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Columbus Design Week Returns in October

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During last year’s first ever idUS celebration, the Columbus Center for Architecture & Design participated with an event series dubbed as Design Week, which included tours, film screenings, lectures and of course, the Idea Book unveiling. This year, Design Week is being expanded into Design Week with events running September 27th through November 2nd.

We spoke recently with program coordinator Michael Bongiorno (who is also a Principle at DesignGroup) to find out more about what we can expect of the 2013 edition of this week series. Our full Q&A can be found below:

Q: First of all, how did Design Week go last year, overall?

A: As an inaugural event that was, for most of us, the first time we had ever planned anything like it, it far exceeded our goals and expectations. Our goal was to create collaborative opportunities where the allied design professionals came together as one design force within the city and to blur boundaries between disciplines through the cross-pollination of ideas and talents, to raise awareness of the power of design, and to leverage our creative economy. At most, we thought reaching 400-500 people would be a success. As it turned out, total Design Week 2012 attendance at all events was over 800 individuals from a variety of backgrounds. To physically engage an audience that large to participate in a conversation about design, for a new volunteer-led group like ours, meant success. In addition, we received a lot of media interest for what we did, and our Ideabook Project won a national American Institute of Architects Award for public engagement. We were able to secure support grants from both The Columbus Foundation and The Greater Columbus Arts Council on the basis of their evaluation of our 2012 success.

Q: Were there any events that exceeded expectations, or others that fell short in 2012?

A: The Ideabook Project was clearly a huge experiment and a risk that paid off ten-fold. I don’t think anything really fell short of expectation other than people not having enough time to participate in all the events. You’ll see how we are dealing with that below. Our film event, panel discussion, design rolls, annual celebration, and lecture were all well attended and we received great feedback on all of them.

Q: Tell us a bit about the idea behind the expansion of Design Week into a full month with Design Week.

A: It was all for really positive reasons and about learning from our immediate past experience. We are responding to feedback that came out of 2012 about time and inclusion. Cramming all of our events into one week was a bit taxing on a lot of people’s schedules. People wanted to do everything but just didn’t have the time. As a result, while our events exceeded our participation goals, I think we could have engaged more audiences at each event. As everyone reading this can also appreciate, we are entirely volunteer-led so it was equally taxing on those of us planning and running the events.

Another factor was that, while our goal from the very beginning was to include a variety of design disciplines as part of the conversation, we fell short of our multi-disciplinary inclusion goal in 2012; we were so new that, outside of the architecture field, a lot of the other design industries didn’t know anything about us.

In response, for 2013 we decided to actively pursue organizations and collectives to submit program ideas to us for inclusion during Design Week as part of our Contributor Programs format. Their program could be an existing design-related program that they hoped to move into Design Week, or it could be a new program developed specifically to occur during Design Week. Our gut is telling us that expanding to a month was the right move because response has been good; we now have more and varied programs, and they are spread out enough chronologically for everyone to be able to sample a little of everything.

Q: cbus:FOTO seems to be the centerpiece this year in a way similar to the Ideabook project last year. How has that portion been received thus far and is it too late for people to still submit their photos?

A: Let me first say this: no it’s not too late! We are giving everyone a deadline of September 30th to submit photographs in preparation for them to be exhibited at our Design Week launch party, called the FOTO PARTY on October 5th. Hopefully Columbus Underground’s generous coverage will nudge a few procrastinators over the edge and reach a few more interested participants. To be clear about the cbus:FOTO project, there are really three phases:


We ask participants to shoot and share photographs of Columbus’ overlooked places and urban voids. If you still aren’t sure what we mean by this, watch this video. All you have to do is submit your photo on Instagram by tagging it with the hashtag #cbusFOTO or, if you’re not on Instagram, by submitting it to our website. Your photo submission deadline is September 30th.


Starting October 6th through October 26th, we invite the public to generate an idea for their favorite overlooked space (it doesn’t have to be your photo). We are providing interested participants with a number of ways to submit their ideas. You can come up with and submit an idea on your own through the Vignette Competition, submit ideas with the assistance of an artist during our FOTOshop: Artist Studio, or you can participate in a FOTOshop at the Columbus Museum of Art. The Vignette Competition is not a competition in the traditional sense, we are just going to have some fun prizes for people at the end. We don’t want anyone being scared off by the word ‘competition,’ although for some of you, we know that word gets your blood flowing. We have already had a few submissions through the Vignette Competition even before the project has actually started, so people are definitely eager to participate. Instructions for the vignette competition can be found within this link and the format is simple (read: very little work.) We encourage participants to generate ideas that, in their own unique vision, embody the Spirit of Columbus.


We will hold two exhibition parties during Design Week. First, Our Design Week launch party, the FOTO PARTY will be on the evening of Saturday, October 5th. It is free and open to the public. It will be an awesome time, you won’t want to miss this party. Much like the Ideabook Exhibition party, besides being a fun social event, we will be exhibiting the most compelling cbus:FOTO photographs in a unique way in order for people to interact with them and begin conversations about what can be done with these spaces. Even though it’s a free event, we’re asking attendees to RSVP on Eventbrite so we can get an accurate count and make sure we don’t run out of drinks. We hope to see you there!

Second, we will have a closing party on November 2nd at the Center for Architecture and Design where all of the new musings for the overlooked spaces that were generated and submitted over the month of October will be displayed. Save this date! The exhibition will open on this evening and will run through the month of November. We hope everyone will come back together at this opening to see what great ideas were generated for the overlooked urban spaces.

The tough thing about cbus:FOTO compared to the Ideabook project is how we raise awareness of it. With the Ideabooks, people had something tangible in their hands, they had to do something with that tangible thing, they had to send it back to us, and then we exhibited it. It’s a bit different with cbus:FOTO which is primarily a digital invitation and exercise involving photographs, not dissimilar to CMA’s Photo Hunt series, I think watching the video of my TEDx talk will help people to understand the project. It would also help to dig into the Columbus Underground archives and find your postings on Wasted Space. Walker, you and I both had a good laugh (and I was slightly embarrassed) over the fact that this is something you’ve been interested in for a while (since 2007!) and I didn’t even know about it.

Q: What other new/returning events do you think our readers might be most interested in attending or participating in?

A: Obviously the cbus:FOTO project, as our signature program, is one we are hoping a large audience will embrace and participate in. But we are really excited about our Contributor Events. The design community has really stepped up to the challenge to create design-related programs that tie into Design Week mission and vision. You only have to look at our calendar to see just how fantastic the programming is going to be: From CMA’s 20 CDM, their Good Design Challenge, and their Cardboard Challenge; to the amazing things a collective of landscape architects are doing through their Layerscapes program; The Center for Architecture and Design’s design:ROLLS; CMH Fashion Week; the Knowlton School of Architecture’s lighting installation and their Food Situations symposium; IIDA’s Zero Landfill project; and many others by the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission, Transit Columbus, the Columbus Moving Image Art Review, the Ohio History Center, the Central Ohio Chapter of the U.S Green Building Council, and the Society for Marketing Professional Services. Please view our calendar for more information about all of our events.

Q: Anything else we should know about Design Week?

A: We are very fortunate to have received our major financial support through both GCAC and the Foundation. They both clearly understand what we are doing and we are grateful for their contributions and all of the additional exposure that has garnered our efforts. In fact, with the level of support the Foundation has provided, they are now our presenting sponsor. We have fully embraced their Spirit of Columbus project as a shared priority. As we see it, through The Spirit of Columbus project The Columbus Foundation has been celebrating people and inspiration; through the Design Week cbus:FOTO project, the Center for Architecture and Design has been celebrating place and possibility. Together we believe we are connecting people to place. We hope Columbus embraces this vision and joins us on our journey of exploration, discovery, and ideation.

For more information, visit www.columbuscfad.org.

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