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Report from IDSA 06: Elements of Change (and architecture)

Julie D. Taylor

September 29, 2006

From the conference program’s emphasis on working in China and creating sustainable designs, I almost thought I was at an architecture conference. But, no, I was at the Industrial Designers Society of America (IDSA) 2006 National Conference and Education Symposium, held in Austin, Texas, September 17-20. Some 800 designers swarmed the Lone Star capitol to discuss and display design. “This is the best turn-out since the 2000 Conference in New York City,” said Jeff Mulhausen, IDSA, director of design at Austin-based M3 Design, and part of the national planning committee.


Being object fetishists, the designers’ biggest delight at the conference was the IBM Ultimate Derby. This is truly where the phrase “men and their toys” comes into play (I don’t know the statistics, but gauging from the attendance, the percentage of women in this profession is woefully low). Design firms created miniature “cars” that race along a track. From a funky, toothsome creature by Continuum to M3’s “More Than Smoke and Mirrors” sleek chrome box exuding dry ice vapors, ingenious designs vied to show off theories of locomotion. Excited designers huddled around the track to see who would win, but more interestingly how they won. Continuum’s orange beast took the prize by having a series of weights impel the car downward then be jettisoned so as not to drag the car down.


The big awards were given out on the last night. Along with BusinessWeek, IDSA confers the IDEA Awards in gold, silver, and bronze in 13 categories. This coveted award drew a global roster of winners as far away as Denmark (Tools Design) and as close as Austin (M3 Design). Unlike the Oscars, awardees know ahead of time of their wins, which are published in BusinessWeek. In fact, gold-winner Warren Light Craft sent regrets, “blaming” the publication on increased production demands that prevented them from leaving the factory. New this year – and unknown in advance – were Best of Show and People’s Choice awards. Ironically, from among more than 100 mostly product winners, the Best of Show was given to the team of Gensler, Shigura Ban Architects, and Officina Di Architettura for the Ashes and Snow – The Nomadic Museum in the Environments category. As I said, it looked a lot like an architecture conference.


­Julie D. Taylor is principal of Taylor & Company, a Los Angeles-based public relations and communications firm specializing in the design industries. She is a self-proclaimed “conference junkie.”


(click on pictures to enlarge)

(courtesy IDSA)
Best of Show Award went to Ashes and Snow – The Nomadic Museum

(courtesy M3 Design)
“Cars” line up for action during the IBM Ultimate Derby

© 2006