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The theme is "Sensation"

Pecha Kucha: Design Virus

Pecha kucha -- pronounced pet-shah coot-shah -- is an onomatopoeic Japanese phrase meaning "the sound of casual chatter."

But for a small but growing band of international designers, artists and creative types, pecha kucha is nothing less than the buzzword of 2006. For these people -- and since last Tuesday I'm one of them -- pecha kucha has come to mean a chance to get out from behind your computer, meet like-minded people, show them your work, and exchange ideas -- all in a six-minute slot.

The key to the success of the Pecha Kucha evenings springing up across the world over the last two years -- they now exist in around 30 cities, from Bogota to Buffalo -- is simplicity. Participants get a six-minute pitch in which they can show 20 slides, and talk for 20 seconds about each one.

Slides are submitted to the organizers a couple of weeks in advance, and sequenced into a tight, smooth keynote presentation. So when you're on the mike there's no chance to overrun -- although conversations continue at the bar afterwards.

My first Pecha Kucha Night here in Berlin last week was highly entertaining -- a blend of vaudeville-sketch revue, design-school degree show and slam-poetry tournament. A Japanese industrial designer showed snapshots of her recent trip to Japan; a guy with a pink Mohican made fun of "digital bohemians" (to riotous laughter from the digital bohemians in the audience); a Swede from a magazine called Nord confirmed-slash-overturned a few preconceptions about Scandinavians; and a graphic designer drew squirms, cringes and giggles from the crowd with technical drawings of bone-elongation processes he claimed were made for his first customer, his osteopath uncle. The six-minute slots felt just right, and the event came off feeling more like good entertainment than tedious self-promotion.

Pecha Kucha evenings are the brainchild of Tokyo-based architects Mark Dytham and Astrid Klein, who make adventurous buildings together as Klein Dytham. Their club SuperDeluxe, a beautifully designed basement close to the Roppongi Hills development and frequented mostly by ex-pats, has hosted the Tokyo events since they started in 2003.

"Pecha Kucha Night is alive and kicking in every city that is on board," Dytham told me in an e-mail from Tokyo. "We have a full-time staff in touch daily with all the organizers. We do it for love. There is no sponsorship -- we ask nothing from the event organizers other than that they respect the name and format -- and the spirit. People need to talk and share their work more and more. This is -- unlike MySpace, Friendster or Mixi -- a real social network."

That seems to be very much the point of Pecha Kucha. The problem: How do you get a bunch of visual visionaries -- many of them isolated, introverted, self-employed people who tend to hunch all day behind their computers -- out into meatspace, communicating, drinking, networking? The solution: Give them a format, a structure, a parlor game, a chance to talk about their current interests and listen to others doing the same.

Official Website: http://www.pechakucha-sf.com/

Added by kimocrossman on April 15, 2007