Social Media Week – Michael Graves on People First

Our first stop during Social Media Week here in New York was a Keynote by renowned Architect and designer, Michael Graves.  Speaking on his work in redesigning the hospital room, it was very much more.  (Full Disclosure: I am a registered Architect and although I do not actively practice, my decades of experience affect my understanding and experience of technology – all the things that give TECHNOGORILLA the insight that makes it unique.)

Michael Graves at SMWNYC

Michael Graves at Social Media Week 2012

In 2003, I met Mr. Graves after a lecture at Syracuse University, my first “star-chitect” and was amazed, not only by the man and the sum of his work, but by his razor-sharp wit – keeping up with several conversations at once (and running most of them) while doing a sketch of one of his recent works.  The presentation today showed that same intellect has certainly not diminished.

The lecture had very little to do with social media itself, but rather the responsibilities that we all have in the design and experience of our world.  His perspective is particularly unique – once called “the most truly original voice American architecture has produced in some time”, his world changed irrevocably in 2003 when an infection in his spine left Graves paralyzed from the waist down.  His experience in hospitals and the world at large (eight different hospitals since his paralysis) has made him an outspoken activist and natural expert on the topic of accessibility.

The entire Keynote is available online through these  Livestream links:
Video Part 1 of 2    Video Part 2 of 2

The “seat of the pants” design that he encourages in his architectural firm would make many barriers disappear, for example: new employees are required to spend a week at the office working from a wheelchair, giving them a glimpse into the difficulties that Mr. Graves (and so many others) battle on a daily basis.  That same requirement for perfection is present in his product design – more than teapots for Target, his firm is improving on the experience of the hospitalized patient through the design of the trays, wheelchairs and even the rooms themselves.

Rather than come out with inferior products, we said “no”.

Mr. Graves answered several questions before leaving the stage, but I would be very interested in his insights into how social media can be (and should be) involved in the processes that he discussed.  Could it be used as a resource for the designers, adding the knowledge of the disabled to their design work?  How does he see social media improving the life of the patients themselves?

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