Design Icons Inspire at Gravity Free 2007

Design Icons Inspire at Gravity Free 2007

A capacity crowd gathered at the W Hotel City Center, Chicago,
to hear presentations by high-profile designers.

A capacity audience of designers from numerous disciplines mingled with renowned design innovators at the Gravity Free: 2007 Multidisciplinary Design Innovation Conference held May 14-16, 2007 at the W Hotel City Center, Chicago.

Multidisciplinary designer Dana Arnett, one of the ID 40, is famous
for creating a customer lifestyle brand for Harley-Davidson.

The speaker list included prominent names such as automotive designer Frank Stephenson, information architect Richard Saul Wurman, prolific product designer Karim Rashid, Architecture for Humanity's Cameron Sinclair, Oscar-nominated production designer Jeannine Claudia Oppewall, AIGA medalist Michael Vanderbyl, branded environments creator Eva Maddox, bio-designer Franco Lodato, author Jim Gilmore, urban planner Henry Beer, graphic design legends Kit Hinrichs and Dana Arnett, retail designer Ron Pompei, innovation strategist Larry Keeley, toy designer Paul Budnitz, chef and gastronomist Homaro Cantu, computer innovator Frank Soltis, environmental designer Lars Uwe Bleher, customer behavior expert Marty Smith, retail entrepreneur Yaron Kopel, and mobile architecture expert Jennifer Siegal.

Franco Lodato talks about drawing design inspiration from nature. He
urges designers to be keen observers.

"The Geography of Curiosity," theme of this year's conference, set the stage for provocative design questions addressed by each speaker. Henry Beer opened the conference, and everyone's eyes, by delving into "Why do clients fire designers?". The presentation on "What is cinematic storytelling?", presented by Jeannine Oppewall, probed the role of a feature film production designer and included a behind-the-scenes look at the environments created for her current film "The Good Shepherd." "How is technology helping to form new communities?" was explored by Jennifer Siegal, mobile architecture maven and proponent of "a more intelligent way of inhabiting the landscape". World-class product designer Karim Rashid discussed the impact of well-designed everyday objects on our lives, stemming from the question, "How do you make the boring better?" A highlight of the conference was a free-ranging discussion by Richard Saul Wurman on how to impart complex information clearly. His current project, 19 20 21, will involve analyzing 19 of the cities of the world that will have more than 20 million people by the end of the 21st century.

Jeannine Oppewall reviews the making of "The Good Shepherd". The
film's challenging production design combined models and digital editing
to create wartime city scenes.

Enthusiasm pervaded Gravity Free. "Exquisite program. Very thought-provoking and content-rich. Bravo!," noted one attendee. Others were impressed by the wide range of design specialties represented by speakers, as well as the cross-pollination of ideas. Another said, simply, "My brain is full."

Karim Rashid, ebullient designer who has over 2,000 products,
discusses his passion for designing excitement into everyday items.

Many comments focused on the high caliber speakers. "I was privileged to be in the room with such smart, engaging people," said one. A designer whose favorite speakers were Karim Rashid, Henry Beer and Marty Smith was awestruck. "More powerful and uplifting than I initially expected. Being a younger designer and finally rubbing shoulders with the great inventors of design... is one memory I'll never forget." Another who enjoyed the opportunities for one-to-one conversation said, "I appreciate how much each of the speakers shared about their own histories and experience... above all, I appreciate the passion each brought."

Lars Uwe Bleher, from German design firm Atelier Markgraph, pushes
the envelope in exhibition design with a number of ambitious projects.

The conference was moderated by Lee Knight, Gravity Free founder and editor-in-chief of conference sponsor EXHIBITOR Magazine. According to Knight, "The essence of this conference is creating a place for designers and world-class speakers to have a two-and-a-half day dialogue with each other on the nature, process and philosophy of design innovation. It's pure inspiration from an amazing group of innovators, and our designers have free access to them throughout the conference."

Speakers Homaro Cantu, Eva Maddox, and Karim Rashid take questions.

Presentations were followed by open dialogue and networking events that included a reception at the Shedd Aquarium, and a breakfast at the Museum of Science and Industry. At the museum, Gravity Free designers were treated to a preview of a new interactive exhibit not yet open to the public. "CSI: The Experience" features three crime scenes and a full lab of equipment. The Monday evening poster gallery reception featured attendees' and speakers' interpretations of the Gravity Free concept.

Retail designer Ron Pompei discusses the dynamics of transformational

On Tuesday, EXHIBITOR magazine's 21st Annual Exhibit Design Awards luncheon honored the world's best trade show exhibit designs. This year's EDGE Award (for Exhibit Design and Graphic Excellence) went to Pentagram Design, San Francisco for their island exhibit for Sonance, lauded as "the perfect mix of organization and whimsy." This year's Gold Awards were won by companies based in Germany, Turkey, and the Netherlands, including a Gold for Gravity Free: 2006 speaker Nico Ueberholz. Silver and Special Merit Awards were presented in a number of categories including Double Deck, Peninsula Exhibit and First Time Exhibitor. The international competition is judged by world-renowned designers.

The theme of next year's Gravity Free conference will be "Confessions of a Dangerous Mind," exploring and celebrating the risk-takers who champion bold design directions. The dates and location will be announced in the coming months.

Gravity Free 2007:

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