Enjoy reading about the wonderful community that has developed around this annual event.

November 07, 2012

Our New Design
Category: News

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There we all were, sitting in Pop Art’s Blam! conference room, looking out over the animated Pearl District in Northwest Portland. Three of our TEDxConcordiaUPortland (now known as TEDxMtHood) planning team members had just seen Pop Art’s latest design comps for our fabulous new website, and we were waiting to meet with David VanVeen and Noah Oken-Berg from Forix, the company that would be handling coding and development. Over the past few weeks we’d received an education, learning about wireframes, folds, fonts, favicons, slicing images, and what the pros call that Latin-looking filler (Lorem Ipsum).

Behind these web pages you’re now clicking through, there are hours of thought and design. We’re grateful to both Pop Art and Forix for the generous work they’ve done and we’re also thankful for acorn host’s willingness to donate their site hosting services. But lingering back there too is a story, one that speaks to the connections we make in this small world of a big city that so many of us call home.

When Lisa Anderson joined the planning team after attending TEDxConcordiaUPortland (now known as TEDxMtHood) 2012, she probably didn’t expect one of her first roles to be asking a friend for a favor. We were looking for a new website design, and thankfully she knew someone who might be able to help. He knew web design. Very, very well.

An e-mail to her friend, Sho Ito, got the ball rolling. He happily agreed take the project on, and he started thinking about all of the ways in which he could make the site look amazing. When he took a closer look, however, he realized that it would take a lot of work to realize his vision. By day, Sho is an Interactive Designer for Pop Art, an interactive marketing agency, and they had a tight schedule with lots of different projects. They were busy, Sho was busy, and to produce the site as he envisioned it would require a lot of time and resources.

But then he had an idea: What about a pro-bono project? Pop Art regularly took them on, so he talked to President and CEO Steve Rosenbaum about it and drew up a proposal. This was the deal: Pop Art would manage the project, designing the website while consulting with the planning team about all of the little details that really mattered to us. We were excited because we’d have a professionally designed website, and they were excited because it was a chance to give back to the community. Project Coordinator Jamie Jeffers said that one of the main ideas behind the pro bono work was to help small businesses reposition themselves. In the case of TEDxConcordiaUPortland (now known as TEDxMtHood), the work was refreshing because there was already an existing brand to build on. With that in place, the designers could focus their creativity on the site itself.

Now, you may know that Portland has a reputation for being a bit “different.” From coffee and foodcarts to bicycling and mustaches, the city has become well known (and loved) for its unique tastes and practices. Its take on web development is seemingly no different. Unlike in other cities, Portland doesn’t have the same cutthroat attitude that leads to competition between design companies. Specialties may overlap, but there’s also a spirit of collaboration and the comfortable sense that you can seek help when you need it.

Noah Oken-Berg from Forix was itching to collaborate with Pop Art.  As a longtime friend of Rosenbaum’s, the two had talked about doing a project together. They thought that it should be pro bono work, but nothing yet had come along. Sometimes that’s just the way of it: You want to reach out, but you don’t know who to reach out to.

When we came along, everything fell into place. Both companies would share the project; Pop Art would design and Forix would develop.

Sitting there in that conference room a few weeks ago, we went over how this all came about. We talked about those initial connections, but we also talked about the recent party at Pop Art’s office for Jefferson Smith, last year’s TEDxConcordiaUPortland (now known as TEDxMtHood) guest curator and 2011’s “most favorited” speaker. Noah mentioned that his brother, Jake Oken-Berg, along with Steve Rosenbaum, served on the board of directors for Smith’s Bus Project, and Sho talked about a recent collaboration with 2011 TEDxConcordiaUPortland (now known as TEDxMtHood) speaker Melissa Delzio.

“One of the reasons we do these projects,” David Van Veen of Forix said, “is to stay local; it helps build the community.”

“And it’s fun. That’s the bottom line,” Noah concluded.

At TEDxConcordiaUPortland (now known as TEDxMtHood), you expect to meet people, but you might not think about where these new connections might lead. With each year, the threads between all of our speakers, attendees, and the Portland community itself become more layered, complex and productive.

We hope you like the new site.

We loved the process of getting here.

Sean Wheaton

Sean Wheaton is a teacher and writer who lives in Portland, OR. He’s a lover of ideas both big and small, and he is thrilled to be a part of this year’s TEDxConcordiaUPortland planning team. He’s one of several storytellers who will be sharing write-ups, interviews, and perspectives on the many extraordinary people from our surrounding community.