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Article  |  UX

Tsilli Pines says "The best solutions come from people who are motivated by their passions"

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It’s Day 3 of Design Week Portland, and I’ve managed to successfully interrupt one of the organizers of the event, Tsilli Pines, at an extremely busy time. Tsilli was gracious enough to answer all 9 of my questions – I told her it’d only be 2 or 3 – about design, Portland, and zombies, via email.

Planet Argon: Why does Portland need DWP?

Tsilli Pines: I think it’s time. We have so many great design events and creative resources here, and this is just the high tide raising all ships. Much of the programming in town has its own audience, and we’re trying to cross-pollinate and raise awareness about just how much Portland has to offer.

Do we place too much emphasis on design and other aesthetic endeavors? When the apocalypse parches our rivers and exhumes our zombies, will design matter?

Ha, well if the zombies are exhumed, I think designers and strategists could be helpful. We’re going to need a plan.

I really like the DWP aesthetic- the visual quality of the website closely matches that of the printed materials. What did you want the DWP website to be/do?

All credit for our branding and website goes to Lizy Gershenzon and Travis Kochel of Scribble Tone. Eric and I gave them a very loose brief. We just wanted something that reflected the spirit of Portland: the craft focus, the friendly competition in sport, the muscular aesthetic. Travis developed a custom typeface that referenced both neon and athletics, and that formed the basis of the identity. They also really pushed for an interesting interactive experience to communicate the schedule. Our goal was to highlight the events above all else. Also, Julianna and Kate from Bologna Sandwich did all our print design. They designed the print promotion and really took charge of the DWP Play Book that Scout Books printed up for us. The result was so much more fun than anything we could have conceived on our own.

You make ketubahs (Jewish marriage contracts), which I found interesting because years ago I made one for my sister (which is, in retrospect, quite ugly). Yours are modern and lovely- how did you get into that pursuit?

I got engaged and couldn’t find anything I liked! Being a designer, I set out to solve my own problem, and then other people got excited about my design. It grew from there.

You coordinate the Portland chapter of CreativeMornings; event-organizing is obviously important to you- why?

When I started out organizing CreativeMornings, I was drawn to the content curation side of things. But as I worked on it, the most exciting thing turned out to be the community engagement. It’s meaningful to me to get people together, to get them inspired, to get them talking to each other.

I grew up in NY and moved here a number of years ago. At times (though not often), I feel bothered that Portland, in certain respects, has less to offer: less culture, less art, less variety. Does this ever get to you?

Portland is a smaller place than New York – there’s no doubt about that! There’s an upside and a downside to our size. A lot of the reason why there are so many creative folks here is because it’s easier to make the work you want to make in this place – there’s lower overhead and a supportive community. On the flip side, it’s true that we don’t have the breadth and depth of cultural resources that larger cities have. Personally, I try to get out into the world as much as possible to keep the well of inspiration well stocked. But then I always come back to Portland and am so glad to be home, working alongside some of the best and most interesting creative folks I know.

Most of the the PDW events are free. Was that aspect important to you from the beginning?

Yes! Accessibility is an important part of our philosophy.

It’s only been a couple days, but what do you think of DWP so far? What is working and what isn’t working?

I’m blown away by how well things are going. This entire process – both the planning and the rollout of events – has been more successful than we could have hoped. So many people have put their hearts into making things happen, and everything from the quality of the programming to the level of participation has been amazing so far. The most complex component has been the open house piece, just because there’s such a large number of spaces participating. We’ve learned a lot and are looking forward to improving the process for managing such a large beast. But the studios and spaces involved have been patient and generous, so even though we have a lot to learn about how to make that piece more seamless, it’s been a very positive experience so far. It seems attendees are loving the
behind-the-scenes look at where the magic happens in this town.

Clifton Burt and Nicole Lavelle started This, Here, a “pop-up blog” about DWP. In a recent post, Clifton challenged us to ask ourselves a few questions, including “What challenges does Portland’s graphic design community face? If you could snap your fingers and one thing would be fixed, what would it be?” I’d like to ask you: what questions does Portland’s community at large face that could be addressed by designers?

That’s a big question. My answer is: start anywhere. There are so many needs, and the best solutions come from people who are motivated by their passions.

Follow Tsilli on Twitter, and keep an eye on @DesignWeekPDX to keep informed of all the cool things you should be doing this week.

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