BEING HERE Not-The-Schedule

March 11-14, 2010

Marfa, TX


Blake Almstead

Helen Armstrong

Cheryl Beckett

Sean Carnegie

Kate Iltis

Laurie Kemp

Jen Lee

Emily Luce

Erin Mayes

Charles Melcher

Chris Moore

Virgil Scott

David Shields

Chris Taylor

Margo Halverson (DI president/ “framer”)

Peter Hall (DI vice president/”framer”)

special guests (popping in)

Anita Cooney (DI Board)

Jennifer Elsner (DI Marfa co-ordinator),

Gabrielle Esperdy (DI Board)

Lana Le (DI Family)

Gavin, Sam & Dylan (DI class of 2030)

via skype:

Melle Hammer (DI co-founder/ “framer”)


Meet at the Gas Station, 325 East San Antonio Street, Marfa, TX 79843 c/o Meghan Gerety

THURSDAY MARCH 11 arrive, acclimatize


Margo Halverson (DI president, Maine College of Art) & Peter Hall (DI v.president, lecturer UT Austin) opening remarks


Chris Moore, (assistant professor, Conordia University, Montreal)

I wish to explore design as a means for understanding and mediating unfamiliar

geographic and cultural terrains. Can the tools of creative representation help us engage more directly with notions of place? What new information can be gleaned beyond the rational, staid approaches employed by sociologists, anthropologists and cartographers, informed by the scientific method? More generally, I wish to participate in a shared experience that leaves all contributors inspired and transformed.

A provocation and discussion point to explore how we mediate environments through non-objective means. Maps, statistics, climate surveys, latitude/longitude indicators, and imaging data all provide useful information about the characteristics of a region, but these artifacts lack a humanizing element, and do not readily reveal the qualities of inhabitation, adaptation to physical circumstances, or the resultant products of culture that emerge. Can design also be a research tool for sociologists and anthropologists to move away from traditional modes of analysis? What new data can be aggregated from this process?

My objective is to lead plein air creative mediation tours, whereby participants choose a method of representation (photography, drawing, painting, creative writing, etc.) as a means towards generating a multifaceted profile of the region. The accumulated documentation will form a collaborative portrait to assist all participants in understanding the location of our temporary retreat. Ideally, this activity would be scheduled for the first day of DesignInquiry.


Virgil Scott (Assistant Professor, Communication Design, Texas A&M University-Commerce Universities Center at Dallas)

Studio 2o4 / Letterpress

Nothingness: People constantly ask me, “why do you go to Marfa, what’s there?” To which I always reply, “Nothing, it is not what’s there, it’s what isn’t.” As a designer this perception of nothing represents that unbridled possibility akin to the blank page–that inspirational promising moment of focus–where creativity lives.

I propose a night field trip to view the Marfa mystery lights as a metaphor for the creative possibility that exists in Marfa. This leap-of-faith exercise will serve as an inspirational jumping off point to be translated into story telling experiences, interviews, ethnography, artifacts, photos, drawings, etc. Anything that presents itself in the possibility of what isn’t there. The outcome could be presented and discussed the next morning. What can design learn from this reductive minimalist inspirational approach, utilizing elements that are void and full at the same time


Emily Luce (Assistant professor, University of Lethbridge)

Unexplained Natural Phenomena for Designers: The plan is to collect historical visual data on the Marfa Mystery Lights upon arrival in Marfa. These materials will form a basis for discussion around the attempt to quantify (contain?)(design?) a fleeting, inexplicable experience. The project will close with a field trip (or two or three) out to see the lights.



Chris Taylor (Director of Land Arts of the American West at Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX) and and

Being in place and being nowhere—both “heres” of the American landscape: My presentation would hinge on the working methods of Land Arts of the American West at Texas Tech University, a semester-long interdisciplinary field program I direct within the College of Architecture to expand the definition of land art through direct experience with the complex social and ecological processes that shape contemporary landscapes. These forces include everything from geomorphology to human construction, and cigarette butts to hydroelectric dams. Each fall Land Arts brings students and professionals into the landscape to work while camping for nearly two months while traveling around 7,000 miles visiting sites such as: White Sands National Monument, Chaco Canyon, north rim of the Grand Canyon, Double Negative, Sun Tunnels, Spiral Jetty, Center for Land Use Interpretation Wendover, Muley Point, Plains of San Agustin, The Lightning Field, Very Large Array, Gila Wilderness, Chiricahua Mountains, Cabinetlandia, Marfa, and Adobe Alliance in Presidio, Texas.

The presentation would draw from material published in Land Arts of the American West (UT Press 2009) about the history and development of the program, as well as Incubo Atacama Lab (Incubo 2008) about the extension of the Land Arts program into Chile. More information about those books can be found at and


Sean Carnegie (Designer, Lewis Carnegie, Austin TX.)

West Texas Social Media: Social media, as you know, is media designed to be disseminated through social interaction, created using highly accessible and scalable verbal and non-verbal techniques. It supports the democratization of knowledge and information, transforming people from content consumers into content producers. So with a “Yee-Haw”, “Howdy” and a “How-Do” attendees will be asked to critically and without prejudice disassemble personal idiosyncrasies.


Cheryl Beckett (Associate Professor, University of Houston, creative director, Minor Design),

Being There is a thematic idea intrinsically linked to my teaching methodology. I have taken my students on numerous expeditions; a trip to Marfa and Big Bend in the early part of the decade altered their significance. An important aspect of these journeys is the belief that students need to Be There; that an analysis, a close read of place and space, would influence their design philosophy. At Chinati, an inspirational book entitled Walkscapes: Walking as an Aesthetic Practice by Francesco Careri eloquently articulated and expanded my awareness of how understanding a place, in this case through the pedestrian experience, alters what you make. Since then, I have taught a seminar entitled the Art of Walking, with the belief that the designer, in order to be an advocate of sustainability, needs to develop an experiential and analytical relationship with the environment.

For the presentation in Marfa I will introduce the Art of Walking in relation to the analysis of place and perform a pecha kucha on walking that encapsulates all these ideas. The discussion will explore the series of site-based projects and the general experiences gained from the rural, the urban, the foreign, and the familiar on promoting citizen-aware designers.


Blake Almstead (Visual Design, Compuware, Detroit MI & adjunct design professor)

A design charette: How new expectations of the user interface (UI) could translate into non-digital forms of design. I am currently designing UI experiences and interfaces for massive corporations. About ten years ago if you asked a CEO of a company would they use an interface like they probably wouldn’t trust the candy color interface and “fun” transitions. Now it’s amazing what has become accepted and expected when it comes to the world of interface design for non-public software. Apple has created strict UI design brand standards, using those same limitations how would one create a book or a poster? I would love the opportunity to try a design charette to work with some of these ideas.


Helen Armstrong (Assistant Professor of Graphic Design, Miami University)

I am currently working on a new book project called Designing for Participatory Culture. BEING HERE intrigues me as I am exploring ways that designers can move beyond finished polished designs to more open-ended generative work. Such designs could be fluid enough to take on a “sense of place” instigated by the user involved. I believe that by welcoming, even requiring, user participation, we open our work to surrounding locales/ideas rather then interpreting and delivering top down messages from our clients.

My presentation will include a discussion of contemporary professional projects as well as an examination of student work. Projects discussed utilize new forms of production/distribution (digital printing, rapid manufacturing, distribution through Amazon and Etsy) capable of responding to the content of individual users our select groups of users. I will address the following issues: What are the dangers of co-creation? What happens when the people making the actual content go unpaid? Is there a true value to social capital? If participatory culture loosens top down control in a positive way, how can we designers encourage it while still making a living? How can the “rise of the amateur” create possibilities for more democratic, localized expression rather than threatening our expertise?


Jen Lee (Graphic Designer, San Francisco, CA)

Installation: I am interested in finding out what kind of impact a foreign language (say, Korean) would have in Marfa, a city that is primarily white, hispanic or native american in its racial demographic. If a Prada store installation can be relatively well-received in an area where it clearly doesn’t belong, how would the introduction of the Korean written language be received, and how does something foreign become relevant in a city like Marfa?

>>>possible evening trip to Fort Davis McDonald Observatory “star show”


9am <<>>


Erin Mayes (Owner/Design Director, Em Dash LLC. Austin TX.)

A a case for inspiration in the canned-food isle: Being HERE is just about the only thing we can completely control in life – you always are where you are. I find it very difficult to attach to the high-minded world of design – deadlines, kids, clients, and so many dramas that need my immediate attention pull my focus away from looking at the world with designer eyes. Life tends to distract me from continuing to learn and feed my head with good ideas. There are plenty of ways to adapt to this, of course, but I choose to plunge into the world of the vernacular and mine from it the gems of beauty or truth or silliness that are always in front of you….in my case, that’s mostly at the grocery store.


David Shields (Associate Professor, University of Texas at Austin)

Site specific Typography: the here-ness of letters or West Texas Town as Specimen Book. The short talk will outline the initial stages of developing a san serif type for Marfa, Texas. A brief historical overview of projects dealing with designing type for places, with an emphasis on contemporary physical manifestations, will give the Marfa project a temporal context. The presentation will show samples used to direct design decisions, gathered from walking tours of town conducted over several trips to Marfa.


Laurie Kemp (landscape designer, Dig It Gardens, Austin TX.)

My work and life as they are now are defined by and evolve with each day, month, season, year, all dependant partially upon mother nature, and totally hitched upon what is relevant NOW and HERE.

My aim is to reflect a sense of place as is. And, transform not only individual home scapes outward to communities, but also within our sense of ‘norm’ as our inner city landscapes. The hope is to reflect our greater wilder connection to our collective here, regarding our immediate native spaces and resources, as well as our long term global sustenance and ability to be here in time for the long term now, with this more urgent sense of presence being tied to all things.

My job as I see it is to create design solutions that will sustain our now and create joy within it, from it, here on out. My base is a soulfully provoked one and not founded on academia. I’m self taught and self seeking and strive toward consciousness in all things work and play. Beyond this, I’m a fan and founder of small grass roots gatherings and causes within unconventional thought, gathering to create, sustain, and affect change, movement, community, soulful living, and above all JOY.

I believe that the ripples of such brain and people power projects can and are affecting thought and change, everywhere, everyplace, every cause, and each and every moment.


Kate Iltis (Art Director, EmDash, Austin TX)

How Happy Hour Saved the Creative Process: A challenge I find as a designer in a world of emails, phones, the internet and technology in general is finding creative time. Where do ideas have time to surface in an environment of deadlines, interruptions, expectations and of course, fear of failure? What I learned from joining EmDash a few years ago, is stepping away from all of the above is where the ideas come. Our ritual is “calling it” when things have fallen flat. Everybody steps away from the computer and heads for a margarita or a beer (and when its really bad…a whisky). We sit, and take a few sips, and start to talk. No rules, nothing is off limits and no egos….and this is where the magic happens. An adult beverage and time away from the digital world takes the edge off of getting to the finish line and allows us to have fun with the process. For that hour we are purely in the moment of idea making without the pressure. It hasn’t failed us yet and inevitably the great idea is born from an off shoot of the ridiculous one.

For my presentation I plan to explore this process further along with an ode to my muse, booze. A showcase of beautifully designed beer, wine and whisky bottles along with a collection of bar napkin sketches…(i hope).

>>>Evening meal & wrap up>>>


Make stuff!

>>>Possible afternoon trip to visit Simone Swan in Presidio,