To Make the New Year “New”: Old Virtues

At O+A’s 30th-anniversary celebration in November, we were reminded of something almost two years of working from home had obscured: that design is a community exercise. Our daylong reunion with old friends and colleagues, clients, former staff and people who have shared the Bay Area’s design adventure was like coming out of hibernation into the sunshine. Gathering on that bright autumn day at the Swissnex cultural center on Pier 17, masked and vaxxed and unshakably upbeat, a lot of us felt we were crossing into a new season of renewal. It still feels that way.

01 // Coming Attractions: Design Educators on the World in Waiting

The day began with dialogue. Verda led a panel discussion with design educators Amy Campos, Annie Chu, and Virginia San Fratello on what their students had to say about the problematic future dumped in their laps—and how they (and we) might design our way out of it.

02 // (NorCal)ifornia Dreamin’: The Golden Coast Age of Design

Primo then convened a group of local design leaders—John Randolph, Larissa Sand, and Mark Horton—to reflect on another time when world events and cultural upheaval fed a golden age of new design thinking (golden ages are always best observed in retrospect; at the time they just feel busy).

03 // Origin Stories: How Workplace Design Became a Thing

The third panel discussion with pioneers Andrew Belschner, Kathleen Kelley, Michael Vanderbyl, and Pamela Babey illuminated how workplace design became a thing in the first place.

04 // Inside the Designers Studio: Q&A with O+A

The planned program ended on an irreverent note with moderator Brian Graham channeling James Lipton and The Actor’s Studio during a playful Q&A with some of O+A’s senior staff.

And then we had a classic O+A party…

Erin Beach’s photos tell you all you need to know about the spirit of optimism that prevailed that day and far into the night. These are the once and future faces of design in California, and what they show is the path to the next iteration of our industry: community, energy, laughter, curiosity—and the confidence to sport a stylish hat.

O+A planned to bring its staff back to the office in January but had to hit pause when pandemic numbers started to climb. February is our new target, subject to change of course. And, yes, “subject to change” has taken on a gloomy meaning in recent months. If Omicron sounds like the giant, city-eating robot in a Godzilla sequel, maybe it’s because we’ve seen this movie and are weary of it. But “subject to change” can also be a hopeful message. Happy New Year does sometimes ring true, and 2022 feels like such a year. If you doubt it, look again at the people in these photos.

Bay Area design is raring to go.