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Design Week is a unique event in Saskatchewan that showcases six different disciplines of professional design: architecture, planning, engineering & geoscience, graphic design, interior design and landscape architecture. Put on every other year by the Design Council of Saskatchewan, the Week’s events typically include a speaker series, an awards exhibition and gala, lunch & learns, films, tours and workshops. It’s sort of a semi-annual “Little Bauhaus on the Prairie” whose (largely free) events are aimed not only at professional and aspiring designers in Saskatchewan, but the general public as well, who may want to learn to think more critically about design and its role in our day-to-day lives.

This year’s speaker series features four world-class Canadian designers representing four very different design disciplines.

  • Halifax-based Omar Gandhi, one of eastern Canada’s most acclaimed young architects, is speaking on Monday night about his striking and contemporary – yet humble and regionally inspired – architectural design.
  • Tuesday night features Ian Brignell, a Toronto-based lettering, logo and font designer whose excellent work for such clients as Budweiser, Kashi, Smirnoff and Coca-Cola will be familiar to any Saskatchewan consumer.
  • Jason Kasper is the founder and Principal of IDEATE Design Consulting, a Winnipeg interior design studio with a mandate to create innovative design solutions attainable to as many as possible. He was also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Manitoba, instructing in the area of design studio and professional practice. He speaks on Wednesday night in Saskatoon (and in Regina on Thursday evening).
  • Thursday’s speaker, Robin Mazumder, is a Vanier Scholar and doctoral candidate in cognitive neuroscience at the University of Waterloo, where he is studying the psychological impacts of urban design. His research is inspired by his passion for urbanism as well as his front line experience working as an occupational therapist in mental health. This lecture should be of particular interest to anyone following the City of Saskatoon’s growth planning efforts.

This year, Design Week will also include a couple of very interesting luncheon tours; one of the Canadian Light Source synchrotron (Canada’s largest science experiment) and one of the recently opened Saskatoon Makerspace in Riversdale. The Makerspace provides creative people with access to professional grade tools and equipment along with the education that is necessary to safely operate them.

Finally, Design Week always includes the Premier’s Awards for Excellence in Design competition, which celebrates the outstanding professional applied design being done here in Saskatchewan. Entries into the competition will be exhibited during the week at Design Week HQ (145 1st Avenue North). The awards will be handed out at an incredibly well-designed party at the conclusion of Design Week on Friday night.

While Saskatchewan Design Week has steadily grown in scale since its humble beginnings in 1983, the event still struggles to break through into the consciousness of the larger general population, and to a certain degree, even the smaller local professional design community. For the former, The Design Council’s very limited resources for advertising and promotion are at least partly to blame. As for the latter – most of whom should at least be aware of the event – I think the problem is many designers tend work within their disciplinary silos and rarely look outside of them for inspiration. They fail to see how (for example) work being done in architecture could possibly be relevant or interesting to them as (say) a graphic designer. Big. Mistake.

The truth is all professional designers working in various different disciplines have much more in common with each than just the “form follows function” mantra. All designers are creative problem-solvers, whose work reaches towards achieving an aesthetic vision and improving people’s lives. Good design follows and adheres to many of the same theories, thinking, process and principles regardless of the discipline. And of course, all professional designers have to deal with real world issues like achieving the goals of their clients while making the most of tight budgets and beating impossible deadlines.

So trust me, graphic designer, you can learn more than a thing or two from an architect. Broaden your horizons and look for inspiration in the world around you, it can be found in unexpected places.

Design Week Saskatchewan runs from September 22 – 29 in Saskatoon and Regina. For more information visit http://designcouncil.sk.ca