‘We Are All Designers’ opens doors and minds for DesignPhiladelphia 2017

A watercolor created by Sharon Leshner during her residency at IndyHall. (Image courtesy of the artist.)

What if design could involve more than just a knowledge of good feng shui? Could it actually include comedy and a dash of psycholinguistics?  

As part of the Center for Architecture and Design’s 2017 DesignPhiladelphia Festival, a 10-day event at venues across the city exploring all things design in Philly, IndyHall hosts the new interactive exhibition We Are All Designers, the culmination of its partnership with the Center. At IndyHall, the super-hip coworking space for the creatively inclined, We Are All Designers is a space to feature Philadelphia designers as well as an opportunity to open up the world of design to the curious.

Modern ‘hybrid careers’

The show will spotlight a select group of IndyHall designers who were interviewed by Sharon Leshner (the center’s communications coordinator) during her five-month residency there. Exhibition-goers will get an inside look at how the principles of design function for these 10 artists, and perhaps start connecting to the ways design operates in their own lives. Leshner has also composed a series of questions attendees can answer on sticky notes to make their mark as they explore the minds of the designers on display. 

“We really want to support designers more, be more in the design community, and learn what the designers need,” said Leshner of the exhibition’s inspiration.

While speaking with community members at IndyHall, Leshner found that many designers have created hybrid careers for themselves, adding layers to their work that have design at heart but go beyond our usual perceptions. BSR’s own Neil Bardhan, one of the show’s featured designers, is a specialist who diversifies principles of design. Bardhan is a science communication consultant who uses his background in improv comedy and psycholinguistics (a Ph.D. in brain and cognitive sciences) to teach scientists communication and how to make more exciting presentations of their research. Clearly, there is much more to design than meets the eye.  

Demystifying design

Leshner says, “There are so many different ways that [design] can take shape. You could be an industrial designer, a product designer, an interior designer… and within that there is a specific set of language. It goes almost two layers deep of how much language you need to know.”

Leshner realized that the best way to support her interviewees was to showcase them while also decoding what they do. By teasing out relatable themes and principles, Leshner found that it’s always possible to connect to design, no matter what background you have. Part of what DesignPhiladelphia does is “educate people [on] how design can affect our everyday lives, whether or not you call yourself a designer. You can better your life by using the design process.”

The rest of the fest

We Are All Designers is part of the Old City Design Crawl. As the name suggests, you can stop in at IndyHall before making your way to the numerous other Old City businesses partnering with DesignPhiladelphia to round out your Friday night. Interested in going all out for a week of Philadelphia design? There’s no shortage of DesignPhiladelphia happenings, including panel discussions, workshops and classes, fashion shows, tours, author events, and a special improv show from Tongue & Groove Spontaneous Theater. (Here’s the full schedule.)

Whether you’re a beginner or a design aficionado, the Center for Architecture and Design has you covered. We are all Designers welcomes newbies and experts alike, and the rest of the festival promises plenty of activities for the designer in all of us.

We Are All Designers, an exhibition in the 2017 DesignPhiladelphia Festival, opens Friday, October 6, from 5 to 9pm at IndyHall, 399 Market Street, Philadelphia. The show is free and open to the public. Other festival events run citywide October 5 through 13.

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