The idea for a conference ‘about the design of everything’ was born, like so many ideas, from a combination of experiences and influences.
As designers—specifically as graphic designers in the 1990’s and very early 2000’s—we had attended and spoken at numerous graphic design-centric events. But with the emergence of new technologies and disciplines, we could see the design world opening up. The walls that separated graphic design from video design, experience design from interior design, and so on, were breaking down. We could feel that ‘design’, in a much broader sense, was starting to gain recognition as a driver of societal, technological and entrepreneurial change, and we began to look beyond graphic design for new challenges and opportunities.
We continuously sought out inspiration, innovation and education, taking our staff members to conferences such as Ted and ideaCity, wonderful events that covered a massive range of subject matter. But when we searched unsuccessfully for an event that was more closely focused on design as a big idea rather than as discrete verticals like interior design or web design, the opportunity to create such an event presented itself.
Cusp Conference began as a scribbled question in a black Moleskin notebook. Converting that scribble into an actual two-day gathering of 275 attendees and 25 presenters not once, but for ten consecutive years, has been a huge exercise in team-based design. And because all of the risk in the project was ours, Cusp has been a continuous reminder to us all of the trust and faith our clients place in us. Key aspects of the project included:
- Concept development
Brand Design / Communication
- Web design
- Database design
- Marketing communication
- Event graphics/collateral
- Video production
- Speaker curation/management
- Event planning
- Event management/logistics
- Event hosting
- Social media
- Email list building/campaigns
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Cusp Conference was designed from scratch. Ideas were floated. Research was conducted. Concepts were tested. Risks were taken. Mistakes were made. And corrected. And then new mistakes were made. You get the idea.
Since that first scribbled question began to come to life more than 13+ years ago, Cusp has served as a learning lab. It has tested our abilities, provided us with countless teambuilding opportunities, offered us endless inspiration, connected us with thousands of like-minded people from all over the world, and resulted in us designing conferences and events for clients.
We believe we’ve stayed true to our original idea: to present design as a broad-reaching, essential part of the human experience, and to provide an inspiring, entertaining, surprising and attainable forum through which to experience it.
We’ve been honored to host more than 250 fantastically enthusiastic presenters from incredibly diverse industries, backgrounds, and areas of expertise. And every single one of them—a space architect, a crime-fighting doctor, a submarine designer, a cartoonist, an atmospheric physicist, a theatrical director, a blind screenwriter, a neuroscientist, and on and on—has added to the growing recognition that design and design thinking are key to solving problems large and small. And our attendees—from high school kids to CEOs, some of whom have been in that theater with us for all ten years—have reminded us over and over that maybe this crazy experiment wasn’t so crazy after all.
We’re proud of what we’ve built, but prouder still that we just might have helped inspire someone to take their own scribbled idea and turn it into reality.
Museum of Contemporary Art Theater