On February 21, 2015, Design Observer hosted the first design-centered event of its kind: a free one-day symposium that explored “What Design Sounds Like.” Held at the at the SVA Theatre in New York City, WDSL featured speakers from across the United States and Europe. From live interviews to musical performances, dynamic discussions to spirited debate, we explored together what design sounds like.

Michael Bierut + Jessica Helfand
Opening Remarks

Adrian Shaughnessy
Graphic Design on the Radio
Graphic designers are often reluctant to describe what they do—they just do it—and when you complicate things still further by asking them to choose some music to go with their interview, some of them go into meltdown.

Mike Errico
Dancing About Architecture
The Observatory is a new podcast we’re developing at Design Observer. In each episode, Jessica Helfand and Michael Bierut talk about a few things going on in the world of design that have caught their attention.

Alexander Chen
More details about the talk, presentation and other helpful information for the audience to read before or deuring the presentation.

Nicola Twilley
Sound Bites
More details about the talk, presentation and other helpful information for the audience to read before or deuring the presentation.

Debbie Millman
Design Matters
In this live episode of Design Matters, Debbie Millman talks to editor, curator, and design fairy godmother Chee Pearlman about editing a design magazine and designing conferences.

Michael Nino Evensen + Amir Shaikh
The Sound of Storytelling
A historical/scienti c perspective on the origins of storytelling and why spoken stories have such a profound role in the human experience. We imagine doing this through audio clips of our favorite podcasts, highlighting profound moments where the audience can understand how mature our ability to hear context beyond what someone is saying (trembling, hesitation, joy, excitement, etc).

EunJin Cho
Got Sound?
Exploring theatre sound design and how it is interconnected to the everyday life we live. Sound design is often noted as non-visual and one of the most subjective design elements, thus appearing difficult to approach. In short, sound design lives in us all and allows audiences to quickly become immersed into the auditory world that has been created.

Juliet Kinchin
Design for Ear and Eye
Drawn entirely from the Museum’s collection, Making Music Modern gathers designs for auditoriums, instruments, and equipment for listening to music, along with posters, record sleeves, sheet music, and animation.

Nick Sowers + Geoff Manaugh
Ghost in the Wall
Nick Sowers and Geoff Manaugh will engage in a conversation about sound, space, and architecture. Intermixed with the sounds, Geoff will discuss with Nick the possibilities of sound architecture for the various environments we inhabit—of ces, houses, public places, and the spaces in between.

Steven Heller
The Expert Witness
If design is on the air waves and you need an expert quote, who ya gonna call: Sound Biters. In this talk, reprising some of his own radio, TV and fillm bites, Steven Heller will discuss the art of speaking in short sentences and the serendipity of being on call to give resonant sound bites.

Tobias Frere-Jones + Sasha Frere-Jones
Rock, Paper, Scissors, Font
Tobias Frere-Jones has established himself as one of the world’s leading typeface designers. Sasha Frere-Jones is a critic, curator, musician, and the executive editor of genius.com. They will be interviewed by Adrian Shaughnessy on how both of their professions have been affected by the digital revolution.


December 2018: Edited by Jessica Helfand and Michael Bierut, Culture is Not Always Popular: Fifteen Years of Design Observer will be out in early December from MIT Press. Buy the book here. See the video here.

November 2018: The Design of Business | The Business of Design conference will be held on November 2 and 3 at Yale School of Management.

September 2018: Face Value, Cooper Hewitt’s entry into the 2018 London Design Biennale, is named one of the four medalists.

July 2018: Jessica Helfand and Allison Arieff host a Next Stage event at Google on the ethics of design.

June 2018: Jessica Helfand is one of three artists chosen to participate in Face Value, the US entry into the London Design Biennale for 2018.

May 2018: Jessica Helfand hosts The Next Stage at The Mercantile Library in Cincinnati and The American Film Institute in Los Angeles.

May 2018: Jessica Helfand debuts The Next Stage at Continuum in Boston.

March 2018: Jessica Helfand is keynote speaker for the In Pursuit of Luxury Conference, Cape Town, South Africa.