Present Tense: The 2011 D-Crit Conference

Present Tense: The 2011 D-Crit Conference

About the Conference

Present Tense: The 2011 D-Crit Conference took place on May 4, 2011 at the Visual Arts Theatre in New York City. Moderated by documentary film producer Adam Harrison Levy, and featuring The New York Times Magazine contributor Rob Walker as keynote speaker, the conference presented the 11 graduating students, who each made a sharply honed 10-minute presentation on their thesis topic, and a panel of prominent critics on the future of design criticism.

This year’s fast-paced half-day event was held at the plush SVA Theatre in NYC from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., concluding with a panel discussion that included MoMA’s Paola Antonelli, BIG’s founder and architect Bjarke Ingels, Van Alen Institute’s executive director Olympia Kazi, The New Yorker’s John Seabrook and Fast Company’s Linda Tischler, who joined Levy and Walker onstage to debate the priorities, possibilities and impact of design criticism. The conference was rounded off with a reception attendees got to know better the next generation of design critics, editors, journalists, authors, curators, strategists, and educators.

The students’ topics ranged from the design of playgrounds to the use of sound as a communicative tool in design and architecture and from a consideration of decay and impermanence in design to an analysis of the Afro as visual archetype. Please see a full list below.

Attendees arrived early for a limited edition Baggu bag designed by Walker Design, a copy of the first D-Crit chapbook, At Water’s Edge, and delicious coffee and snacks provided by Cafe Grumpy. A sumptuous reception hosted by GD Cucine at their Chelsea flagship showroom followed.

Conference Partners

Event Information

When: 4 May 2011, 1:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Where: Visual Arts Theatre, 333 West 23rd Street (between Eighth and Ninth Avenues)
Price: Free and open to the public

2011 Conference Videos

Watch videos of all of the 2011 conference presentations here.


1:00 Registration; desserts and coffee provided by Cafe Grumpy

1:30 Opening remarks by Alice Twemlow

1:45 Keynote: Rob Walker, “Imaginary Objects and Fictional Critiques”

2:20 Opening remarks by Adam Harrison Levy

2:30 Amelie Znidaric, Listen to Your Chair: Design and the Art of Storytelling

2:45 Zachary Sachs, Permanence as a Criterion

3:00 Coffee break

3:15 Sarah F. Cox, The Detroiter: Resident Design Initiatives

3:30 Stephanie Jönsson, Designing Sound: Aural Agency in the Twenty-First Century

3:45 Kimberlie Birks, Recreate: New Grounds for New York’s Playgrounds

4:00 Coffee break

4:15 Saundra Marcel, Living Licensed: Consuming Characters in Girls’ Popular Culture

4:30 Michele Washington, Untangling the Naps: The Afro Talks Back

4:45 Aileen Kwun, Mirror Image Maker: Looking at Music Videos of the Internet Age

5:00 Coffee Break

5:15 Molly Heintz, Going Public: Creation and Dissemination of the Designer’s Identity

5:30  Vera Sacchetti, Design Crusades: A Critical Reflection on Social Design

5:45 Avinash Rajagopal, Tinkering with Design: The Convergence of Design and Hacking

6:30 Panel Discussion, “Speculatively Speaking: The Future of Design Criticism,” featuring Paola Antonelli, Bjarke Ingels, Olympia Kazi, John Seabrook, Linda Tischler and Rob Walker

7:30 Closing Remarks

8:00 Reception at GD Cucine, 227 West 17th Street, between 7th and 8th Avenues


Paola Antonelli, senior curator of Design and Architecture, MoMA; Bjarke Ingels, BIG’s founder and architect; Olympia Kazi, executive director, Van Alen Institute; John Seabrook, The New Yorker writer; Linda Tischler, senior editor, Fast Company; and Rob Walker, The New York Times Magazine contributor.

Conference Moderator

Adam Harrison Levy is a writer and freelance documentary film producer and director. He has worked on a wide range of historical and arts films, primarily for the BBC. He was the U.S. producer for Selling the Sixties, a cultural history of the world of advertising in early 1960s New York, as well as for the BBC films Close Up, about the artist Chuck Close, and David Ogilvy: Original Mad Man. He has produced and directed countless interviews with a wide range of actors, writers, musicians and film-makers for the BBC and Channel 4.


See who registered:

2010 Conference Videos

Last year’s conference, moderated by Kurt Andersen, and featuring keynote speakers John Thackara and Peter Hall, drew an engaged audience of 400 members of the design and media communities.

Watch presentations from the 2010 D-Crit Conference, “Crossing the Line,” here.



The Formation of the…

Clement Edson Armi

Sometimes We Do It Right

Ada Louise Huxtable
agee - evans 3


James Agee

A Cautious Prometheus?

Bruno Latour

A New Page

Nicholson Baker

The Art of Donald McGill

George Orwell
Henry Ford-Model T

My Life and Work

Henry Ford

Against Interpretation

Susan Sontag
John Ruskin

Railway Stations

John Ruskin

The Lamp of Beauty

John Ruskin

The Long Goodbye

Raymond Chandler

Industrial Design and…

Reyner Banham

Clip Art

Nicholson Baker