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‘A destination for world class design’: 10th annual Design Week RI begins

Directors, collaborators discuss importance of design community, hopes for event

The 10th annual Design Week RI kicks off Tuesday afternoon, starting a five-day event organized by DESIGNxRI, a nonprofit organization that works to support Rhode Island’s design sector. 

Though the official kickoff party was canceled due to Monday’s flood warning, this year’s Design Week includes over 30 events held throughout the Ocean State — such as exhibitions, talks, tours, panel discussions, workshops and parties — and presenters hail from a variety of industries.

DESIGNxRI runs grant and educational programming and a lecture series in addition to the annual Design Week event, Director of External Relations Rue Sakayama and Director of Internal Relations Berit Lavender wrote in an email to The Herald. The organization was founded in 2013 by Lisa Carnevale, Libby Slader, Kelly Taylor and Emily Hall.

“We wanted to either bring design into what we were doing with the arts organizations … or make design (in Rhode Island) more widespread,” Taylor said, explaining that the group hoped to help bring design businesses together. 


During their initial research, the group was surprised by the number of arts and design businesses per capita in Rhode Island and decided to try their hand at creating an organization centered around promoting those businesses, she added. 

The week-long festival aims to bring awareness to the public about the design work being done in the state and “celebrate the individuals, firms and organizations” who do it, Sakayama and Lavender wrote. It is “an opportunity for Rhode Island’s design community to demonstrate that we’re home to world-class talent.” 

This year, in a special celebration of the 10th anniversary of DESIGNxRI and Design Week RI, the organization is hosting ‘A Decade of Design in Rhode Island,’ an exhibition of design works created over the last ten years, Sakayama and Lavender added. The exhibition — which features over 100 projects and will be held at Machines with Magnets in Pawtucket — opens on Wednesday, Sept. 20.

Every year’s design week involves significant planning and collaboration with “design firms, individuals and cultural and educational organizations across the state,” wrote Sakayama and Lavender.  

One long-term collaborator is (add)ventures, a brand agency that has been a sponsor since the first design week in 2014, (add)ventures Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer Mary Sadlier wrote in an email to The Herald. 

This year, (add)ventures is hosting a tour of their new virtual production studio — the first of its kind to open in Rhode Island — which was built earlier this year, Sadlier wrote. The studio, which is called (add)galaxies by the team, “combines immersive, photorealistic environments with real-world elements using in-camera visual effects, precision camera tracking and Epic Games Unreal Engine software,” according to the (add)ventures website.

Since this technology is “typically reserved for Hollywood blockbusters,” it gives marketers and animators new tools to advance their content.  “We’re looking forward to sharing what we know with the Rhode Island design community,” Sadlier wrote. 

Although Design Week RI brings together new participants each year, some collaborators have been involved since its beginning and continue to engage with DESIGNxRI’s programming. 

Taylor’s business, Kelly Taylor Interior Design, has also remained connected to DESIGNxRI’s work and events. This year, she is co-hosting a question-and-answer session, talk and gallery on the intersection of art and design with Candita Clayton, a gallerist, curator and art advisor. The two often collaborate on projects and believe that “interior design can’t be finished without art,” Taylor said. 

Sadlier noted that (add)ventures has remained “involved with DESIGNxRI because it’s been a true benefit for our team to take part in programming, as well as share our space and knowledge with the larger creative community,” Sadlier wrote. “Good design is integral to everything we do … (and) design skills permeate in research and planning, as well as video, digital, graphics and content creation,” she added. 


According to Sadlier, “the design community (in Rhode Island) is strong, and made stronger by organizations like DesignxRI.”

“Being part of Design Week is expressing what you do to the public,” Taylor said, “and potentially helping other designers or artists or anybody else do that same thing, learn or take something away.”

“We’re a big community of designers but we’re also pretty tight-knit,” Taylor said, adding that DESIGNxRI has “really brought designers together,” as it allows both veteran and new designers in the state to stay connected. 

“Rhode Island is a destination for world-class design and we can't wait to share the work that best exemplifies the high caliber of creativity produced within our state,” Sakayama and Lavender wrote.

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Rhea Rasquinha

Rhea Rasquinha is a Metro Section Editor covering Development and Infrastructure and also serves as Co-Chief of Illustrations. She previously covered the College Hill, Fox Point & the Jewelry District and Brown & Beyond beats. Rhea is a junior from New York studying Biomedical Engineering and loves dark chocolate and penguins.


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