(L–R) Andrew Branch, David Morgan, Patti M. Cook, Tristan Shepherd, Nathan Smith, Gary Vlasic, Robyn Erkelens, Candice Holman, Warren Lloyd, Tyler Bloomquist, Elpitha Tsoutsounakis at Salt Lake Design Week.

Designing Behind the Scenes


Joe Rogan has a great stand-up bit on technology  about how none of us truly knows what goes into the functionality of the things we use. He paints a beautiful picture of a time when all engineers suddenly vanish and a bunch of schmucks are left standing around trying to figure out how to keep things like the Internet or electricity working, with little technological savvy beyond hitting the power buttons on their remotes.

I think you could easily see a similar situation unfolding in the event of the designers of the world suddenly disappearing. What would things look like? How would they work? Everyday items, like phones, toasters and bathmats, which we all unassumingly use daily, would cease to exist in the user-friendly and attractive nature that we currently enjoy them. This is where Salt Lake Design Week comes in: to show us what it actually takes to design a building, snowboard or bathmat.

“Design Week was started in 2011 to create a community of sharing  connections among designers —and to show what is happening in architecture, interior design, product design and graphic design, as well as sharing these ideas with the public,” says Salt Lake Design Week Chair Robyn Erkelens about the upcoming event from Oct. 14–19. This year’s event is organized and hosted by members of the Salt Lake chapter of AIGA, the professional association of design, along with local designers from companies that specialize in everything from outdoor gear (Backcountry.com), letterpress design (The Mandate Press) and architecture (Meld Design).

Design plays a major role in how we use everyday items and how we decorate our lives. With everything this encompasses, people should have a better understanding of what goes into the things we utilize and depend on, or even what we use just to express ourselves. Everything around us, from the landscaping outside your building to the coffee mug in your hand, began as an idea of or was influenced by a designer.

“We only notice when there is something wrong with a produc—as a designer, you don’t really want people to notice the design in something they are using,” says Erkelens. “People want a tool that works properly, and they don’t want to think about it.” This is where Design Week strives to make connections for everyday consumers. Throughout the week, showcases, workshops and lectures will aim to inspire and inform in different design mediums, such as product design—there is even a workshop on how to design and build your own lamp.

With the resurgence of DIY culture and recreational design, Design Week is well timed, and a great venue to inspire individual creativity, playing well into a growing culture of design in the city. “There are a lot of great things happening in Utah and Salt Lake City. Adobe, The University of Utah and BYU’s design programs, and architecture are growing and impacting the community,” says Erkelens. “Even events like Craft Lake City give designers who may not have any formal training an opportunity to share their ideas or to inspire others, as do sites like Pinterest.”

Salt Lake Design Week 2013 will feature several events at venues spread throughout the valley over the course of Oct. 14–19. The opening night will feature “PechaKucha Night SLC” at the State Room. This is a showcase of designers from around the globe who are each given 20 slides, to show over 20 seconds, representing several different design mediums. Closing night, which will be hosted by the Atlas Architects at Nobrow Coffee, will feature gourmet s’mores, finger foods and coffee cocktails (even the food you consume is designer-made!), while those in attendance enjoy the view of a distinct canopy designed by University of Utah architecture students.

Several of the plans and events for Design Week are still underway, but you can find updated information on workshops, the schedule and venues online at sldesignweek.org, as well as facebook.com/saltlakedesignweek and on Instagram @saltlakedesignweek.

Hopefully, after attending, you will take an extra moment to pause and appreciate the amount of work and thought that went into creating a design that is attractive, easy to use, and fits perfectly into the patchwork collection of kitchen appliances you use when plugging your ergonomic blender into your Victorian-themed outlet.