Behance coordinates biannual portfolio review events in cities across the globe, and in 2012, I was approached by their team to organize Boston’s fall 2012 event. Together with the Fresh Tilled Soil team and our co-hosts, Design Museum Boston, we assembled dozens of young artists and designers at the beautiful Mass Challenge office for a night of critique and community. We broke out into specialized groups for graphic design, photography, illustration, interactive design, industrial design, and more, each led by a seasoned creative professional. Behance’s Co-Founder and Chief of Design, Matias Corea, flew up from New York to give an inspiring opening presentation.
As the organizer, it was my role to welcome everyone and kick off the night. It was the eve of the 2012 presidential election, and after listening to months of exhausting partisanship, I opened with a call for civil engagement, in every sense of the word. Perhaps the greatest lesson we learn at art school is how to separate constructive criticism from personal attack. Artists and designers strive to make the world more beautiful and functional, but we’re also uniquely suited to make it more civil, more empathetic. The practice of critique is the creative class’s most undervalued export. It’s my (perhaps naive) hope that by taking these skills beyond the studio and into our everyday personal and professional conversations, we may help move our culture beyond bitter, fiery partisanship, and towards a more constructive and respectful discourse.