A Day Designed for Designers

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Trisha Dunham
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Did you know that Southwest Michigan is home to one of the nation’s largest centers of design-driven businesses?


Everyday products like Kitchen Aid mixers, Sharpie markers, Yoplait cups, and Kellogg’s cereal boxes are all designed right here in our backyard. But design isn’t just for artists! No matter your profession, you have to think like a designer every day, whether you know it or not.

This idea—that creativity drives everyday innovations—was the topic of this year’s Design Day, presented by MIX. With so many creative professionals in Southwest Michigan, local leaders of design-led industries banded together with Southwest Michigan First to create MIX, an association that brings regional designers together under one roof. Along with monthly learning and networking events geared towards the creatively inclined, Design Day is MIX’s annual extravaganza.

On September 12, 2019, 125 design professionals representing 42 organizations gathered at Wind + James in Schoolcraft for this year’s Design Day. There they learned from Southwest Michigan’s premier design leaders, delving into the topic, “Design is a Verb,” and discovered how design is an active process of innovation and continual improvement. A designer’s job is never done.

To explain how to solve everyday problems like a professional designer, Mike Elwell, the director of Western Michigan University’s Richmond Institute of Design and Innovation, broke down the design process, and attendees were quick to take out their notepads! Elwell showed how thinking like a designer starts with identifying a problem, stepping into the shoes of their target audience, generating ideas, and testing, testing, testing until they get it right.

Throughout the day, panelists representing top design-driven organizations including Stryker, Newell Brands, Fabri-Kal, Landscape Forms, and many others explored the past, present, and future of creativity in Southwest Michigan. The day’s discussion covered a range of topics such as the Internet of Things (IoT), User Experience (UX), and Urban Planning.

In addition to the symposium-style learning, there were plenty of opportunities to ask questions, do a little doodling, grab a fresh food-truck taco, and of course, network with like-minded professionals.

If you’re a professional designer or consider yourself a creative at heart, check out MIX’s next meetup at Newell Brands on October 23, 2019. Space is limited for the event’s Discover Design Session, starting at 4:00 p.m., where you can hear what goes into developing America’s favorite coffee maker: Mr. Coffee. After, all are welcome to join the MIX-Up from 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., to explore Newell Brands’ space and get an inside look at where design happens. MIX it up and infuse a little innovation into your everyday!

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