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The value in attending DesignThinkers as a design educator

October 12, 2022
  • Toronto
"Students attending the conference, studio tours and social events get excited about the design field and their work, and inspired to pursue new paths in design they may not have considered before."
John Baljkas

John Baljkas (top left) is a Professor at Conestoga College. For years, John has attended DesignThinkers Toronto with his students. Below, John shares about why he finds the conference so valuable for himself as an educator and the emerging designers he teaches.

 

You’ve been attending DesignThinkers for over 10 years! Where were you in your career when you first started attending? 

I attended DesignThinkers for the first time when working in design studios in Toronto. At the time, I was two years into my career and was inspired and motivated to learn more about design practices, and specific speakers, their work and have new perspectives and approaches for my own design practice. There were gap years in attending the conference, but for the past 10+ years as a full-time faculty member, the value of DesignThinkers for myself and students is invaluable for defining future careers.   

How do you find DesignThinkers inspires or informs your work as an educator?

The presenters at DesignThinkers often show a balance of design skills and empathy in their projects. As an educator, this is inspiring and informs and expands our collective understanding of design practices in relation to other disciplines and communities. I’ve seen many talks that discuss design in relation to creative goals, business, accessibility, sustainability, cultural artifacts, social justice and technology. The curation of speakers from different parts of the design community offers different perspectives on the roles designers have in businesses, communities, and education.

Do you have a favourite memory/speaker/session from DesignThinkers?

I’ve had a lot of ‘aha’ moments over the past decade. For me, the great part of the conference is the ability to see a speaker’s talk and then talk to them after their presentation or contact them after the conference. It’s also a great time to meet up with former colleagues!

What keeps you coming back year after year?

I keep coming back to DesignThinkers for the speakers and sense of community built by the conference. There’s such a great energy in the theatre during the in-person/live talks. Personally, I enjoy hearing peoples’ perspectives on design and seeing their work.

What would you say to another design educator considering attending for the first time?

As design practices are continually changing, DesignThinkers and associated events are extremely relevant to maintaining a current [and up-to-date] curriculum. Students attending the conference, studio tours and social events get excited about the design field, their work, and inspired to pursue new paths in design they may not have considered before.

If you could sum up the experience of attending DesignThinkers in one word, what would it be?

Relevant.

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