thought bubbles and title of 50 Thoughts from Charlottesville Design Week

50 Thoughts from Charlottesville Design Week

Last week was Charlottesville’s 3rd annual Charlottesville Design Week. Was it just me, or did it feel like this event got its big boy britches this year?

Maybe it was the new website, maybe it was the buttons, but probably it was the immense amount of planning and thoughtfulness by event organizers (a group of crazy friendly Tuesday Design Society volunteers led by Lucas Czarnecki) and generous local sponsorship. Whatever it was, I am so on board for this a) event b) direction it’s headed and c) excuse to grow to my fabric tote bag collection.


assorted buttons from Charlottesville Design Week
Fun buttons, ft. Charlottesville topography, Charlottesville Design Week branding, and speaker headshots.


On the heels of this inspiration, I’m on a mission to get the word out. I’m on a mission to get more people to this compelling, community-driven, strikingly affordable ($50 for an all-day forum, $20/workshop, and all other events free??!) week of events. Is it unreasonable to suggest 100% attendance by local studios in 2020? A Richmond caravan? Participation by every BFA program in the state? I’m an idealist, so I think not.

Now, in an effort to fill your hearts with all of the FOMO, I’ve compiled a list of 50 Thoughts I Had at Charlottesville Design Week 2019. Full disclosure: I wasn’t able to attend all of the equally fabulous events on the week’s program, but this is what I gleaned from those I could:


four people posing near CDW sponsor sign
Portfolio reviewers, Jim Efstathiou, myself, Meaghan Dee, and Lucas Czarnecki. Note the sponsorship levels.

Thoughts @ the Portfolio Review

1. It’s pretty neat that Tuesday Design Society meets every Tuesday, and focuses one meet-up per month on critique.

2. Also neat (and news to me) that there will be another CDW-hosted portfolio review this spring, in the speed dating format I attended as a student.

3. This portfolio review reminds me of The Apprentice. Maybe it’s the high-back, leather tufted conference chairs? Maybe it’s the gauntlet style seating arrangement? Maybe it’s the observer tickets? Never actually seen The Apprentice so can’t confirm.

4. I’ve gotta check out TypeCon this year.

5. I’ve also gotta check out all of the books from Lucas Czarnecki’ design library. Starting with Data Design by Per Mollerup.

6. These Virginia Tech design students are on top of their mock game.

7. Like reallyyyy on top of their mock game. Like where are these students getting their mocks??! ~asks students~ ? Just Graphic Burger. Like the rest of us.

8. Yikes. I have no idea what “affinity diagramming” means. ~Googles “affinity diagramming”~ Affinity diagramming is also known as affinity mapping, collaborative sorting, snowballing, or even card sorting. Ahhh. Card sorting, I know. Card sorting, I love.

9. Lucas Czarnecki has the perfect voice for commanding the attention of a room.

10. Lucas Czarnecki also does not like the word “polish”.

11. Alright, UVA has the floor! And this gal’s love for UX design has my heart a-flutter.

12. Ntm this PVCC student is a stellar illustrator. If she put that on a shirt, I would buy it.

13. Accessibility standards are killing a lot of reverse type dreams in this room RN.

14. Also, let me tell y’all about sliders. (Now that my CTO has told me.)

15. V. inspired by this UVA student’s environmental-meets-social-design project on Venezuelan refugee awareness.

16. This is my first time hearing about Esko software for package design. Color me intrigued.

17. Embarrassed to admit that I did not know “measure” was another term for “line length”.

18. “A man who would letterspace lower case would steal sheep.” @Frederic Goudy

19. I’m so happy when designers execute a brand for kids without relying on “kiddy” design elemetns. (Think hand-drawn type, primary colors, etc.) Likewise, a feminine brand without relying on pink!

20. And also ☝? I’m a complete sucker for thought process. Each time a student walks us through the challenge of a project—and how they overcame those challenges—I get goosebumps.

21. Investing in fonts is kind of like investing in car maintenance. A lot of people (meaning, me) don’t want to put their money into it. But everyone (meaning, I) really should.


presenting identity concepts on a projector
Team 2’s identity presentation.

Thoughts @ the Design Marathon Showcase

22. Didn’t know that Design Marathon is actually three years older than Charlottesville Design Week.

23. Apparently, parent brands are the theme of this year’s CDW. Having seen lots of fantastic parent brand spin-offs in the portfolio review, the Design Marathon Showcase is supporting Cultivate Cville, a.k.a. the parent brand of City Schoolyard Garden, Charlottesville Area Food Justice Network, and Urban Agriculture Collective of Charlottesville. All three (amazing, selfless, and forward-thinking) organizations work to connect Charlottesville community members with better nutrition and urban gardening.

24. A quick calculation from Lucas, today’s marathon = $30,000 in design services for free!

25. I’m loving how Team 1 has leveraged their illustration skillz. I think someone on this team had a tablet.

26. Logos pass some kind of test when they look as great in color as they do reversed.

27. This color palette is v. Eddie Bauer meets Comfort Colors. It seems like it would translate really well to merch.

28. Team 2 is stacked, and I recognize some VT undergrad representation, too!

29. Pretty sure I heard a gasp from the front row. Clients love them some high-res signage mocks.

30. Note to look into LiveSurface and level up my mock game.

31. Team 3 has amazing energy, and their spokeswoman is on point.

32. Bold choice to rename the parent brand and sub-brands.

33. And as far as free fonts go, I’m a big fan of Poppins.

34. Each of these brands had stellar concepts and I love that they incorporated elements beyond food. Not just leaves and shovels and symbols of gardening, but houses, fists, bowls, and patterns galore!

35. ~Drumroll while clients deliberate (Bets on Team 1 or Team 2.)~ OUT OF LEFT FIELD!!! Team 3 wins the Design Marathon, and I am still comically incapable of reading clients’ minds.


Lucas interviewing Brittney Butler and Meaghan Dee
Lucas Czarnecki interviewing speakers Brittney Butler and Meaghan Dee. Here for the power ✌?.

Thoughts @ The Forum

36. Never heard of attention economy (treating human attention as an economy) before. Fascinating stuff from Jeremy Cherry during the Creative Mornings co-hosted Rethinking Engagement session.

37. From Jeremy, “The designers I look up to most are the ones most comfortable living in this tension.” Meaning, the tension of a complicated design process that is never a linear Point A to Point B.

38. Paraphrasing Micah Kessel presenting You’re Not a Type of Person, “People are not good at predicting another’s feelings. When we categorize someone we’re projecting our own feelings on them.” Kind of like my stellar prediction of last night’s marathon winner. And also every person I’ve ever attacked re: their astrological sign, Myers Briggs type, or enneagram number ??‍♀️.

39. ~Googles “Matilda effect”~ The Matilda effect is a bias against acknowledging the achievements of those women scientists whose work is attributed to their male colleagues. I was just drafting a blogpost on Rosalind Franklin. How topical!

40. Can confirm there are t-shirts at this event. Beautiful t-shirts. AND ALL THE TOTEBAGS. ?


totebags and t-shirts display
Minimalist tote bags are my love language.


41. The Cube is the coolest thing I’ve never heard of thanks to Meaghan Dee‘s Design for Immersive, Mixed, and Virtual Environments presentation.

42. Audio spotlights?! R u kidding me? (So in a virtual reality setting, you can target the audio experience for your users. Meaning, “streams of water” at your feet, “birds” stories above your head, etc.)

43. And then there was Futurehaus. ? Weight-sensitive bath tiles that recognize the user the minute they walk into the room is something I never knew I wanted. Kind of like refrigerators that keep track of your ingredient inventory and suggest recipes.

44. I have 50 thoughts about Futurehaus alone.

45. New dream project = designing an interface or control panel for an Internet of Things device. And apparently, that’s something both Meaghan Dee and Brittney Butler, presenter of Environments that Educate, have in common.

46. Digging the concept of wayfinding with “mulitple touchpoints”. For example, assigning each hallway a name, color, and icon. So students who are still learning to read or may be colorblind can navigate the halls with their peers. Which also a great example of accessible UX.

47. Really neat that part of Brittney’s job involves researching the Gray Tree Frog for environmental signage in elementary schools.

48. And isn’t that the best thing about what we do? Getting to absorb all of this intel—from flora and fauna to people and industries to new technologies and schools of thought—all in the name of the job “designer”.

49. Or maybe, it’s events like this.

50. Or maybe it’s more tote bags.