Fortunately I got a chance to see Bill Strickland speak as the closing keynote for the HOW Conference. As a speaker and a person, he is truly inspirational. He grew up in poverty in the inner city of Pittsburgh and never left the area, instead choosing to make a difference in the lives of the people he knew and grew up with. Strickland established Manchester Bidwell, a jobs training center and community arts program for disadvantaged adults and children. Through that enterprise, he has taken his belief that “people are a function of their environment” and run with it. The center is beautifully designed and stocked with first class equipment for all of their programs, which have been incredibly successful. Strickland is now working with others to duplicate the centers nationwide.
I’ll certainly be trying to take away some of his teachings and apply them to my own life. In terms of design, I think his experiences and accomplishments speak a lot to how we as designers target our audiences for any given project. There’s so much “dumbing down” going on nowadays that I think it’s important to look at situations such as Strickland’s and remember that instead, challenging your audience can more often provide opportunities to make a difference.
Make sure to check out his recently-released book this summer — definitely on my must-read list
Sidenote: Before Strickland took the stage we also got a brief performance from Matt the Electrician, a singer/songwriter from Austin. He was really good, and reminded me of Matt Nathanson with a little bit more of a country twang.