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Preview: the snowballing popularity of The Atlanta Design Festival

Design is Human Atlanta, from MA! Design is Human will return to Atlanta from June 2 to June 11 in the new form of the Atlanta Design Festival. An event with a wide variety of topics, products and discussions, the Atlanta Design Festival is proving to be the most encompassing conversation for modern design in the Southeast. Its snowballing popularity over the last few years can be attributed to the broad conversation on design topics the festival brings. Featuring architecture tours, panels, the Design Economy Expo and a grand opening of the new Design Within Reach on the Westside, Atlanta Design Festival appears an exhausting but ultimately riveting experience for lovers of all things modern.

Founded by Elaine DeLeo and Bernard McCoy in 2007, MA! Design is Human seeks to educate the public that through design, there is something for everyone, no matter what the scale. Championing that the business of design creates culture, MA!’s platforms focus on ideas, creative knowledge and design commerce. With a diverse array of programming and events every year, their goal to attract visitors and creative thinkers to Atlanta has been a resounding, visible success over the last decade.

There are many areas of public interest in which the festival can be attributed to pushing the design conversation forward for our city. According to founder Elaine DeLeo, mass transit, urban planning/design, architecture and infrastructure have all been ushered forward in Atlanta since the first festival in 2007. “Look at what we’re talking about now that wasn’t fully actuated 10 years ago for Atlanta; more biking options, the Beltline, our aging infrastructure, displacement from development, urban planning, etc. MA! Design is Human displays the value that these topics have for Atlanta each year while bringing the latest talent from the local and international fields here, ” quotes DeLeo.

This year’s Atlanta Design Festival kicks off with the architecture tour of homes in Asheville, North Carolina, and Athens, Georgia, on June 3 and 4, consecutively (following the homeowners’ reception in Asheville on June 2). A ticketed, self-guided tour, visitors will be immersed in an array of styles from architects and private owners. Several topic discussions will take place across the festival, including the panels Underground by Kirkby Design: Reimagining Transport for London’s Design Heritage, and The 5 P’s for Success: Procuring, Planning, Partnership, Psychology, & Publicity. An intriguing presentation (considering our burning, sinking and exploding roads and our ever-endearing roadways) to hear is Transport for London: Brand Identity, and Licensing Development, by Saskia Boersma, in which is discussed how London’s transit authority works with emerging and established designers to generate revenue and develop new opportunities.

Atlanta Celebrates Photography will have an exhibition, The Art of Water, at this year’s expo. (Image by Kate T. Parker.)

The grand opening of the new Design Within Reach in West Midtown will happen on June 7 and attract a vast number of festival goers, practitioners and the general public. Design firm HOK’s Todd Bertsch will give a lecture entitled A New Paradigm: Designing Porsche Cars North America’s High-Performance Headquarters that will encompass the massive project that has been attracting more than a few speed freaks to south Atlanta. Another highly anticipated event will be the Design Economy Expo (free, June 8–11) taking place at the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center. A combination of international and local talent, the expo will feature installations, exhibits and product displays of the latest innovations in industrial and commercial product design. June 9 will see the launch of Atlanta’s architecture tour of homes at ADAC, and continues through the 10 and 11, consecutively.

With a cavalcade of events being added every year, DeLeo says MA!’s Atlanta Design Festival wants the public to take away a philosophy that design can be a great economic generator and problem-solving tool for your community. “The human endeavor to improve quality of living is a wonderful process to behold, especially in Atlanta. John Oetgen once said from one of our discussion panels that we are a ‘potpourri of nostalgia’ here. We didn’t protect our city heritage when lots of great architecture was being destroyed in the ’70s to make way for a car-driven city, but now, there is a huge love of beautiful homes, buildings, and spaces. We have large amounts of green space, new ideas for handling transit, and new commerce opportunities here because we have embraced a tool like design.” DeLeo goes on to add that the next goal of MA! ADF, and all designers, should be to help City Hall to make the right changes for a sustainable future in Atlanta.

The opportunity is ripe to continue progressing our standard of living in Atlanta with design as a catalyst for change. The Atlanta Design Festival has and will continue to showcase a great array of possibilities that we can adapt to every corner of our local industries. Anyone attending only a few events would already be successfully thinking toward the future of how our public and private qualities of life can improve.

The Atlanta Design Festival begins on June 2 and ends June 11.

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