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February 09, 2021

In/Visible Talks 2021 Recap: Inspiration, Talks, and Takeaways

At the fourth annual—and first-ever all-virtual—In/Visible Talks conference, we explored how we can Re:Design our world.

At the fourth annual—and first-ever all-virtual—In/Visible Talks conference on January 14, we found ourselves in the in-between of pre- and post-pandemic lives. This past year we’ve also faced life-changing economic, political, and racial strife. While we know this space is filled with fear, anger, and frustration, we also know this space is ripe for Re:Invention. 

And so, we gathered together—designers, artists, creative thinkers, students, educators, change-makers, activists—to talk and listen and explore how we might inspire each other to “Re:Design” our world, to expand it, to make it more inclusive and equitable. “Creativity has the power to bring us together and to heal,” INVT Co-Founder Arianna Orland said in her opening message. “I believe that ideas can take us from stagnation to action. I believe that in action, there is hope.”

Our hope was bolstered by the Talks and Creative Bursts given throughout the day by an international lineup of speakers and presenters. They inspired us with their candidness, courage, and willingness to enact change. They broke down stereotypes, challenged us to move beyond complacency, and Re:Imagine, Re:Think, and Re:Everything.

The videos of all the talks are still up on the Vi.to platform. If you bought a ticket to the 2021 talks, you can access them via the unique link you used on the 14th. If not, you can still grab a post-conference pass here. We invite you to revisit them whenever you need to be Re:Inspired.

Meanwhile, here are some of the highlights:

Stephen Gates reminded us of biases in everyday objects (Pokémon, soap dispensers!) and challenged us to work together for solutions. “Hope is not a strategy, hope does not get it done, hope is not going to get us where we need to go,” he said.

During her Creative Burst, Tina Touli encouraged us to train our eyes to see everyday things from different angles. “Sometimes, you know, it’s just a matter of looking at what you have in front of you.”

As an educator, Elaine Lopez helps her students reclaim and take pride in their cultural identities. “We need to make room for all of these narratives,” she said, and we, as designers, can “help ease the mistrust and polarization that currently exists in the world.”

A prompt in a writing class inspired Debbie Millman’s “Number 53,” an animated story she shared with us in which a man “thinks about the night before and wishes he was back in the dirty bar with the bad martini. Or better yet, that he was back in bed with a dirty girl from the bar.”

“It is important that diversity inclusion doesn’t just show up in our products,” Renee Reid said. “Diversity and inclusion and equity have to show up in the actual community.” She inspired us by sharing some of the work Inneract Project is doing.

Chanelle Ignant’s music warmed us up before the conference launched in the morning, then she lifted us up again during a Creative Burst with her live performance of “A Prayer for 2021.” In the chat, one attendee wrote, “Physically I’m in my room right now, but your music has transported me to a warm beach.”

“Pay attention to those funny feelings,” Sara Cantor said in her talk, “because they’re trying to tell you your values.” It was funny feelings (including guilt) that motivated Sara to reconsider her role as designer and “expand the center” in human-centered design.

We’re all thinking about “the sound of stars having a conversation” after Christine Sun Kim shared her beautiful and evocative “[Closer Captions]” video during a Creative Burst.

Our most important responsibility is to inspire, Bruce Mau said as he called us to action. “Most designers don’t really understand how powerful they are,” he said. “We have the ability to envision the future, and the future that we envision is the future we will live.”

Designer, filmmaker, storyteller, and artist Lawrence Weiner spoke to us through a short film by Hillman Curtis and Debbie Millman. “You are in the stream of life whether you like it or not…and you have to accept the responsibilities.”

“As designers, our job is uncomfortable,” Fri Forjindam reminded us, as she unpacked the word “reclaim” and explored how we might work through a creative brief for America 2050. But designers have an advantage, she said, for “your life experience is your creative superpower.”

We hope you’ll revisit the videos throughout the year and keep in touch. For announcements and information about upcoming Salons, Workshops, and other special events, visit the In/Visible Talks website and keep an eye out for blog posts and eblasts.

And now, let’s Re:Design the future that lies ahead!