2018 Design Matters Conference

2018 Design Matters Conference, Nov 14-17, Seattle
Presented by Association of Architecture Organizations


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 and films, youth outreach) to spur broader public interest in architecture, urbanism, and culture.



  • Affordable housing
  • Strategies for inclusive growth
The 2018 Conference invites you to Seattle to explore key issues of social equity in the built environment. What does today’s society require of its architects, and what is the role of design organizations in creating housing and public spaces that are more equitable, ethical, and socially just? 
Seattle itself is facing challenges similar to that of cities across the West Coast, where a booming economy coupled with decades of under-building have led to an historic shortage of affordable housing. We convene at a moment when many AAO members are addressing similar issues in their own programming, and we’ll look to Seattle’s challenges and successes as a jumping off point for our discussions.
Conference programming will take place at the Seattle Center for Architecture & Design, the Rem Koolhaas-designed Seattle Public Library, and other walkable and noteworthy destinations in downtown Seattle.
Seattle Center for Architecture & Design 



Wednesday, November 14

K-12 design educators from across the AAO Network are invited to participate in the Architecture + Design Education (A+DEN) Pre-Conference Workshop. Participants expand their professional network, while gaining a clear understanding of the common issues, audiences, and learning objectives that drive K-12 architecture education today. 
In the early evening, all are invited to the 2018 Design Matters Opening Reception at Seattle’s new Center for Architecture & Design, home to all three of our Local Host organizations (AIA Seattle, Seattle Architecture Foundation, and Design in Public). 

Thursday, November 15

On the first full day of our Conference, we’ll look at strategies for creating equity at the community level. What are the challenges around affordable housing in our communities? How are disenfranchised communities affected in particular by climate change? And what can design organizations be doing to make the city more livable for all? Throughout the day, we’ll hear from AAO members who are conducting their own local programs focused on these issues, and we’ll conclude with an exclusive visit to Seattle’s Bullitt Center, the greenest commercial building in the world.

Friday, November 16

During our second day together, we’ll examine equity and inclusion within our own field. The demographic make-up of our sector is changing in momentous ways: in particular, a number of high-impact leaders are at or approaching retirement age, and a new batch of younger voices are primed to take the reins. Through a mix of case studies and toolkit sessions, we’ll focus on skill building and the everyday management needs facing AAO member organizations, plus we’ll set-up some intergenerational sharing and networking opportunities. This day is all about practical tips and forging connections among staff and leaders from design organizations across the AAO Network.

Saturday, November 17

We conclude our time together with an optional day of networking and urban exploration during our Post-Conference Tour of Seattle. We will be joined by expert guides, as they reveal to us the unique mix of natural history and human passion that has significantly altered the city’s topography to accommodate changing visions of this metropolis. No matter how well you think you know the city, this tour will broaden your understanding of Seattle as a place that has been radically reshaped.


Visit the Schedule page for details.


Who Attends?

  • Staff of design organizations interested in broadening the impact of cultural programs—including CEOs, Executive Directors, mid- and entry-level staff, and volunteers
  • Arts and culture professionals, especially those involved in community engagement and social equity
  • Professional designers, planners, architects, and civic leaders interested in exploring issues of urbanism and social equity outside of the traditional academic discourse

Register now!


Local Hosts