Some of the most interesting revitalization work in Savannah is coming not from the traditional—and often unsuccessful—saviors of decayed neighborhoods. It’s coming from design students, who are earnestly trying to find ways to work with local residents without igniting suspicion of outsiders wielding big ideas.
During the '90s and aughts, many of Savannah's poorest neighborhoods spiraled into disrepair. Aging residents lacked the money and energy to maintain their properties; younger residents and business owners were fleeing in search of livelier communities. Fed up with rising crime and plummeting property values, residents staged protests. "They needed help," says Martin Fretty, who oversees Savannah's Department of Housing, "and they needed it soon." In response, the city launched Neighborhood Renaissance Savannah in 2000.
Planning an event for designers who specialize in interaction can be a daunting task. Jennifer Bove recounts how she approached designing a conference like she was designing a service and engaged the host city in creative ways.
Rather than focusing on technology and interface design techniques, this annual interaction design conference was decidedly low-tech, with diverse speakers discussing topics including storytelling, drawing by hand and meaning in the context of design.
Savannah, Georgia is probably the last place you'd expect to find a bubbling hub of design innovation. But one visit to the boutique that sells the work by students at the Savannah College of Art and Design and you'll see that this is not some student shop; this is a world-class design store.