The making of these first issues of the Design Week Portland journal was a little like embarking on a journey into the terra incognita—that vast, unknown territory, yet to be mapped or documented—which is to say, a voyage into what philosopher Slavoj Žižek called the “unknown knowns.” Those places and things we don’t yet know that we know, but will soon find out that, in fact, we do.
As the newest installment of DWP, which has grown and evolved its design-centered geography within the city of Portland over the last four years, the journal has one foot rooted in the ideas that took shape during this year's festival, and one foot dangling into the dark abyss.
At its simplest, it is a year-long dialogue in monthly installments, of the ideas that began on that Main Stage. But it has also evolved into something else. That which we could have only slightly imagined, as we looked at the long trail winding ahead of us. An exploration of the most interesting (and also vexing) challenges and opportunities that not only designers today face, but as it turns out, that we all do.
From “Data” and “Place,” to “Purpose,” "Fit," and “Access,” these are design-minded topics, yes. But they are also much bolder in their scope, and larger in their reach. Opening up a brief, unexpected window or door, so that we might all look in, or step through.
What’s more, these conversations aren’t held within the parameters of a singular format or style, but from a multitude of both. Poets, journalists, business women and men, historians, chefs, parents, professors, activists and essayists—the people in our community who are already deeply connected to design, even though they might not have known it—contribute their range of voices and ideas to these issues.
Susan Sontag said, “The only answers are those that destroy the questions.” And these written investigations do just that. Through essays and poems and lists and meta-style conversations, they tease out the tiniest threads that we might have never given attention to, and amplify them by a thousand. They ask more questions instead of giving concrete answers. They make us feel uncomfortable, and only sometimes validate us. But somehow—given all that we still don’t know that we know—we’re still pretty sure that as readers, you'll find some sense of expansiveness from having engaged with this content. And perhaps in so doing, even enter into those unknown territories you might never have chosen to otherwise.