Cause Design at Pecha Kucha

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Ivy Chuang, Knoend.
Ivy Chuang, Knoend.
It is San Francisco Design Week this week and there has been a flurry of events ongoing around town. I presented Knoend's Passage for Peace concept at Pecha Kucha last night at the Harlot Nightclub. This was the first time I had attended a Pecha Kucha night and it was fantastically fun.

Pecha Kucha means "chit-chat" in Japanese. Pecha Kucha Night, devised by Astrid Klein and Mark Dytham of Klein Dytham architecture, was conceived in 2003 as a place for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public. Each presenter is allowed 20 images, each shown for 20 seconds each, which gives six minutes 40 seconds of fame before the next presenter is up. The format has spread to over 100 cities and, in San Francisco, last night marked the 34th edition. The 20x20 format really forces someone to get straight to the point about a topic or project, and it turns out six minutes and 40 seconds allows us just enough time to grasp a concept and wrap our heads around it. The theme last night was CAUSE, and 12 presenters shared their projects and views in relation to the topic.

A few stuck out in my mind:

823 Key Project Necklace

Trevor Hubbard presented the 823 Key Project that he started in January of this year. He had given a friend of his that was having a tough time period, a necklace with an antique key as a pendant. He encouraged her with the well-known saying, "When one door closes, another opens..." Trevor then had the idea to convert this gesture into a movement, and a grant foundation for the arts. By selling these key necklaces he would raise enough money to provide artists with grants. The magic number is 823, which he explained, in the old pager days meant "thinking of you." Which I don't really understand, but is fine with me. When 823 necklaces were sold, a call for artists would open and a 25,000 grant would be made on behalf of the project.

2007 CAUSE/AFFECT People's Choice Award: "This is not grass" by Project M

Alice Bybee and Matt Cooke were two graphic designers that made a connection at an AIGA open meeting. Both of them were interested in socially responsible design and they went on to start a design competition called CAUSE/AFFECT. In their words, "We've all toiled into the night on projects for good causes with scant hope of any recognition (we're do-gooders after all!). But we believe one good deed deserves another, so we're giving out a stack of awards to those whose creative work stacks up." Deadline is June 19, 2009. It may be too late to start one, but if you have a project close to completion, you can certainly give it a push and send it in.

Nike, Peace, or Less

Ben Davis presented a new movement called (<). The concept behind the brand movement is to explore the beauty of owning less things, doing more for others, and keeping money out of the picture. In his presentation Ben took us to the evolution of creating a universal symbol that people could relate to. He compared the Nike swoosh to the peace symbol and asked the crowd which had more power. Sadly, my reaction was that the swoosh was probably more widely recognized than the peace symbol. I had done some research on the peace symbol and was surprised to find its true origins. It literally means nuclear disarmament, the symbol itself is a combination of the semaphoric signals for the letters "N" and "D," read the full history on wikipedia. But Ben did ask about power and not about recognition, so maybe the peace symbol does beat out the Nike swoosh in that sense. Let's hope (<) can gain some traction as well.

It's great to get in a room full of designer/do-gooders and feel the synergy around our desire to change the world for the better through design.

Check out all the other exciting events left this week at, and if you miss them this year, get involved in planning something for the next by emailing [email protected]


Ivy Chuang is the founder and design director of Knoend, a San Francisco-based studio with sustainability and innovation at its core. She is a nomad, surfer, cook and occasional artist.
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