Indian design conference

We spoke with DesignUp Founder/Curator Jay Dutta to understand why the DesignUp conference scheduled for June 11-20, is a departure from previous years.

THC: Why is this year’s DesignUp so special?

JD: The first big difference is of course, that all proceeds are going to Goonj, Tribal Health Initiative, Aajeevika Bureau and Hemkunt Foundation, who are doing a phenomenal job of COVID relief.

In addition, we felt strongly that the creative community needed to hear and be inspired by a broader spectrum of speakers. We always have the best global practitioners at DesignUp and this year, too, we have people like Don Norman, Natasha Jen and Stefan Seigmaster, in addition to many other iconic designers.

However, for the first time we also have representation from broader disciplines.

Emmy Award winning Karin Fong from Imaginary Forces will showcase motion graphics. We have the best illustrator-storytellers like Yuko Shimizu and Pablo Stanley, along with master-animator Suresh Eriyat. Adeola Enigbokan will dive into psychology of environments, Devi Lockwood will speak about our relationship with the natural world and Alexander Shillman will give us insights into Behavioral Design. You will also get to hear iconic agencies like DixonBaxi and HandsomeFrank.

From the visual and emotive to the cerebral and thought-provoking, it’s all there. And we have had a six week timeline to pull it off, versus our usual 8 months.

Imagine by Pablo Stanley, one of the speakers at DesignUp2021. Fun Fact: Pablo will be speaking at DesignUp on his birthday

THC: What was the rationale for inviting speakers from fields other than design?

JD: The last few months have shown what a fragile and interconnected world we live in. As a community, we need to broaden our horizons and form an understanding and appreciation of related domains. 

The problems that we face cannot be solved by design alone. Not only do we need to think more about collaboration, we also need to appreciate that true creativity requires a wider view of the world.   

Design conference India
Criterion Collection by Yuko Shimizu, a speaker at DesignUp2021

THC: Was it hard to get such sought-after speakers? 

JD: Everyone we reached out to consented not only to participate, but to juggle schedules and time-zones and waive the speaking fee that many of them charge.

Their sheer generosity of spirit has been overwhelming. So many have agreed to speak, despite it being inconvenient for them at this time.

Leaders like Julie Zhuo, Don Norman, Natasha Jen and Stefan Seigmaster just said “Whatever- whenever. 7am your time on a Sunday? Yes.” 

Pablo Stanley and Surya Vanka will be speaking on their birthday. Karin Fong will be in the middle of a move, she let us know “there’ll be boxes in the background.” Ben Lehnert, Chief Design Officer, SAP realised he was going to be in the middle of a flight, but he immediately referred someone else. Dave Malouf said not to worry, he’ll find his panelists.

None of these amazing design leaders and CXOs involved their executive assistants, created layers or went back and forth. We are juggling eight to ten timezones with a tiny planning window. It would have been impossible to pull it off without their support.

THC: Is the fee of Rs. 6750 a pass too steep for a virtual event?

JD: I would urge people not to frame this as “fee for a pass” 

Firstly, your contribution is going towards helping someone in dire need and will save lives.

Secondly, you will be provoked, challenged and inspired over ten days. We think you’ll come out on the other side thinking differently and feeling ready for whatever challenges await.

Lastly, an interesting fact. Even volunteers and speakers are donating and topping-up. The average contribution from speakers ranges around $300. This is possibly the only conference in the world where speakers are “getting their own passes” 

THC: People are calling this the “Live Aid” of design conferences

JD: We are thrilled to hear that and we hope this will go down in history as just as memorable an event.

There are just so many people to thank – Kay Khoo from Malaysia, Brenda and Katja from IxDA, Ellie and Surya from US, Avi from Israel. And of course, all the product and design folks in India, Indonesia and Singapore. 

The generosity of the global community is the power behind DesignUp.

Win free passes to DesignUp. Nominate someone (including yourself). Recharge, reboot and do good. Apply here.

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