Interview: Design Week Birmingham

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Design Week Birmingham is a multifaceted event that includes installations, lectures, film showings, exhibits, workshops, and social gatherings inspired by the belief that design matters. In its second year, Design Week Birmingham will be held October 20-25, 2014, featuring plenty of ways for everyone to get involved, learn something new, and see Birmingham’s creative community at work.

We recently spoke with Shannon Harris, Senior Art Director at BIG Communications, who has also been an integral part of beginning, continuing, and implementing plans for Design Week Birmingham.

Shannon Harris
Shannon Harris

1. This year marks the second annual Design Week Birmingham. As a relatively new organization, where did the idea to create Design Week Birmingham begin?

A couple of years ago, several of the core organizers of Design Week were involved in cross-disciplinary design projects all over town. Andrew Thompson of Lewis Communications and Plenty Design Co-op were working on a group show about micro-manufacturing. I was working with a group of architects on a brand for Second Avenue North. Creative Director at the Museum James Williams was working on an early modern art and design exhibit for October 2013 called Vanguard Views. Bruce Lanier of Standard Creative was launching MAKE. Rhea Williams of AIA was launching a new space for designers called the Alabama Center for Architecture. Amy Pleasant was inviting creative folks from all over town to give Rapid Fire presentations in her beautiful backyard home studio.

It was at Amy’s that I met Jared Fulton of Williams Blackstock Architects. He had been working with Andrew on the Plenty Design Co-op project, and the two of them decided that this thing absolutely must happen. It was just the right time in Birmingham for all of these collaborators to combine efforts and create something bigger—and we couldn’t be happier that we did. There are volunteers on our committee from creative companies all over town that have spent the last year planning an amazing Design Week!

2. What happens at Design Week Birmingham? What role do you play in the orchestration of Design Week Birmingham?

Design Week Birmingham is a series of events all over town that brings designers and lovers of design from all disciplines together to celebrate, collaborate, and learn. We have documentaries, workshops, presentations, and even a beautiful design shop. You can check out the full schedule of events on the Design Week Birmingham website. As for my role, I’m involved in the planning of several events including the Printers Fair and Aaron Draplin’s keynote presentation. We’re a small group of all volunteers, so everyone on the committee has to wear a lot of hats.

3. Is there anything we can expect this year to be different from last year’s Design Week Birmingham?

We have 23 events on this year’s calendar compared with 14 last year. It’s bigger, more organized, and maybe even a touch more edgy.

4. Will you be participating in Design Week Birmingham? If so, what events are you looking forward to most?

Of course! It’s the best week of the year! I’m most looking forward to hearing the renowned/notorious Aaron Draplin do his thing; going to the Printers Fair, where I hope to walk away with all kinds of beautiful new printed treats; and finally heading to Rapid Fire for a night of intense inspiration for people with short attention spans. And I don’t think anyone should miss Ford Wiles’ and James Williams’ ArtBreak on Tuesday during lunch. They’ll be taking us through the process of shaping the future of the Museum’s brand.

5. How does the Birmingham Museum of Art influence your work in design and your outlook as a designer?

I’ve been working with a group for the past few months at BIG Communications and the team at BMA on a new brand for the Museum. During that time, I’ve had the pleasure of touring the BMA’s permanent collection. Besides the obvious visual inspiration and head-clearing powers of the Museum, I’m inspired by the restraint the curators use by showing us only a section of their huge collection at a time. This kind of selection means the Museum is always a new experience for its visitors. We want Design Week to also be sustainable for years to come, so each year we only present a fraction of Birmingham and the region’s rich design culture.

To learn more about Design Week Birmingham and the schedule of events, please visit their website. If you want to get involved with Design Week Birmingham at the Museum, be sure to come for our ArtBreak on Tuesday, October 21 at noon, and to Andrew Freear’s lecture on Wednesday, October 22 at 4PM. Both events are free and open to the public!