Archived on August 20, 2012. Visit for more information.

Presentation descriptions

Community convocations | Affinity sessions | Student symposium | All presentations and podcasts

Community convocations bring attendees together at the main stage.


Thursday, 5:00–7:45 p.m.

Daniel Libeskind: Architectural Language
Daniel Libeskind, founder, Studio Daniel Libeskind
Visionary architect Daniel Libeskind is the man behind the Denver Art Museum’s widely acclaimed new Frederic C. Hamilton Building, as well as the adjacent Museum Condominiums. Libeskind developed his radically poetic architectural language for decades through highly influential drawings and models that influenced a generation of architectural students. His Jewish Museum in Berlin and New York’s Freedom Tower concept applied these ideas, and began an outpouring of eloquent and provocative buildings that challenge boundaries and preconceptions. High-profile commissions now take him to Asia, Europe and across the Americas. Libeskind will discuss how he brought his architectural and urban vision to Denver in the context of his past and his next work. “Architecture is language,” Libeskind says, and he is an architect who explores relationships between visual communication and architecture.

John Hickenlooper, mayor of Denver
A longtime supporter of the arts and urban design, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper will discuss this unique time in Denver design. The Mile High City is undergoing a record amount of activity around cultural capital projects—nothing short of a cultural renaissance. Art, culture and design play a key role in economic development, tourism and regional collaboration, providing a conduit for civic engagement and the legacy residents will leave for future generations.

Denver: The “Next” City  
Katherine and Michael McCoy, founders, High Ground Studios
Denver designers Katherine and Michael McCoy will welcome the conference to Denver with an entertaining visual tour of its past and future. Poised at the edge of the Great Plains and the Rocky Mountains, Denver is America’s next city. From the 1859 Gold Rush to today, it has sparked the open energy of the new frontier, dedicated to future possibilities. The community enthusiastically supports new design initiatives, and the Denver Art Museum’s design collection will soon be the largest in America, including the AIGA American Design Archives. Its visionary planning is channeling the city’s record-breaking growth into vital urban neighborhoods knit together by a new rapid transit system, making it the ideal host for “Next” as well as the 2008 Democratic national Convention. This presentation will explore the “next” city with images of the Wild West early days to cutting-edge architecture by Daniel Libeskind, London’s David Adjaye and Allied Works’ Brad Cloepfil. Welcome to Denver!

Friday, 9:00–10:45 a.m. and 4:00–6:30 p.m.

A picture is Worth a Thousand a.) Words b.) Swords c.) Dollars
Christoph Niemann, illustrator, animator
The big question about his work, that keeps Christoph Niemann up at night is “Will they get it?” In an ever-shrinking world, we have to communicate across time zones, languages and cultures. Visual metaphors can change their meaning within hours, and even though we are surrounded by millions of new images every day, there is no set of rules that defines what these images mean. Niemann will talk about love for readers, line weights, mutual funds, Chinese letters, good, evil and the virtues of having a miserable time while trying to be funny.

Brainstorming with Belugas: Biomimicry and the Art of Well-Adapted Design
Janine Benyus, author, Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature and founder, Biomimicry Institute
In a world that needs one brilliant idea after another, it’s good to be surrounded by genius. Biomimicry—the process of finding sustainable ideas by echoing nature—is finding a home in commercial innovation labs throughout the world. Janine Benyus will describe how companies like GE, Qualcomm and Lucent are developing bio-inspired innovations, including a wind turbine that pirouettes like a whale, a low-MPG Mercedes that flows like a fish, a sunlight-readable display that bends light like a butterfly and a fern-inspired capsule that stores vaccines without refrigeration. Our ability to borrow nature’s blueprints and recipes is on the rise, says Benyus, and so is the need for energy-sipping, nontoxic designs. It’s no wonder that companies are “inviting biologists to the design table,” and biomimicry studios in universities are giving the next generation of designers and engineers a new place to look for answers. The breathtaking beauty and diversity of life on earth arose from a simple and consistent set of biological design rules. Benyus will explore with us how these very same rules could spark a no-excuses design revolution.

Creativity and Risk
Paul Budnitz, founder, Kidrobot
Paul Budnitz, founder of Kidrobot, the world’s premier creator and retailer of limited-edition toys and apparel, will talk about creativity, sacrifice and abundance. One of the great struggles is to be perpetually creative—to find a way to create just what is needed, on call, without letting our personalities and individual feelings get in the way. Writer’s block, getting stuck, running out of ideas—these are not natural parts of the creative process. These are specific symptoms of an unbalanced and unconscious approach to creativity. Budnitz will reveal how to evoke abundant creativity, and the attention and sacrifice that are necessary to make that possible.

The Future of Texture
Nick Currie, a.k.a. Momus
Momus asks whether the ongoing digitization of culture is going to result in a net reduction in the varieties of texture in the coming years. Can clever interface design replace the real world textures that digital culture is replacing? Will we be able to transmit smells over the internet, and will that lead to new branches of design (“smell design”) which we’ll be able to specify much more exactly than we could before? And what of the “post-bit atom,” the reactionary return to—and perhaps fetishization of—the real world phenomena that prove impossible to digitize successfully?
*Video not available for this presentation

The Unexpected Nextness
Marian Bantjes, illustrator, designer
“Next” is that point of suspension between the past and the future where we sit wrapped in memory, poised in anticipation of the unknown. Desire and imagination cause us to leap ahead, while reality trips us with unexpected turns of fate. Looking at her own life, Marian Bantjes will explore some of her pivotal points, springboards of intention and reflections on the perils of wanting and perhaps getting what you ask for.
*Video not available for this presentation

Saturday, 9:00–10:45 a.m. and 4:00–5:30 p.m.

Khoi Vinh, design director,, The New York Times
A fundamental shift is going on in design: control is passing from designers to design consumers, and it’s changing the way we practice our craft. For most of design history, we’ve judged the best designers on how successfully they’ve exerted control in their work. Control over ideas, over typography, over imagery, over the means of production—the more control the better.

The digital age is changing that. Now more than ever design consumers are demanding control—over the way design solutions look, behave, respond to their needs, even over how design is delivered. The very patterns for consumption are evolving quickly and unpredictably. This talk will look closely at this transformation in the role of designers. What is the nature of this change? Is it temporary or evolutionary? Can it be reconciled with traditional design values? And what’s next for the designer?

Set the Backstory Free!
Alex Steffen, founder, Worldchanging
Designers have a crucial role to play in the transition to a sustainable society. People need their help understanding the hidden and often complex environmental and social impacts of their lives. They also need to be shown how to embrace better alternatives. Great design can make visible the invisible and empower the previously clueless...but it won't be easy. Here is an overview of both the problems and the possibilities of using design to build a better future.

The Prehistory of the Metaverse
Blaise Agüera y Arcas, Microsoft Live Labs
Blaise Agüera y Arcas reveals two innovative technologies: Seadragon and Photosynth. Both are about how we and our computers mutually produce, consume and interact with visual information. Both technologies are also suggestive of sweeping changes in our “visual ecosystem” over the next several years. The prerequisites for these changes—inexpensive CCDs, multiresolution, powerful computer vision algorithms, better bandwidth and processing power, graphics acceleration—have been steadily building up for many years. Here we will explore what can happen when these new capabilities converge with the collective effects of Web 2.0.

The Principles of Uncertainty
Maira Kalman, illustrator, designer
Maira Kalman reveals the inspirations behind her column “The Principles of Uncertainty” and talks with Kurt Andersen about life, confusion, longing and repose.


Community convocations | Affinity sessions | Student symposium | All presentations and podcasts