In the fall of 2012 I attended the AIGA Seattle conference “Into the Woods.” That year’s theme was “Survive and Thrive” – something that I desperately needed as I was the sole designer at a financial consulting firm. To be surrounded by AIGA’ers from across the country tucked into this fantastic location in Washington State, surrounded by beauty and nature and a room full of other inspiring designers (and not accountants) was just what this gal needed.
Each day’s activities helped me to break down a few walls and charged up my design energy supply. One break-out activity was a Design Hike lead by the fearless AIGA Portland team of Lisa Holmes and Martha Koenig. Teams were created, and wayfinding systems were made, all with materials that were found in nature. “As designers, we are regularly tasked with creating pathways for our intended audiences to follow in our design projects. Whether it’s a website that has products for sale or services to sign up for; or a brochure with an intended purpose, we create experiences with intended results,” said Lisa Holmes, principal with Yulan Design.
As an outdoors lover and newly relocated to Colorado, I was excited to be able to share my Design Hike experience with my new home chapter. The goal was to reach out to new arrivals and help make local connections.
The Design Hike is just one of the Welcome Wagon activities and attendees have already been making connections; we’ve recently attended a Rockies game, as well as an outing to the Denver Art Museum to see the Modern Masters exhibit.
Our Design Hike was at White Ranch Open Space in Jefferson County. We discussed design principles and how we might apply them to “off the beaten trail.” Each team had an hour to create a wayfinding system. Teams were given a prop to be the “destination,” one was a bowl and the other a water bottle. This provided a contrast to the natural environment and elements that we were working with.
Each team tackled this differently. The water bottle team immediately went to work gathering flowers, what we dubbed “wheat” – lovely wisps that were about waist high – and other contrasting plants to create bouquets. Later the team was witnessed gathering large branches.
The bowl team started by surveying the area figuring out what path they were going to take. As an interesting twist, they also made their first point and end point the same, creating a map to lead the other team through the path. This map included color clues that reflected points on their path.
The water bottle team made an interesting connection to not only create a visual system but to use trees as a part of their design. The trees hosted both the bouquets and large branches, one being a signal, the other directional. In contrast, by the end of the bowl team’s path, they had constructed large freestanding markers.
Once completed, each team followed the other team’s path, uncovering the clues set before them, and each team was successful in their mission. At the recap, we discussed the sense of exploration, working outside of our normal computer screen day-to-day, successes, losses, and the application of design in a different environment.
It was a warm and wonderful day to be outside to make connections both visual and personal. We look forward to seeing you on a hike!