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A Guide To San Diego’s First Design Week

Craft beer branding and label design, as shown on Mother Sponge craft beer ca...

Credit: Courtesy photo

Above: Craft beer branding and label design, as shown on Mother Sponge craft beer cans in an undated photo, is the subject of a program during San Diego's first ever design week.

KPBS Midday Edition Segments podcast branding

San Diego's multifaceted design community — architecture, fashion, tech, style, music, art, home design, food and beverage design and more — comes together for exhibitions, workshops, panels, shows and more.

Aired: September 8, 2020 | Transcript

New York. Milan. London. Beijing. And now, San Diego will join the ranks of design-savvy cities around the globe that host their own design weeks.

In the works for over a year, and organized by the Mingei International Museum, the first annual San Diego Design Week takes place Wednesday through Sunday and, despite obvious setbacks from the pandemic, is set to showcase the diverse design community in the region. With a broad variety of events, programs, driving or foot tours and installations, participants can be involved across online and in-person platforms.

The design industry can be a bit of an umbrella term describing a variety of disciplines, including architecture, fashion, style, art, technology, interior design, landscape design, food styling, beverage design, event design, justice and organizing and others.

"This is a really interesting opportunity," said Stacy Kelley, special projects manager with Mingei International Museum and Design Week's program director. "Design week's idea is really to bring the public into the conversation and show how design is shaping our region in a lot of different ways."

There are over a hundred panels, events, tours and exhibitions from Wednesday through Sunday, so I've picked a few standouts to get you started. For the full program of events, visit (and filter) the program guide here.

Exterior Installations And Self-Guided Design Tours

Design Week offers seven "exterior installation" options, which are either existing outdoor works or new installations created for window or outdoor viewing — perfect for social distancing. Some don't miss options:

At You Belong Here gallery in City Heights, artist Chitra Gopalakrishnan's print window installation, "We Are Sacred" features striking portraiture and typography-based art works of slain Black women and children. Gopalakrishnan has been painting these individuals throughout the summer, to support the Hill Street Country Club in Oceanside. Gopalakrishnan's work is stunning and evocative, and her background is in fine art and graphic design.

Cross-border artist Hugo Crosthwaite's "Column A and Column B" mural, installed in 2018, is on view near Barracks 14 at Liberty Station. Worth noting: Crosthwaite has been posting incredible stop-motion tours of his "Dibujos de Cuarentena" (quarantine drawing sketchbooks) project on Instagram.

While at Liberty Station, check out Jason Xavier Lane's sculptural installation "Tessellation #1" near the Sybil Stockdale Rose Garden (between Building 200 and Building 201 at the Dick Laub NTC Command Center).

Photo credit: Rachel Ehlin-Smith

Rachel Ehlin-Smith's handwoven exhibition, "Cleaning House," will be on view through the windows of Kettle & Stone beginning Wednesday.

And textile artist Rachel Ehlin-Smith uses natural, plant-based dyes and is a champion of zero waste design. At the Mission Hills design shop, Kettle & Stone, you can view her "Cleaning House" installation, which is a series of her hand-woven cleaning supplies like brooms and dustpans that Ehlin-Smith has been weaving at home during the pandemic. These pieces are viewable from the windows.

Also available to view from the sidewalk: the gallery collective Gather, which includes SDSU School of Art + Design, Art Produce Gallery in North Park, Bread and Salt in Barrio Logan and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, will display a series of poster art highlighting the fight for voting rights and the ratification of the 19th amendment in "Get Out the Vote: Empowering the Women's Vote."

Design Week also offers some driving tours: "Iconic Signage and a City's Identity" will tour the community identity signs in town, and will be published Wednesday here. And there's a panel talk Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. to discuss the Boulevard sign and the self-guided tour.

San Diego artist Roman de Salvo, known for his large scale and sculptural works that meld nature and public spaces with a sense of imagination and phenomena, will lead a self-guided tour through five public works based at the watersheds of San Diego, from Mission Trails Regional Park to the ocean. The route and pieces will be released here on Wednesday.

Photo by Julia Dixon Evans

Roman De Salvo's public sculpture in the new field station at Mission Trails Regional Park, "Fountain Mountain," was unveiled by the Commission for Arts and Culture in February. The sculpture — a functioning drinking fountain — echoes the trails, streams and mountains of the park.

Hop on your bike to follow several bike routes for the "BIPOC History Ride," uncovering some landmarks in the history of Black, Indigenous and people of color communities in San Diego, such as Chicano Park, Teralta Park, Chinese cultural sites downtown and more. Find the maps here beginning Wednesday.

And finally, tour the architectural, landscape and environmental design marvels in the town of Imperial Beach. The tour will be published Wednesday here.

Don't Miss Events

"Maneki Neko and Japanese Design: The Beckoning Cats" is a panel on the design influence and history of the traditional Japanese "beckoning cat" symbol, and it takes place Wednesday at 1 p.m.

Wednesday evening at 6, tune in to Zoom for "Equality by Design," a panel on the impact design can have on equality, and what an "equity-based approach" to design can mean.

Photo credit: Jana McBeath

Youth photographers involved with Outside the Lens programming pose in an undated picture.

Outside the Lens is hosting a youth-led panel called "Social Media // Social Change" Friday at 4 p.m. about the ways in which younger San Diegans are using social media for social change.

On the technology side of design, the International Game Developers Association San Diego chapter will lead a livestream panel discussion on game design theory and the industry, Friday at 6:30 p.m.

Pick up a free face mask (or buy your own from local City Heights designers) Saturday at 11 a.m. at Fair at 44 in City Heights. There'll also be a livestreamed fashion show with music from local Congolese performers.

And register in advance to receive a free craft kit mailed to you for artist and children's book author Susie Ghahremani's collaboration with the Mingei's Family Sunday program, to create a hanging Halloween bat mobile, then join the workshop live on Facebook Sunday at 1 p.m.

Watch Anytime, Anywhere

Love a good beer label? Check in on the "Design of Craft Beer" discussion at any point after Wednesday to dig into the San Diego and Tijuana beer scene's award-winning brewers and their talented designers shaping the look of the brands.

KPBS Midday Edition spoke with Felicia Smith of Simply Put, an event design firm about what design week can offer San Diego. Smith will discuss self care and social justice in a panel alongside Claudia Rodriguez-Biezunski of Sewloka, which will be available to view beginning Wednesday here. This discussion also aims to lift up voices from nontraditional design industry members, like event designers and more. "I hope that someone walks away and thinks, no matter how you design, no matter which way you look at yourself as a creative, you can create something that speaks to the world," Smith said.

And you can explore the intersection of hip hop, storytelling and PR with "On Brand: Hip Hop as Storytelling," featuring Ramel J. Wallace of BAM The Agency who is also on the board for the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Art. This discussion is viewable anytime starting Wednesday.

Film Screenings and Music

Tim Mays, owner of the Casbah, will take us on a playlist-based tour of his favorite album cover designs in a podcast available starting Wednesday.

And at any point on Friday, watch a screening of "Rams," a 2018 documentary about influential designer Dieter Rams who famously said "If I had to do it over again, I would not want to be a designer." Register here.

How are you planning to participate in any of the programming in design week? Do you work in the design industry in San Diego? Join the conversation in the KPBS/Arts Facebook group here.

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Julia Dixon Evans
Arts Calendar Editor and Producer

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI write the weekly KPBS Arts newsletter and edit and produce the KPBS Arts calendar. I am interested in getting San Diegans engaged with the diversity of art and culture made by the creative people who live here.

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