I attended the Cusp Conference in Chicago this week. The tag line for the conference is “The design of everything”. It came at an important time for me, when I am looking for ways to keep all of my senses open to possibility in unexpected forms. The speakers lineup was wild — from Constance Adams, a space architect with NASA, to a sword swallower, to Warren Berger, co-author of Glimmer and the soon-to-be-released A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas. It was an intellectual mashup of ideas and provocations aimed at the disruption of comfortable ways of thinking. Constance Adams, for instance, talked about how the design of a closed-loop system like the International Space Station relied on not only the biological necessities but the mental ones as well. The health of the station depends on the health of those working there for months at a time. And so it is with our larger space station, the planet. I was blown away by Dr. Gary Slutkin, who’s work in epidemiology in Africa and around the world informed his determination that violence is actually a disease, not a social problem. It is contagious, it’s born in clusters and is transmissible in epidemic waves, exactly like the plague and cholera. He has proven this theory through his founding of, and work in Cure Violence, with unbelievable numbers showing that a reverse of the spread of violence is not only possible, but highly successful, using public health-based epidemic control approaches. These ideas and many others like them are challenging me to think beyond the expected and to help my “clients” in local farming to stretch from what they know as their limitations to see a different way to do things, a way that will make local farming a sustainable way to make a living and contribute to a community. As I’ve said so many times, big D Design is about reframing problems, about disrupting embedded ways of thinking and about finding real innovation. It is about the design of everything.