2017 AIGA Eye on Design Conference Recap: Jessie Kawata

Elaine and I had an amazing opportunity to catch AIGA’s Eye on Design conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota last week. It was a kind of soft open for the massive AIGA Design conference that took place the three subsequent days after the Eye on Design event, also in Minneapolis. Sadly, our employers wouldn’t shell out the cash for us to catch the whole weekend, but we still made the most of it.

Daniel: After a word from Perrin Drumm, founder and director of Eye on Design, Emmet Byrne, design director at the Walker Art Center, gave a nice little introduction to the world of Minnesota design for all the out-of-towners in attendance.

Then we got to the first of the “main” speakers for the one-day EoD experience — Jessie Kawata.

I didn’t do my homework on who was speaking at the event and I was blown away repeatedly by the speakers, but to say that Kawata set a high bar is an understatement.

In her former role, Kawata was the lead for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory design. To say that her work was otherworldly is appropriate, but it was so much more. Kawata discussed challenges that she had to deal with head-on and find solutions to problems before it ever got out of the lab, forget getting out of the atmosphere. Her practical, but brilliant work with JPL set the standard for their communications to the public, but also internally.

Elaine: Kawata spoke to the idea of storytelling and how important it is for not only your audience, but also for those you’re collaborating with. She encourages hands on creating to drive inspiration, expanding your senses and to help understanding something new, which her case was a lot when she first began her work at NASA. Kawata’s ideas and works shared were enough to get me excited in collaborating and telling stories in my own work to help elevate the human connection through design.

Daniel: I’m still hyped on how they developed an immersive thought-lab. Like, a space where ideas are worked out physically. That’s an area that I’m weak — no drawing, no sketching, not even big on notes. Thank goodness, they aren’t counting on me to design a trip to Mars. And if outer space isn’t massive enough, Kawata is preparing to venture into the tech space with Mircosoft.

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