A celebration of the craft: Design Week in its fifth year

West Michigan Design Week is finally here. In its fifth year, this week-long event series, produced by AIGA West Michigan, celebrates the talented designers of all disciplines, inviting sought-after artists from across the country to speak, as well as local designers, to showcase their work, process, and passion.
It's finally here. West Michigan Design Week . And if you're a West Michigander or a design professional or enthusiast, this week of programming may be familiar—or even a favorite—for you. But for those in the community that are new to this dynamic series of events held each year in a region overflowing with designers and their cohorts, a little history is in order.

Before Design Week was officially a "thing" in 2014, several design organizations, including the American Institute of Architects (AIA), Interaction Design Association (IXDA), and the The Professional Association for Design (AIGA), met in Lansing for an industry meeting. Among other things, the group determined with gusto that the design community in Michigan was strong—with deep roots and a bright future—but was not often celebrated on a larger scale. According to AIGA West Michigan Programming Director Sara Klele, they asked themselves, "What more can we do to bring more attention to the design community and to celebrate it?"

Richard Saul Wurman

"The more flashy the event, the more attention can be received from it," says Klele, who was part of the original group that decided on a week's worth of events to showcase the talent and projects of the West Michigan design community. "A lot of people don't realize what a big design community we have," she adds.

Last year's Design Week Closing Party, RunOFF was all dedicated to our love of printing! Including live screen-printing from Citizenshirt and letterpress demos from Not Design.

With events like architectural tours, workshops, and lectures, Design Week was crafted to "show the advantages and great design community that we do have here to the rest of the world," says Klele.

Though AIGA, who spearheaded the week's programming due to their dedicated board and volunteer base, planned on only one event design speciality that first year, the schedule quickly ballooned. "People were so excited that we ended up doing 19 events," says Klele.

As Chief Creative Officer for Pharrell Williams' multimedia company, Mimi Valdés has never been limited by a title. She taught us all about her love for storytelling in her 2017 Design Week talk.

Growing each year since then, 2018 AIGA West Michigan Design Week will feature 22 unique events, including a lecture from nationally renowned designer Stefan Sagmeister, whose event on Thursday, March 22 sold out the day it was announced.

"We've had amazing speakers in the past…and in the history of AIGA events, we've never had a speaker sell out in 24 hours," says Klele. After moving the event space to Steelcase Town Hall and doubling the number of tickets available, the event sold out again soon after. "We've never had a response like that," she adds.

Live demos (and dancing, lots of dancing) during the 2016 opening party.

Though Sagmeister's lecture might be sold out, there are plenty more events to check out this year, all volunteer-run, and many for free. "We don't want to price people out," says Klele, noting that many of the events cost just $5 or $10.

With venues like the UICA hosting gallery shows, schools like GVSU, GRCC, and KCAD hosting lectures and workshops, and even local breweries like Gravity getting in on the action, Design Week is packed with programming—for designers, illustrators, marketing professionals, strategic thinkers, and everyone in between.

Jason Mayden taught us all about the "Triumph of the Willing" in his keynote talk in 2017.

In addition to Sagmeister, AIGA is proud to host industry professionals like Jen Scully, Brian French of French Paper, and Steve Frykholm. "It's always exciting when you can feature Steve," says current Design Week Chair Joe Steenholdt.

For a complete list of 2018 Design Week West Michigan Events, visit: wmdesignweek.com.

Images courtesy of AIGA West Michigan.
Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.