What’s the point?
Each year, a few good conferences inject fresh blood into our community. They do a great job of bringing smart people together to tell other smart people how to do things. But these are rarities — the ones that address “how” and do it with depth and focus. Most of the time “how?” is a question best suited for Google.
If we are going to go to the effort (and sacrifice) of breaking from our business and personal obligations to attend a conference, perhaps we should also be tackling other sorts of questions.
Questions such as “why? and “what?” We are here on earth, hearts beating, for such a short time. We are a whisper and then we’re gone. What should we do with our talent, what can we make to make lives better, what should we do to shake things up, or should we put some things back together?
And, questions such as “who?” “Who are you, really?” as we reach out to each other, speaking in more than 140 characters, purposefully stepping outside of social stigmas and even the design world’s precious social stratas. Questions such as “WTF?!” Eye-opening experiences. Turning technology on its head. Making amazing things. Asking hard things, like why billions of dollars are poured into stuff that builds barriers, sometimes with us at the helm.
After a decade of negotiating for influence, we — designers and, more broadly, developers, artists, strategists and all of the thinkers that make things — are increasingly responsible for shaping the way we live. And now that we have influence, what we choose to do with it matters. What we make — and what we choose not to make — matters. Does it matter to the world? Does it truly matter to us? Can we even make a difference? We really should talk about that more.
Many of us in the so-called design community have spaces where we can meet and work and play together. Spaces where we can share ideas. But community means more than just patting each other on the back. We look at each other’s work. We gather in meetings and bars and, yes, at conferences too. But community, to me, is so much more than just getting together. It is an enabler of risk — equal parts safety net, therapist, and coach. We fail together, and along the way, we achieve together too.
So, with the support of Huge, Ian Coyle and I are bringing friends and clients, people we admire from afar, and brilliant people we’ve never met, to tackle our biggest collective questions. We want to facilitate a conversation, one that is as personal and raw as we can muster, right at that spot where art, design, technology, and culture meet.
We’re calling it Brooklyn 1.0.
We won’t be emulating Brooklyn Beta — that extraordinary gathering that was loved by so many. Instead, with their hearty approval, we’ll be another step along the path. Some insightful and impassioned people have addressed, in writing or a talk here or there, some of the same questions we want to talk about, and we also want to add to and carry on their message to new audiences in a variety of ways.
We’ll keep it small, so it stays real and true. We’ll pull back the barbed wire to make sure students and fresh voices are included.
The concept behind Brooklyn 1.0 is simple: Bring veteran makers together with the next generations of creators; bring leaders together with solitary workers and agencies, so that we can embark on a humble exploration of our shared responsibility. Varied disciplines learning from each other. Questioning each other. Experienced and inexperienced learning from each other.
A CEO who is an industry leader sits next to a student. We show respect to both, because we are people with shared passions. A few “scholarships” will be offered to students, but they won’t be loading tote bags or sweeping up after us; they will earn their scholarship by being themselves, and, we hope, by making better things for the world.
Our teaser site launched recently. The response was, and continues to be, wonderful, as more and more people respond to “Tell me more.” We added a little bit of fun to set the tone. Instead of saying, “Brooklyn 1.0. To hear more, sign up here,” we added hints to intrigue the people who we’d love to have attend. We want to fill this space with people who are curious, as they go through life and work. We want to surprise you and we want to change every piece of the typical conference. We don’t even want to say, yet, where in Brooklyn it will be. Mystery is good, we think. It prepares all of us to start rethinking things, casting away assumptions.
The full site, with many answers, will arrive. But we want interested people to be able to save the date and start the process.
Why did we ask for your phone number? No doubt it made some of you hesitate. I promise you we will never share or sell your number. We will not send you ads from our sponsors. Our phones are perhaps our most important piece of technology. Is yours within reach right now? For most of us, if not all, the answer is yes. Then they will be one of the little threads running through this conference, beginning with your introduction to the event.
And because a community is sustained by new ideas, Brooklyn 1.0 will be more than simply a space where we can see good friends again. It will also be a place to meet new people and explore new possibilities and formats. All in a spirit of serious play, the unexpected, and the inventiveness we share. Trust us, take a leap. We will put our hearts into making this, and I think it will be good.
I hope you’ll be a part of it.