CMU IDSA's Swarm to Portland!

So just two weeks ago our IDSA/AIGA student chapters flew all the way from Pittsburgh to Portland to visit a bunch of great local design firms and agencies. Conclusion: we were pretty much blown away but how amazing all the design companies were.

(Some of us at Ziba Design)

A total of 37 of us, from freshman to grads, came and spent about a week exploring Portland. The culture is definitely true to the satiricalized depiction as seen on Portlandia; we saw a great deal of plaid shirts, fixies, microbreweries, and coffee houses :stuck_out_tongue: IMO, the best part of Portland was how tight-knit the design culture is in the city; almost everyone you meet is in the creative field and they’re all working on really diverse projects.
(Of course we would visit the lovely Hand Eye Supply)

We visited a whopping 20 total firms (a record for IDSA/AIGA trip) which included: Quango, Panic, Tanner Goods, FlatHed, Twenty-Four Seven, Hand-Eye Supply, Instrument, Grid/Plane, Merrell, Pinball Publishing, Second Story, Ziba, Color Cubic, Hand-Eye Supply’s Curiosity Club, Sticky Co., Adidas, Vignette BC, Sandstrom, and Nike. (phew)

The firms were a mix between industrial design, communication design, and apparel companies. All the firms had really big spaces, with Nike basically existing as a town in itself. We noticed that a lot of the firms were focused on hand-made design, with prototype shops or final manufacturing on-site. There was also a distinct gap between the number of employees per company. Some firms like Panic and Tanner Goods had a workforce of about 5-15 people, whereas firms like Ziba, Adidas, and Nike were upwards of hundreds of designers.
(Tanner Goods explaining the process behind their belts)

All-in-all the Portland design scene is just as great as people say it is. It’s an amazing place for young designers to get started, and where new studios seem to be growing and becoming successful at a very fast pace. There’s a great creative atmosphere, very nice and welcoming people, and it’s really easy to find the specific niche of design you’re interested in.

I also made this video “teaser” of our trip. I hope this will encourage other IDSA student chapters to visit and tour outside cities. Personally, these trips have really helped me determine what design is in the real world, and which cities/firms suit me. So hopefully, sharing our experiences with students outside our school will help them too :slight_smile:

Portland 2011 on Vimeo (still don’t know how to embed vimeo onto the boards)

More photos up on our IDSA/CMU blog!