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Sharing in the play

The childhood game of Hopscotch was surely conceived of by a budding graphic designer. You begin by laying out a numbered grid. Then players take turns tossing an object onto progressively more difficult targets along the grid before hopping from square to square in an effort to retrieve their treasure and return safely home. Winning and losing takes a second seat to sharing in the play.

Hopscotch is indeed an apt metaphor for this year’s inaugural Hopscotch Design Festival, which took place September 3rd and 4th in downtown Raleigh, NC. For 48 hours, over 400 participants jumped from venue to venue enjoying an international array of 48 speakers and 36 different sessions, gathering nuggets of design inspiration and sharing experiences with one another.

San Francisco designer and artist Elle Luna kicked things off poetically, reminding attendees that participation in the first of anything “is a precious thing.” She then provided the perfect inspirational keynote to set everyone and the event itself on the right course — advising the attendees to choose what they ‘must’ do instead of what they ‘should’ do.

Other keynotes included Thomas Edison expert Sarah Miller Caldicott, architect Shohei Shigematsu of Office for Metropolitan Architecture, and Harper Reed of Modest.

Caldicott’s key theme, that Edison’s successes were the result of his deep understanding of creative culture and collaborative invention, resonated in the city well-known for open source. Shigematsu gave a fascinating tour of projects from all over the world, including his collaborations with Kanye West. Reed gave a hilarious and challenging history of design strategy and an unconventional take on ‘Big Data’ (hint: it’s “a joke”).

Other highlights included presentations by design rockstar and social movement catalyst Brian Singer of Pinterest, the confessions of Alexander Isley (seems he’s stolen every good idea he ever had), IBM’s Doug Powell, whose mission is to introduce design thinking to the IBM workforce of more than 400 thousand, and an inside look at graphic design in films by Annie Atkins, graphic designer for Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.

Overall, the presentations were as diverse as the speakers. From graphic design to social movements to architecture to opera to food systems to philanthropy to sustainable city planning, Hopscotch jumped from one urgently relevant topic to another. It was impossible to take it all in. And that was the point. Freed from the confines of the conventional single-venue convention, Hopscotchers met each other in the streets and galleries and restaurants of Raleigh’s intimate downtown, sharing their experiences and inspirations of a new kind of design event.

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