming at a main stage, and then lots of events across the city.

What is Portland’s design strength? We have firms doing world-class work, but there’s not the same superstar culture here as in other cities. That doesn’t mean the talent isn’t here—it means that there’s a collaborative community. The sum is stronger than its parts. There are a lot of interesting people who know each other.


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Start with a icosahedron—basically, a giant 20-sided die like you’d see in Dungeons & Dragons

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Divide each triangular face of the icosahedron into equally sized smaller triangles. For the domes at Design Week’s Pioneer Courthouse Square HQ, that’s 4 triangles per face. 

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Project those triangles onto a sphere encasing the original icosahedrom.

Got it? Cool.



  • 10  Keynote speakers at Design Week’s main stage at Revolution Hall
  • 100  Satellite events spread around Portland
  • 100  Open houses in agencies, studios, and production companies
  • 3,000  Expected attendees 


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The John Yeon Center for Architecture and the Landscape has organized a Design Week competition for the Green Loop, a proposed six-mile carless pathway linking the Lloyd District to the South Waterfront. Running on both sides of the Willamette River, the loop is part of a larger-scale pedestrian and bicycle highway blueprint known as the City Greenways Network. Proposals for the new public space can tackle everything from public art to stormwater management. Finalists will present their plans at the festival, with the jury-selected winner receiving a $20,000 grant to further develop their vision.

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