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The Committee on Design (COD) was founded to promote design excellence among members of the AIA, the broader design community, and the public at large, both nationally and internationally.

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Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the AIA Committee on Design leadership voted to cancel the 2021 Denver conference and postpone the international conference to 2022. Next year's conference dates will be posted once available.

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How a 40 Year Old Design Made My Day

  • 1.  How a 40 Year Old Design Made My Day

    Posted 08-20-2020 09:54 AM
    On the lighter side, a musing about the power of design:

    On a grey and thickly humid East Coast Corona day in my home office, my assignment was sorting through some 63 years of community association files.  I had finally resigned after 24 at the helm and needed to compile the many records into something my successor wouldn't find entirely repugnant.

    Looking back such a long time didn't make the confinement of the home office more satisfying but gave it perspective. Maybe being thus tuned to old stuff  made me discover that my wife had stowed a vaguely familiar large plastic box under my desk. It wasn't quite as old as the files I was sorting, but hailed back almost 40 years. The dark anthracite molded cleanly shaped plastic box looked modern and I decided to open it after a decades long hiatus.
    A company and its products: Icons of the 20th century

    In it, I knew, was a once prided possession, for which I had paid a fortune in the hard German Marks that were the currency in 1982. I had considered it worth to be shipped across the Atlantic to the New World, even though I knew that the cherished product would be neither needed in a household that had already advanced to the next technological level, nor would it be functional in a land with 110 voltage when it was built for 220V. The two prong plug would not fit and the language it was designed for would make its interface less practical in the New World.

    I am talking about my Olivetti Praxis 35 electric typewriter which, revolutionary then, had some electronic features such as being capable of storing a full line of text for delayed typing and revisions, should the writer mind change within a few words. The anthracite colored  Olivetti, Italian Design already then fabricated in China, is foremost notable for its elegance, beginning with the matching clam-shell carrying case. It is pure fashion model compared to the then prevailing beige, pink, or red IBM Selectric. Olivetti, an Italian company is so known for its design that it had its own museum exhibits, in 1952 at the MoMa and as recently as 2012 in Milan ("Programmare l'arte: Olivetti and the new kinetic avant garde"). The MAXXI Muesum in Rome held a series of lectures about Olivetti  in 2018 (Lezioni Olivettiane).
    The electronic typewriters were the logic transition between the electric machine and the new technology to come, the computer. When the first Apple computer was released, in 1976...

    [Klaus] Philipsen FAIA
    Archplan Inc. Philipsen Architects
    Baltimore MD
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  • 2.  RE: How a 40 Year Old Design Made My Day

    Posted 08-21-2020 06:41 PM
    Hi Klaus, I enjoyed reading your article. It was an interesting reminder of how much the nature of office work has changed over the years. I am of a somewhat younger generation-wrote my high school papers by hand and on my grandparents' IBM Selectric (yes, less glamorous than the Olivetti, but incredibly efficient) and most of my college papers on a Smith Corona word processor-so I haven't seen as broad an arc of technological innovation as you have. I agree you about composition, writing, layout, etc., though-I can't imagine going back to those "manual" techniques. I remember the tedium of assembling camera-ready artwork for offset printing-something that could be so much more quickly produced on Affinity Publisher (a wonderful and vastly more innovative and affordable alternative to Adobe InDesign). Thank you for your thoughtful reflections.

    Mark Careaga AIA
    Mark Careaga Architect
    Cambridge MA

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