Ilene Shaw, Founding Producer of Design Pavilion, Gives Design a Public Home in New York

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Rendering by CLB Architects.

As New York’s design month approaches, it can feel daunting to get a grasp of all there is to see and do throughout the five boroughs. One event not to be missed, however, is  Design Pavilion, which will take over Times Square, October 2020. A gathering space to talk design and maybe buy an objet or two, you don’t need to purchase a ticket to access a wide array of activations and programming that will span the nine-day period. We had the chance to catch up with Design Pavilion’s founder and producer, Ilene Shaw, who gave us a deeper look into the process behind organizing an event of this scale and what’s in store for this year’s edition.

Design Pavilion, New Identity; Maiarelli Studio.

Downtown: Tell us about your background and how it led you to develop the idea for Design Pavilion.

Ilene Shaw.

Ilene Shaw: I started off my career as a product designer, and soon moved into the marketing side of design, eventually starting my own agency, Shaw + Co. Productions, which helps to develop many important industry events like NY Now and ICFF. Trade shows make up a large part of how we all discover new ideas and experience the latest trends in our growing industry, but a free large-scale design show, totally open to the public, hadn’t yet been created, and the need was definitely there. Design is solving many issues of our time and it’s important for everyone to understand how it is shaping our future.  The way to do this, is to go public! When NYCxDESIGN started, the opportunity to create Design Pavilion finally came through. Now we have a strong partnership with Times Square Alliance, and annually, during NYC’s design month in May (this year October 2020), the public can head to Times Square for design-inspired conversations, engaging installations, pop-ups, design markets and more. 

Downtown: Tell us how Design Pavilion started and how it’s evolved over the past five years.

Design Pavilion, American Design Club Sound + Vision; Rune Stokmo.

IS: Design Pavilion started as a small-scale, grassroots installation in Astor Place and now, five years later, we are the largest public design hub, happening right in the crossroads of the world: Times Square! When we began five years ago, we had about 25,000 attendees. Now our turnout is closer to 4.5 million people with 400,000 visitors daily from New York and around the globe. 

Downtown: What can we expect from Design Pavilion this year? 

Design Pavilion, Inflate; Rune Stokmo.

IS: Going on our fifth year, we are in a much larger playing field than when we started but our goal remains the same: to increase awareness and understanding of the built environment through showcasing design ideas about our future. New to this year, Design Pavilion will have a total visual refresh: a new graphic identity designed by our new creative partner, Maiarelli Studio. We are also thrilled to say that Design Market, typically lasting only a few days, will run the entirety of the event and will have about 20 local and international vendors (like American Design Club,  Ameico and Head Hi), all selling unique and beautifully designed cash and carry products. We also have not released the list of activations for 2020 yet, but one exemplary highlight we can share is the FILTER installation by Wyoming-based CLB Architects. This chapel-like structurewhich will consist of a tree encased in 24-ft steel totemswill serve as a quiet, meditative space to evoke environmentally and design-driven contemplation within the hustle and bustle of Times Square.

Design Talks, Impact Summit; Rune Stokmo.

Downtown: Design Pavilion is the largest, free design interface for the public. Can you speak about the process of creating a free event of this scale and how you are continuing to make design accessible to everyone?

IS: We know how incredibly crucial it is to share the message of design with the greater community, and not just hold it as a secret among our industry of architecture and design professionals. This year, many of the subjects of the Design Talks and activations center around messages like sustainability, technology, city planning, and creativity, which all are unifying topics; you don’t need to be a design professional to feel their effects daily. Working with the Time Square Alliance to host this event in such an accessible and open space in the heart of one of the biggest cities has really allowed for an incredible growth and for the message behind Design Pavilion to reach so many people on a global basis.

Tiny House; Rune Stokmo.

Downtown: Can you go into more detail about the lineup of talks planned for this year? 

IS: As previously mentioned, many of the activations and talks we have planned center around important global issues that affect the community at large and use design and architecture as a vehicle to get these conversations started towards solutions. We have organized our Design Talks Series into three days of separate themes. These include: Design Talks Future (inventions, city planning and infrastructure, transportation), Design Talks Impact (sustainability, resilience, technology) and Design Talks Humanity (creativity, luxury, community, human affect). We have not released our finalized list of speakers yet, but some big names you can expect include Karim Rashid, Mitchel Joachim (Terreform ONE & Terrefuge), Dror Bernshetrit (Studio Dror), Abigail Honor (Lorem Ipsum), and Dan Chong (HBF).

Downtown: What can you tell us about what goes on behind the scenes producing the show? 

Design Pavilion, Avery Dennison Installation; Emily and Katy Photography.

IS: We have assembled a dream team of dedicated design lovers whose diverse backgrounds meld together perfectly to be just what we need in putting this massive event together. From our creative director, Harry Allen; to our graphic design team, Maiarelli Studio; the Times Square Alliance; our communications agency, Novità, and of course, the team at Shaw + Co, we combine expertise and planning at this point is non-stop! We meet or have calls weekly and converse daily, planning out the structure of the nine-day event, selecting stand-out projects to showcase and coordinating with speakers and vendors to curate a stimulating and memorable line up for the 2020 edition. Working in one of the most highly trafficked locations in the world in Manhattan’s midtown, has many challenges, but with our close team, we are making amazing things happen and we invite all to join us in the delight and magic.

Design Pavilion Overview; Courtesy of Virginia Tech.

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