A sneak peek at Design Week

When you think about the Hoosier state, you might picture farms and cornfields.

That’s the idea behind the image—the backend of a cow, colored in orange, with white letters that say “DWFW 18.”

“It’s a smart critique of Indiana,” says Dan Swartz, the organizer of Design Week Fort Wayne. 

While residents and visitors alike tend to assume Indiana is the place for industries like farming and manufacturing, there’s an emerging culture of designers, architects, entrepreneurs, and innovators here, too.

That’s what Design Week Fort Wayne 2018 is about.

Inspired by similar Design Week events around the nation, it brings some of the biggest names in architecture, innovation, fashion, and design to the Summit City for a week of panels, discussions, and special events.

Now, in its third year, Swartz hopes it will upend the way people think about the Hoosier state, too, by putting Indiana creators in the spotlight.

This year, Design Week attendees will hear from Indiana natives like Zach Klein, a co-founder of Vimeo and the creator of DIY.org who is originally from Fort Wayne. Another speaker will be Abbott Miller, a native of Hammond, IN, who is now a partner at Pentagram, the world’s largest independently-owned design studio based in New York City.

As the founder of Wunderkammer Company Art Center in Fort Wayne, Swartz hopes to tap into the local creative population, too.

Since 2013, he has transformed the old Casa D'angelo Restaurant on Fairfield Avenue into a community gallery where he shows local art and helps creators turn their ideas into actions.

Design Week Fort Wayne is a weeklong event that he started hosting three years ago—first at Indiana Tech and Ivy Tech, then at Wunderkammer itself.

Dan Swartz of Wunderkammer Company.

This year, the event is moving to a more central location downtown that speaks to northeast Indiana’s rich design history: The Arts United Center.

Created by the master mid-century architect Louis Kahn, the Arts United Center is Kahn’s only work in the Midwest, and the only performing arts theater he ever designed, making it a global point of interest.

And yet, for those who live in northeast Indiana, it’s something you might not think about: There’s world-class architecture right here.

Design Week Fort Wayne is a chance to revel in the region’s art history and set the tone for its future. It’s also a chance to unite creatives across the Midwest with attendees from Detroit, Columbus, Grand Rapids, Chicago, and Indianapolis.
This year, the event will be Monday, May 7, to Friday, May 11.

Input Fort Wayne sat down with Swartz to get a sneak peek at what promises to be a week of creativity, social change, and innovation.

Designer Stefan Sagmeister addresses the crowd at DWFW 2017.

Monday, May 7

The week starts out with a day devoted to Societal Design, which includes a combination of placemaking, urban planning, and sociology. Zach Klein

The keynote speaker will be Zach Klein, a Fort Wayne native who was one of the founders and designers of Vimeo and the creator of DIY.org, a worldwide movement to help kids learn skills and turn their creative hobbies into projects.

He also helped start the site CollegeHumor.

“Zach builds online communities,” Swartz says. “He’s very tech-based, but many of the same rules apply.”

Along with these achievements, Klein co-authored the New York Times bestselling book Cabin Porn, which showcases remarkable handmade homes in the backcountry of America and around the world.

Tuesday, May 8 Ron Elsenbaumer

The topic of Tuesday is Innovation, with keynote speaker Ron Elsenbaumer.

While Elsenbaumer is the new Chancellor of IPFW, he also has 35 patents, and he’s written 110 publications on science. He’ll speak about his work across the private sector and academia, exemplifying innovative practices along the way.

The day will also include an investors panel of national speakers who will talk with entrepreneurs about funding opportunities for their projects.

Wednesday, May 9 

This is the day for Architecture and interior Design. Douglas Hoerr

Along with the typical appeal to architects, designers, and planners, Swartz says this year’s programming is also aimed at appealing to builders.

A Calgary, Canada based group with teams in Indianapolis called DIRTT (Doing It Right This Time) will participate in a session about new, sustainable building materials, such as alternative forms of walling.

“They created a two story medical office in three days,” Swartz says. “Their goal is to speed up the building process, limit the amount of labor, and lengthen the amount of time buildings can exist.”

The Keynote speaker on Wednesday will be ASLA Fellow Douglas Hoerr, from Milford, IN, who is now based in Chicago, as a landscape architect.

Hoerr designed two miles of median planters down the center of Chicago’s Michigan Avenue in the early 1990’s. Since then, he has worked with clients as diverse as Crate & Barrel, Apple, the Chicago Botanic Garden, Northwestern University and Houston’s Hermann Park, infusing civic spaces with distinctive punch.

Swartz wants to hear his thoughts on not only the look, but also the culture of downtown Fort Wayne, as new projects like Riverfront development take shape.

“What should downtown look like?” Swartz questions. “We’ve got great buildings, but what should the vibe be?”

Thursday, May 10 Abbott Miller

Swartz says this is likely to be the busiest day of Design Week. The topic is Advertising and Graphic Design, which caters to the interests of Fort Wayne’s large community of advertising and design firms.

The keynote speaker will be Abbott Miller, who is originally from Hammond, Indiana.

Miller studied design at the Cooper Union School of Art in New York and went on to join Pentagram’s New York office as a partner in June 1999, the world’s largest independently-owned design studio.

“They do more than graphic design, including projects like museum exhibits,” Swartz says.

Friday, May 11

The week ends in style on the topic of Fashion, featuring Gabrielle Korn, Editor-in-Chief of Nylon MagazineGabrielle Korn

As a 28-year-old career woman, Korn is running one of the largest beauty, fashion, music, and entertainment magazines in the nation.

Under her editorial leadership, NYLON has become a fully digital brand that generates around 100 million impressions per month, and she was named one of Brooklyn Magazine’s 30 Under 30 for 2018. 

Swartz hopes her expertise speaks to the local community of designers at places like Matilda Jane Clothing and Vera Bradley, as well as any young women interested in taking on leading roles at their companies.

Friday will also feature a talk with Sheila Rashid, who works with the popular music artist, Chance the Rapper, who will discuss gender neutral clothing and socially conscious style.

Attend Design Week

Tickets to Design Week Fort Wayne can be purchased for one day or the entire week at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/design-week-fort-wayne-2018-tickets-42853434777#tickets.

Weeklong General Admission is $200. Day passes are $50, and Networking event passes are $10.

There is also a Design Week Opening Party on Saturday, May 5, from 7-10 p.m. for $25, or included in Weeklong General Admission.


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Read more articles by Kara Hackett.

Kara Hackett is a Fort Wayne native fascinated by what's next for northeast Indiana how it relates to other up-and-coming places around the world. After working briefly in New York City and Indianapolis, she moved back to her hometown where she has discovered interesting people, projects, and innovations shaping the future of this place—and has been writing about them ever since. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @karahackett.