2017 Design Matters Conference


Presented by Association of Architecture Organizations
Sept. 14-16 2017 · Chicago, IL

The Design Matters Conference is the world’s only dedicated annual meeting that seeks to bring top designers, journalists, and civic leaders into exploratory dialogue with those not-for-profit professionals and volunteers charged with creating cultural programs (exhibitions, tours, lectures and symposia, festivals, films, and youth outreach) to spur broader public interest in architecture, urbanism, and culture.
This year’s Conference once again invites you to explore Chicago at a time when architecture will be the undisputed talk of the town. You’ll enjoy the opening weekend of the 2017 Chicago Architecture Biennial, North America’s largest international survey of contemporary architecture, and sample incredible new work from Chicago cultural institutions and the city’s famed architecture studios.
Throughout our time together, the Conference theme will help us take a closer look at the many inspired ideas and methodologies design organizations employ to catalyze civic participation. We investigate three distinct facets of this work: (1) ways to communicate and disseminate quality information about the built environment to broad publics; (2) initiatives to summon the design community and amplify its voice; and (3) efforts to close the civic education gap. Just as we look at the best of our current thinking, we will also set aside time to consider future goals and necessary next steps, such as improving diversity within the leadership ranks of our field. Again, we ask: how can design organizations make a significant impact?
As a special enhancement, your Design Matters Conference registration also gives you the added benefit of being a credential visitor to both the Chicago Architecture Biennial and the EXPOChicago contemporary art show, both of which have a number of special access events, dialogues, and seminars you’ll want to sample. We’re excited to help you make the most of your time with us in Chicago this September. It’s going to be a great event!


Featured Speakers


Keynote: Amy Liu

Karin Brandt

Eva Franch 

Johnston Marklee

Gabe Metcalf

Michael Ford


Registration Rates

Ticket options are offered by the day. To purchase a full conference pass, select both the Thursday ticket and Friday ticket when registering.

Thursday 9/14 Conference Ticket: AAO Member, $105; Non-member, $125
Includes Biennial walk-through, Thursday Conference sessions, and Opening Reception

Small Group Dine-Arounds, Thursday 9/14: $45

Friday 9/15 Conference Ticket: AAO Member, $125; Non-member, $145
Includes Friday Conference sessions, Lunch, Happy Hour and Biennial Party


Conference Sponsors


Local Hosts


AAO Funding Partners