Earlier this year, I was invited to lead the highly anticipated WantedDesign / Core77 workshop in Brooklyn, NY along with my colleague and fellow art center faculty member Chiara Ferrari.
This was intensive workshop, where students from Poland, France, Mexico and US explored the theme “Future Heirloom.” This was a five day workshop where teams considered what will millennials feel is important to leave behind for future generations, what and how will our legacy be preserved. This workshop had students contemplating on an existential crisis level. Read more about it here.
During the workshop in New York, I met Sebastian Ocampo, Director-Chair of Industrial Design at Centro University. We started chatting about humanitarian design, and I shared my “Sanctum” design studio at ArtCenter College, and how we are designing and building emergency housing for our homeless crisis here in Los Angeles. He mentioned an extremely intensive workshop he had in mind, “Design Under Pressure What is the role of designers in times of high pressure?” A workshop he was creating for CENTRO and WantedDesign Tragically inspired by the 2017 Mexico earthquake, were students would generate creative ideas for disaster relief, and would have only 25 hours between the specific brief and design outcomes.
A workshop he was creating for CENTRO and WantedDesign Tragically inspired by the 2017 Mexico earthquake, were students would generate creative ideas for disaster relief, and would have only 25 hours between the specific brief and design outcomes.
Not more than a week later I was invited to lead a section of this workshop in Mexico City.
This was a super intensive five day workshop questioning the role of the designer in times of crisis. Students came from 11 international and local schools including: ArtCenter College for Design (Pasadena, California), CENTRO (Mexico), Parsons School of Design (NYC), Escuela de Comunicación Mónica Herrera (El Salvador) and Strate School of Design (Sevres, France).
The workshop was conducted by 4 mentors: Nik Hafermaas (ArtCenter Berlin), Cecilia León de la Barra (CENTRO), José Allard (Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile), and myself, James Meraz (ArtCenter College of Design).
This five-day program kicked off with visits to areas affected by earthquakes, as well as presentations culminated in a collaborative workshop where teams of international students from different schools worked collaboratively to generate creative solutions for specific topics of disaster relief.
Then we broke off into four teams, eight students each (mobility, communication, health, shelter), led by the four workshop leaders. I led the Shelter workshop, Nik Hafermaas led communication, Jose Allard from Chile led the mobility workshop, and Cecilia Leon from Centro ran the health workshop.
All groups worked an intensive 24 hours straight which culminated into a final presentation on Sunday afternoon, with major city constituents and community leaders present. Centro has a fantastic film/documentation crew, and at the final presentation previewed a short but intense film of the entire process.
The final public presentation took place Sunday September 30th, at CENTRO university. The projects that resulted from the workshop are currently being exhibited at the World Design Capital CDMX 2018, along with a “Design Force Manifesto’ that was created from the collective efforts of the workshop. A publication is currently in the works of this critical effort.
Intentionally, our ArtCenter students were not part of my team, but I couldn’t be more proud of how they handles themselves, and of course were fantastic leaders in their respective groups. Andy Kim (Product Design) and Andres Zavala (Environmental Design), worked with Jose Allard and mobility, and Melissa Nguyen (Environmental Design) and Monse Alanis (Product Design) worked with Cecilia and health.
The Director of Centro, Kerstin Scheuch was heavily involved in the overall process, as well as Sebastian Ocampo (industrial design chair). Odile Hainaut, co-director of WantedDesign was present during the entire workshop as well.
This workshop inspired by the tragic 2017 mexico city earthquake, galvanized the need for designers to become more conscious of social impact and humanitarian needs around the world, as well as exploring empathetic and intuitive design for our challenging times.
James Meraz works and teaches in the field we call Environmental Design. This field represents a multi-faceted and emerging profession which encompasses and blurs the line between many design disciplines. James has a unique vision and understanding of this complex field. He brings rich academic and professional expertise to the departments he teaches in. Principle of Studio Meraz, Inc. – A multi-disciplinary design firm providing exhibit, furniture, product, interior, set, architectural design services.