Steven Heller Event Remixed

At the Steven Heller event this past week, hosted by the Rice Design Alliance, Heller showcased many examples from his program at the School of Visual Arts in New York. He defined “designer as entrepreneur” in context of the evening as designers creating design for commercial goods – design for products or ideas that could be commercialized. True, most design in the traditional sense is that of a professional service, and here he is talking about design as a way to solve human needs in a tangible way. Some projects, such as the much touted “Safe RX” idea, now seen at Target stores, combines many disciplines such as package design, information design and industrial design. I do agree with Heller that designers are natural problem-solvers and not all problems can be addressed with traditional communications.

While I greatly appreciated seeing so many of these examples, I can’t help but thinking beyond just the veneer of the images shown into some ideas that may be more provocative.

Think about what it means to be entrepreneurial in your own creative work. Are you challenging the norms? Are you thinking non-traditionally? Are you questioning everything.

As a final thought. The actual program is called the “MFA Designer as Author” program. I immediately think of authorship as words, but authorship is also the owner of an idea. How many of us think of ourselves as authors in our own works? If you think of the designer as the one that owns the concept, then yes, we are authors. But this only scratches the surface.

Think of this example. A conductor carefully orchestrates a harmony by utilizing the entire team’s skills (in terms of design that might be designers, photographers, printers, etc). At a symphony, the composer may be the author of the music, but it is the conductor and the entire orchestra that is the author of the performance. So, are we as designers composers or conductors? Both are authors, but of very different parts in the process. Not sure how Heller might answer that, but on any given day I might feel like a little of both.

By Robin Tooms
Published January 29, 2009
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