Thursday, December 2, 2010

October Recap: Pro Bono Panel at PMCA!

PMCA panel

Back, way back in October, we hosted a night of responsible design in partnership with the Pasadena Museum of California Art and Intelligentsia Pasadena. We were thrilled to make our way to Pasadena for the first time, and ended up having two enthusiastic conversations about two very different aspects of the design world.

We started by gathering in the museum's gallery to see the exhibition Action/Reaction: 2010 California Design Biennial and participate in a panel on the pros and cons of pro bono design. Our host, Alissa Walker, who curated the product design category, picked two design teams working with different nonprofits in LA who were featured in the show. First, Stefan Bucher of 344 Design entertained us with his witty work for 826LA's Echo Park Time Travel Mart, where an almost-believable retail store works as a front for a children's tutoring center. Then Jenny Liang and Kim Karlsrud gave a behind-the-scenes look at the work of Project H, who has done work like the design enterprise initiative Abject Object with the Downtown Women's Center.

PMCA panel

The conversation was incredibly candid, and it was amazing to hear about such different models that are used in the nonprofit world. From the extreme challenges of working with budgets and finding ways to fund and finance various projects, to the joys of creative freedom (which can sometimes become a burden), to the fulfilling work of co-creating with stakeholders, the designers thoughtfully discussed their experiences with the audience, resulting in a very meaningful evening for everyone in attendance.

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Afterwards, we walked a few blocks to Colorado Boulevard to see the newest outpost of Chicago coffee empire Intelligentsia. As we ordered up lattes and glasses of the new Eagle Rock Brewery beer Stimulus (made with Intelligentsia coffee!) we checked out the beautiful space, which uses reclaimed materials, including locally-sourced church pews. Architect Ana Henton of MASS gave us a debriefing on the challenges and triumphs of designing Intelligentsia's first cafe that serves alcohol, from how it was designed to look like an alley, to making a space that could morph into more of a bar-like vibe, to creating two code-mandated separate serving areas, one for coffee, one for beer.

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But that wasn't all! After surprising us with a full spread of complimentary nibbles, including the amazing lasagna cupcakes made by Heirloom LA, Intelligentsia's director of innovation Kyle Glanville gave an inspired and fascinating presentation on the philosophy behind the brand. He covered everything from their dedication to design and architecture, down to custom cups designed by Rios Clementi Hale Studios, to why they don't have outlets (we promise, it's for your own good!). It was a full night of engaged discussions, valuable insight, and fantastic food and drink...the perfect de LaB. Thanks to PMCA and Intelligentsia for hosting us, and for all our wonderful speakers!

Thanks to Christine Goo for the PMCA photos, more de LaB photos here!

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