Edmonton Design Week: An Introduction
“Edmonton Design Week has been a topic of conversation for a number of years within the design community,” smiling Moirae Choquette pauses briefly, before delving back into explaining how this festival has been made possible — “it’s being organized through a new program called the Downtown Vibrancy program, which is part of of the Urban Economy division at Edmonton Economic Development.”
We’re sitting in a boardroom on the fourth floor of Edmonton’s World Trade Centre, looking out at Jasper Ave and the iconic Fairmont Hotel Macdonald. “The goal of the Downtown Vibrancy program, says Moirae who manages the program, is to drive energy, vibrancy and economic impact to the core, the way we do that is either scaling up existing events or creating new ones” “A successful scale up of an existing event, Vignettes, is exactly how the inaugural Design Week came to be this year.”
Who is organizing this festival?
EEDC’s Downtown Vibrancy Program is helping to lead the inaugural Edmonton Design Week, with significant help from the community. We helped bring together 10 individuals from different disciplines across the city’s design community to form a working group to plan and execute the festival. Together, we created the concept of a week of community-driven design events anchored by Vignettes. So, while we are bringing everyone together as part of the festival, all of the events and activities are being individually organized, so they will really reflect the interests and expertise of our local designers.
We asked Moirae to answer some more questions about how it all happened, and why the festival is important to Edmonton.
Last year, we were working with Leigh Wright from Mojo Design on another project and casually mentioned he had been coordinating Vignettes Design Series. At the time, they were in their third year, showcasing in a church hall off Whyte Avenue.
They would put a callout to artists, designers, woodworkers, you name it and they would apply to design 8’x8’ spaces in teams. Vignettes had a couple hundred people going through and we thought it was such a cool program; we wanted to help them scale it up. We helped them secure the former Sobeys space on 104 Street, brought them downtown and pitched them to add a culinary component. We saw such a success from that, and the event grew to having over 5000 people go through.
Vignettes really brought to light the amount of space and opportunity for design in Edmonton, and the question we asked ourselves was how could we create design across multiple disciplines. And that’s where the idea of an Edmonton Design Week came from!
Do you think people associate design with Edmonton?
I think we’re beginning to see that more and more as Edmonton evolves as a whole, and a lot of different industries keep growing. We can see this through the design awards the pavilions have won in the City of Edmonton parks. A lot of the architecture firms are coming to the forefront and independent designers in general are working to expose design in Edmonton. Even down to the universities and what their students are doing, such as The University of Alberta’s Student Design Association and their recent “Built” pop-up in December at Kingsway Garden Mall, which was a temporary store of locally designed products. There are more pop-ups, events and media opportunities surrounding design that result in design reaching people who might not necessarily know about it or be interested in it because they just aren’t aware of it.
Do you think there is anything about Edmonton that inspires design, or makes it a place that sparks so many new ideas?
Edmonton is definitely a city for entrepreneurs. Everybody is willing to help and build each other up, whether you need an introduction to somebody, or simply help building a program or event.
At EEDC, we are really involved with our entrepreneur programs like Startup Edmonton, TEC Edmonton and Edmonton Made, as well as our community activations efforts.
There’s so many programs that want to help build these programs and these people all to be able to create what they are good at, so I think that makes it a little bit easier to climb that ladder, be exposed to a larger audience and do what you really love in Edmonton, because of the support.
Who is Edmonton Design Week for?
Everyone. Design is for the masses and when we say that on the website, we mean it. There’s no too young or too old - if you’re five and you’re interested in design that’s great, we want to give you something in Edmonton to see and get excited about. If you’re 80 and you’re interested in what’s happening downtown, or design or a specific discipline we want to make it accessible and to ensure you have a good time.
Design matters to me because…
For me, I think it’s all about building community, a strong community. I think that’s super important, merging the design crowd to attendees, allowing those two groups to flow together and build on that community. That’s why this project is important to me because I'm able to help create something like that.
So then to build that community, how do people get involved in Design Week?
If you have work you want to showcase, we want to hear from you. We want this to be your city to showcase in so whatever we can do to help bring that to fruition, we’ll do. If you can attend in September, come out, learn about local design and follow along on social media. We want this to be a conversation and a meeting of worlds and to do that, we need you!