After two years filled with delays and cancellations, we’re thrilled to see design events returning to the calendar in 2022. Whether it’s an exhibition, workshop, or festival—in-person events offer creatives the opportunity to meet and talk about the issues that matter to them and their industry. Eleven years ago, this rather simple idea was the spark that led What Design Can Do to organise our first event in Amsterdam. Now that a new edition of WDCD Live is finally in the works, we’re taking a moment to pull back the curtains and share a few lessons we’ve learned from our community.
Many of these lessons are the result of a series of interviews and surveys that our team conducted over the last few months. After more than two years spent pivoting and postponing, these conversations inspire us to come back with an event that’s truly better—if not bigger—than ever. Keep reading for five things that audiences are looking for in a design festival today, as told by our friends, colleagues and visitors.
#1. IT’S ALL ABOUT CONNECTION, CONNECTION, CONNECTION
Here was one thing almost everybody seemed to agree on: when it comes to live events, the speakers are important, but the crowd is everything. Star-studded programmes will always draw attention, but more than ever, creatives want time to get to know like-minded people away from the stage.
“At What Design Can Do, we’re embracing our role as a facilitator of connections,” says creative director Richard van der Laken. “Our events have always brought in changemakers from a wide range of disciplines, from designers to diplomats, and activists to architects. Now we’re working on ways to create more spaces where worlds can meet and ideas can cross-pollinate.”
#2. BETTER HANDS-ON SESSIONS
Another message that we heard loud and clear? These days, the internet is overflowing with inspiring content. What makes an in-person event really worth attending, then, is the quality of its interactive programme.
We learned that creatives are especially craving hands-on workshops that allow them to experiment, co-create and solve problems together. For the upcoming edition of WDCD Live Amsterdam, visitors will have a choice of six active sessions on various topics. “You can expect plenty of opportunities to roll up your sleeves,” explains Rosa Kieft, a manager on our programme team. “In these sessions, we’ll unpack questions like: how do you measure your impact as a designer? If you have to boil down your values, what would your manifesto look like? What could you do today to make your practice more circular?”
#3. NO CLIMATE ACTION WITHOUT SOCIAL JUSTICE
With every passing year, it becomes clearer than ever that humanity’s most pressing problems are deeply interconnected. Many creatives also know that the same holds true for the best of our solutions. They’re no longer as interested in talking about climate action, unless it also addresses social justice, and does so with equal parts urgency and optimism.
We see this as a sign to continue exploring themes like regenerative design and gender equality, but in a way that does away with silos, and better explores how these issues are related.
#4. BRING ON THE UNEXPECTED
Meanwhile, a lot of people that we talked to also asked to be surprised. They are looking for events like WDCD to shake something loose in their understanding of design. Many expressed an interest, for example, in diving deeper into the world of tech and biodesign.
If that sounds like your cup of tea, you’ll be happy to see a few new faces in the line-up this summer. “There’s a good chance we’ll see some sparks fly,” says Alison Pasquariello, who leads the communication team for WDCD. “We’ve got Amber Jae Slooten, for example, who works at a really unique intersection as a digital fashion designer, exploring identity not only today — but in the future. Put her side-by-side with Adebayo Oke-Lawal, who uses clothing to break down cultural stereotypes and gender binaries. It makes me curious: where will this new generation of fashion designers take us next?”
#5. EASIER ACCESS
Last but not least, we are reminded that it’s been a tough few years for everyone in the cultural and creative sector. Until the industry recovers, there will be less time and money to spend on events than in previous years. To make our next edition more agile and accessible, we’ve put together a programme that packs a lot of punch in just one day. We’ll also make parts of the event available to stream online. We hope this means our doors stay open to as many people as possible, whether you’re a student, creative professional, design lover or fledgling start-up.
Want to know more about WDCD Live Amsterdam 2022? Keep an eye on our event website for the latest news and updates. All images from the last WDCD Live event in Amsterdam (2018).