Throughout 2015, Irish Design supported around 180 local projects across the island of Ireland that explored, nurtured, raised awareness of, and promoted the value of design in every form. This month, we look back over some of these projects and what they achieved in a series of blog posts contributed by project organisers and initiators.


Project 1: Dinner and Dialogues


The 'Dinner and Dialogues' project was a series of events that took the format of a traditional dinner party and explored how good food and a relaxed domestic setting can facilitate conversations between a group of people who mostly don't know each other. The ambition of the evenings was to encourage meaningful interactions that are not supported in normal public discourse.


The project was developed collaboratively by Joe Coveney and Suzanne O'Connell, two designers working in Dublin and London respectively. It grew naturally out of conversations they had whenever they would meet and represented a mutual desire to extend these conversations to others. 


The dinners were founded on the principle that everyone has an experience of design. The events provided a structure to share and collect these experiences, ranging from the professional to the personal. Each event took place in an old Georgian apartment on North Great Georges Street, right in the heart of the city. The setting provided an atmospheric and historical narrative to the evenings, recalling the traditional salons of Georgian Dublin.


On the date of the first dinner, Saturday the 16th of May 2015, Dublin was alive with debate relating to the Marriage Equality Referendum. This provided an interesting backdrop and an opportunity to share personal stories that had perhaps become overly politicized at that time. The 4th of September saw the second incarnation of the project, with the theme ‘What is good design?' prompting a lively discussion on the merits and characteristics of good design.


Each event catered for 18 guests and the two hosts, with 14 ticketed places and four places filled by invited guests who had a professional interest in the theme. The four invited guests acted as anchors to the conversation, providing structure and informing the debate.


Underlining the project was a deep curiosity about how food can facilitate conversations. Each event saw the creation of a new menu (in collaboration with chef Cathal McGuire) and new tableware that explored the sharing aspect of food.


The third dinner on the 2nd of October focused on 'The role of design in tackling complex social issues'. The evening attempted to unravel what we can realistically expect from design and designers in attempting to address very real issues such as climate change, migration, aging populations, chronic disease, wealth disparities, and pressures on public sector finances. 


The final dinner of 2015 took place on the 13th of November and was co-curated by Vanessa O'Connell, who works in renewable energy in London. Entitled 'Design and Responsibility', the discussion focused on whether or not designers take enough responsibility for their creations. As a starting point, the event took the quote by Jamar Hunt from the RSA Journal:

“Intentionally or not, design solutions can have ramifications beyond their original remit. Are designers taking enough responsibility for their creations?”


The Dinner & Dialogues project started with quite a modest aim -  to bring together a mix of diverse people to share opinions over good food in a relaxed, intimate setting. Feminism in the 60s taught us that 'the personal is political' and so it is hoped that these personal or private conversations may seep out into wider society and have an impact on policy makers and those involved in social change.


The final Dinner & Dialogues event takes places on the 4th of March.


Words: Joe Coveney

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