Why do we complain? Our take? There’s method, purpose, and meaning to complaints. We complain, and then what? We can sit back and complain some more, or we can lean forward into problem solving. Choose the latter approach and complaints can lead to innovations and even solutions. Design itself, a problem-solving process, often originates with complaint.
The more we think about complaints and their generative qualities, the more we want to. As a result, this spring we’re organizing a multi-day, multidisciplinary event around the theme of complaints—and the solutions they generate. Power of Design 2014: Complaints  takes place March 20–23 and is presented by The Wolfsonian–FIU and WLRN, in partnership with The Miami Herald Media Company. Power of Design is generously sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, an anonymous donor, Northern Trust, and Terra Group and its president and CEO, Wolfsonian board advisory board member David Martin.
“Power of Design is definitely not a gripe-fest—instead, it’s a solutions think tank,” explains Wolfsonian director Cathy Leff. “The museum is a rich starting point as we look at the many positive expressions and responses to complaints embedded in our collection. This is the inaugural year of Power of Design, which will be an annual, themed event. We chose a broad theme related to our collection—complaints and how they are expressed or solved—and we are linking it to contemporary issues, ideas, and culture. We are thrilled to partner with WLRN, the Miami Herald, and London-based Intelligence Squared. We are expecting a phenomenal event.”
When considering the idea of complaints in association with The Wolfsonian’s collection of art and design from 1885–1945, we are not looking merely at collection items that express complaint. Instead, the focus is on the nature of design itself. Would our collection even exist without initial complaint? Would we have the Arts and Crafts movement without dissatisfaction with industrialization? Political reform without protest? Advances in transportation, urban planning, architecture without discontent? Furniture design, industrial design—any design—without discomfort, whether physical, functional, or aesthetic?
Power of Design is bringing together change-makers, thought leaders, and visionaries from a wide range of fields for provocative talks, group discussions, performances, exhibitions, and more. We’re expecting plenty of lively, formal and informal discussions, with a good deal of interaction between speakers and the audience—and maybe even some problem solving. Power of Design will be a rare opportunity to learn from and interact with some of our most innovative and accomplished thinkers and doers. For a full schedule, visit the Power of Design website .
Highlights include Kurt Andersen as master of ceremonies; humorist Andy Borowitz on how being funny can help complaints get heard, including political complaints; and award-winning author Michael Chabon along with Jaron Lanier and Clive Thompson in a dialogue co-curated by Intelligence Squared, exploring the challenges and opportunities of the digital age. We have stellar speakers on a host of topics ranging from making our cities better to improving air travel to watchdog journalism. The lobby exhibition Complaints! An Inalienable Right! features original posters by acclaimed designers and is curated by Steven Heller; the installation BUMMER, drawn from The Wolfsonian’s collection and curated by designer Todd Oldham, will be on view in one of the fifth floor galleries. In association with the event, WLRN and the Miami Herald will produce content on the theme of complaints—and solutions.
Confirmed participants include Kurt Andersen, Alejandro Aravena, Andy Borowitz, Michael Chabon, Shawn Clybor, Carol Coletta, Dickie Davis, Alastair Gordon, Mark Hatfield, Steven Heller, Gabe Klein, Jaron Lanier, Jaime Lerner, Nancy Novogrod, Todd Oldham, Clive Thompson, and Beth Viner.
Companies, organizations, and departments providing additional content and hosting satellite events are FIU Honors College, FIU School of Architecture, FIU School of Music, Centro Cultural Español, Miami Beach Cinematheque, and OKFocus.
In addition to the sponsors mentioned above, generous support for Power of Design is provided by our partners, Intelligence Squared (London); Pérez Art Museum Miami; FIU School of Architecture; FIU School of Music; and FIU Honors College. Fontainebleau Miami Beach is the official hotel for Power of Design—a fitting choice, as the initial reaction to the 1954 hotel was—what else?—plenty of complaining. “When it opened, the Fontainebleau Hotel was probably the most highly criticized building in America, but now it is one of the mostly highly praised,” Sydney LeBlanc wrote in Whitney Guide to 20th Century American Architecture.
Tickets for Power of Design are $1,000 for a full weekend pass to all events, including private dinners with speakers; selected events are free and open to the public and many events will be live-streamed. For information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org  or 305.535.2656.
Logo, Power of Design 2014: Complaints