Parsons Conference to Unwrap ‘Critical Gift of Design’

‘Tis the season for another thought-provoking design conference! Our friends at Parsons the New School for Design have teamed up with the Köln International School of Design (part of the University of Applied Sciences Cologne) to present the Critical Gift of Design, a conference and exhibition exploring what design is capable of giving to the world. “We understand that design is not a neutral act,” said Joel Towers, executive dean of Parsons, in a statement announcing the interdisciplinary event. “With the Critical Gift, we are taking a step back to assess how we have used this power throughout history—for better and worse—and how we might apply it in the future to benefit an increasingly complex and global society.” The assessing and applying begins tomorrow evening in the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center‘s cozy Kellen Auditorium with “Beauty and the Design of Aliveness,” a keynote address by Elaine Scarry, the Walter M. Cabot Professor of Aesthetics and the General Theory of Value at Harvard. Thusly invigorated, attendees will go forth and confer in Friday breakout discussion sessions led by participants including MoMA’s Paola Antonelli, graphic designer Ruedi Baur, and Jamer Hunt, director of the MFA program in Transdisciplinary Design at Parsons. No time for lively discussion and debate? Pop over to check out the “The Present,” a corresponding exhibition that features work by Parsons and KISD students. On view through Sunday, it showcases critical product design, subversive videos, satirical stories, and other projects intended to challenge visitors to consider whether design is a gift or a curse. We’re going to go with gift.