The Ladies of Nashville Design Week
One year ago, a few LWD attendees reached out — they were interested in spotlighting Nashville's design scene, and in a way not done before. Turns out, these four friends from the worlds of Fashion and Architecture were quietly building what has now bloomed into Nashville Design Week, an eight day event celebrating local design in all its facets. LWD is proud to be an official community partner and part of the programming this November. Read on to learn more about these fearless women and what they hope NDW will bring to Nashville.
Let's get a little bit of background about who you guys are — so can you tell me about each of you?
JD: I'm Julia Dyer I’m the Director of Strategy and Operations for Nashville Design Week, but that is a volunteer gig for all of us. In my daily life I’m a merchandiser for VF Workwear, working directly with the FedEx brand.
LD: I’m Lindsay DeCarlo, Director of Marketing for Nashville Design Week and by day I work in Marketing and Communications at Hastings Architecture.
KO: I’m Kate O’Neil, The Director of Development for Nashville Design Week and by day I am an Architect and Interior Designer at Hastings Architecture.
FH: I’m Fuller Hanan and I am Director of Programming for Design Week and by day I work at Pfeffer Torode Architecture.
So how did you guys meet?
LD: It’s all because of Fuller!
FH: Over a year ago I started scheming and dreaming Design Week and looking at other cities and what they were up to. I couldn’t believe Nashville didn’t have a Design Week. I pitched the idea to Kate, my partner in crime for all things architecture related given we have served on a lot of committees together for the AIA and without hesitation she was immediately in.
KO: I think it was a 30 second phone call in the middle of the work day, She asked, “Do you want to start Nashville Design Week?” and I said, “Yes!, Okay, yes, what do you need? This is great...”
FH: Then cue Lindsay...
LD: Kate walked the 25 feet over to my desk and was like, “Fuller just called, want to start Nashville Design Week?” and I said, “Yes!” and that was that.
FH: At the time I was working at the Nashville Civic Design Center, and Julia was with the Nashville Fashion Alliance. Julia was having a meeting with a coworker of mine and I asked if I could tag along to that meeting with the intention of looping Julia into Nashville Design Week for the fashion angle. I think what we all believe is that design is not in a bubble, and it is all about cross collaboration and what we can learn from each other. Building this team of individuals with diverse skill sets and backgrounds has really allowed us to get as far as we have, as a side-hustle, which has been quite a feat.
I think where we have come to thus far is a true testament to the passion the four of us have for the city and the idea and our trust in one another as team-mates.
Why a week and not just a day?
KO: The whole notion of design week is nothing new. There are design weeks all over, it’s a global type thing. The great thing about all of them is they’re all grassroots. The one thing they all have in common is they’re a week long. The idea behind it is to have one week where the city shifts it’s attention to design — there’s dense programming focused on all aspects of design all throughout the city. I think if it was something like a day you wouldn’t get the wide breadth of programming that we’re after. We want to make sure we are including every single neighborhood in this week and we hope that it’s truly city wide. The idea of a week long series of events is a guarantee to get a full range of programs and places.
LD: Design Week is more of a festival than a conference. It’s for people who live and work in the city, who don’t have time to take an entire day off work, but might be able to fit in an early morning workshop or a lunch time talk or evening event.
Is there a concise mission statement for Nashville Design Week?
JD: It’s a week-long, city-wide series of interdisciplinary events and programs created to unite the design community, promote collaboration and idea sharing, engage the public, and elevate the impact of Nashville’s design economy.
What fields of design are you trying to bring in?
JD: I think the cool thing is that each city takes a different approach to what design disciplines are included because of what’s represented in their city and who is doing the best work and who needs a bit of help to keep going, so it’s really an open field in terms of all the different disciplines that exist in Nashville. In terms of architecture, fashion, UX design, the list goes on.
FH: Industries like healthcare in Nashville that are so dominating here, but have a global impact, and how we can begin to see how design thinking interfaces with those types of industries that you would never put in the box of design, but design impacts them and vice versa.
KO: Design is inclusive of anyone who wants to be a part of the conversation or has something to say. It’s wide open; there is no limit or cap to how we define it or who qualifies as a designer.
So what are the dates of design week?
FH: We are starting on Thursday, November 8th and will run through the following Thursday, November 15th.
Have you nailed down some of the programming already?
FH: The reason why we chose this week is there happens to already be a lot of relevant programs going on in the city. The point of this is not to add one more thing to people’s plates, but rather capitalize on and highlight what’s already happening in Nashville and bring that under the umbrella of Design Week with eye towards how we can elevate Nashville’s design economy.
LD: ...and expand the audience for all of those events.
FH: For instance, Creative Mornings is already going to be on that Friday, so that’s going to be a program. Ladies Wine and Design is that Wednesday, so that will be a program. There are key events already happening that we’re going to use as building blocks and then layer in other programs that are submitted.
LD: We took the last couple of months to meet and establish relationships with other non-profits and industry organizations. These Community Partners create the baseline programming for the week. The Call for Events engages individual designers, and studios to submit and host programming.
Find all of the Programs here.
If someone wants to attend, what’s the basics they should know?
FH: In September we are going to be launching our calendar with the details for all the events and that’s where people can see what the lineup is, pick what fits into their schedule and what they want to check out. It’s going to be a mix of free events and paid events, with the goal of keeping most if not all events free or low cost so that everything is accessible to as many people as possible.
JD: I think we’d encourage people that most events should have interdisciplinary aspects to it, so try to get out of your lane a little, if you’re an architect don’t just choose all the architecture events. Try to attend a graphic design event. That’s really the spirit of Design Week: What can you learn from other designers.
What’s been the biggest challenge of planning?
KO: It’s the unknown. Since it is our first year, we had no idea what to expect as far as who would submit an event. We tried to overcome that by having understandings with different organizations. It’s really wide open as far as attendance and programming, we’ve tried really hard to get this in front of the right people so that it is a success. We’re planning for scaling up and scaling down depending on how it’s received. We’re really hopeful that since Nashville is such a strong place for creative people to be, that people are itching for Nashville Design Week and we hope that people are as excited as we are about it and want to be involved.
LD: I think the biggest challenge is the business side of things. I don’t think any of us approached this with an understanding of, “Oh we’re starting a business here,” — it’s all new to us and we’re learning a lot.
FH: Balance has also been a challenge for all of us. That’s something designers face on a daily basis — when passion bleeds into work, drawing the line between personal life and professional life. It’s all good stuff, but can be overwhelming. That again has been a testament to each of us trusting one another and having this understanding that everyone is in different points in life and career, so some of us have had to shoulder heavier loads at one point, and then it shifts and vacations happen, so I think just having a really great team has been essential.
LD: ...and with that we have such a supportive community. Of everyone we’ve met, I don’t think we’ve taken a single meeting where someone wasn’t like, “Yeah this is something Nashville needs, how can I help?” The creative community has been so supportive, so ready to get involved and to help shoulder the workload.
FH: That itself is a challenge, we want everyone to be involved, but how do we get everyone involved?
KO: That’s one thing that’s carried us as well. It seems like there’s something new and exciting almost every week. It’s hard to say that for something that’s lasted for over a year now, but every little step and every little meeting brings new perspective. That makes everything so worth it… I hope that keeps coming.
If someone who isn’t involved in design at all is maybe a little nervous about attending, what would you say to them?
FH: You have nothing to lose in showing up. You might walk away having met someone new that could introduce you to someone else, or you heard a new idea that you hadn’t thought of before and you might approach a problem a different way.
KO: Some people may think that design doesn’t apply to them. However, design affects your everyday life whether you believe it not. It’s the things you interact with and touch and experience on a day to day basis.
Nashville has experienced so much growth and change. There are a lot of growing pains in this city. We want to talk about it. We want to have an open door where people can meet the people who are initiating some of this change and designing the things around us. Allowing the public to connect with designers across the board is so valuable to the education of the city as a whole.
LD: I think that’s such a good point, it’s not just about design — it’s a week about our city and the people who are living and working here, designing the things, spaces, processes we all interact with every single day. Even if you have no interest in design, most Nashvillians still care about this city and we hope they come for that reason.
JD: That’s the vision ultimately, to increase the quality of life in Nashville by design, and I don’t come from a design background. I got exposed to design thinking, and it helped me do a 180 in how I approach not only business problems, but how do I plan my day? I don’t think I could have done what we’re doing with Nashville Design Week had I not had that exposure to design thinking.
How do you see design in everyday life?
FH: To me, it’s looking at something that maybe a standard and maybe putting a different lens on it and questioning it and asking how can we make this better. It’s challenging the norm, and creative problem-solving.
LD: We keep coming back to this question of what is design…for us, it’s creative problem solving.
KO: We actually went through an exercise of trying to define design. At the end of it, we realized we hadn’t answered it at all.
JD: It’s evolving — especially with our city — that’s why design week should have longevity, the conversation should continue on.
How can people get involved in Design Week?
KO/FH: Volunteering, hosting open studios, and offering to be sponsors or their venues.
JD: Volunteer! We have the fortunate “problem” of having almost triple the number of programs submitted than we expected, so we’re looking for a small army to help us to make this week a success. We’ve been really intentional about how we slot people in, and have a dedicated Volunteer Manager because we want volunteering to be a seamless, fun experience where you get to engage with Nashville’s design community in a way you might not normally get to.
What’s everyone’s favorite type of wine?
KO: A really good Pinot Noir
FH: Cru Beaujolais
LD: I’m a Syrah person
JD: I’m into a very earthy Syrah.