Edison at 2023 The Design Conference Brisbane

Amber, Brian, Caitlin, Alannah and I shuffled diaries and deadlines, and made Brisbane home for a few days of Design Conference madness in early June. Together, we created a space that allowed people to immerse themselves in discovering new ideas, sharing experiences, and contemplating how to transform them into actionable steps. Throughout the event, we shared numerous moments, but the prevailing sentiment among all of us was the profound experience of becoming engrossed in the stories while simultaneously challenging and exchanging our own ideas. Stepping away from the daily routine and dedicating a few days to truly feeling, embracing challenges, processing information, and reflecting alongside like-minded individuals can only foster the development of superior ideas and enhance our work.

Take yourself back to a time before the 24-hour news cycle. In the 1970s, the minds of young people weren’t nearly as inundated with noise as they are today. Life seemed to be filled with remarkable storytelling moments: powerful speeches, the familiar voices of nightly news readers, and memorable moments in cinema that set the stage and provided context. What was lost to me then and is clear to me now, the relationship and opportunity of the storyteller, the audience and the setting.

The act of people gathering together and sharing stories in a single space and time is often underrated and overlooked in today’s world. There’s always so much to cram into our schedules — endless meetings, work obligations, and the rush to get back to our daily lives. In this busy reality, the convenience of vodcasts and live streams does make sense. However, it’s important to recognize that the most influential and frequently disregarded element of a conference or any live event is not the speakers, topics, or content; it’s the audience itself. Being present and engaged in that shared space is the essence of the experience. The mood, anticipation, processing of information, exchange of ideas, feedback, reactions, reflection, and response — all these elements somehow encompass and enchant all who participate, leaving an indelible impact that extends beyond the event and into our work and personal lives.

After years of facing restrictions and grappling with the limitations imposed by the pandemic, I found myself back among the crowd, sitting in audiences at various events such as gigs, games, forums, and celebrations. It was during these moments that I truly witnessed the essence of what the audience represents and the unique experience it offers. I have given numerous presentations throughout the years, however, on this particular occasion, I recognized the privilege I had and approached my presentation from the perspective of the audience. I imagined myself sitting among them in the darkness, actively participating, processing information, and reflecting upon it. My aim was to create a moment where everything could be shared, where masks of ego were stripped away, and to leave everyone feeling energized, inspired to curate their own ideas, and to ignite their minds. I wanted to encourage them to contemplate how they work and engage in an internal conversation that stimulates, provokes, and allows for the creation of mental space.

There were many excellent moments and takeaways from attending The Design Conference in Brisbane together. When people come together to share ideas and experiences, creating dedicated time and space, it undoubtedly enriches our work, gives it greater meaning, and fosters deeper connection.

See you there in 2024.

Andy Ashton - Head of Innovation

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