CATALYST & FOUNDER, INSTITUTE OF POSSIBILITY, SIOUX FALLS SD
Hugh is a researcher, network theorist, story discoverer, civic rider, design advocate, and small town kid from Milbank SD. With clients and partners ranging from Fortune 10 to mom-and-pop bait & tackle shops, he uses a variety of emergent research techniques and innovative community building skills to reveal the rich stories, vibrant cultures, thriving networks, and infinite possibility that often lays hidden in the communities, organizations and people we love most. Hugh is creator and host of The Potluck Society, a public radio podcast that celebrates ordinary people building extraordinary communities. He founded OTA, an extremely effective for-purpose organization sparking transformation through creative connections and collisions in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota. Hugh can be most often found on some small town Main Street behind the wheel of Pearl, his 1968 International Harvester Metro Mite delivery truck, or leading a bubble parade with his daughter Emerson and son Finian. He believes wholeheartedly that designers are our only hope.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN AND WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW?
I was born in Milbank (pop 3,313) and in my heart I never left
DID YOU GO TO DESIGN SCHOOL?
I received a certificate of participation from the Institute of Possibility; I’m still trying to get the ink off my hands
LEFTY OR RIGHTY?
Righty. Or Ambidextrous. It depends on whether this is a literal or figurative question
MORNING PERSON OR NIGHT OWL?
FICTIONAL OR HISTORICAL CHARACTER YOU IDENTIFY WITH?
As a child, Mark Hanna, as an adult, Norman Bel Geddes. Google them
ARE YOU MUSICAL AND/OR DO YOU PLAY AN INSTRUMENT?
I enjoy playing “Hail To The Chief” and “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood Theme” on my ukulele and singing John Denver to my kids, who are both Swifties
Connected by James Fowler + Nicholas Christakis
The Potluck Society and Brewster’s Millions
FAVORITE TV BINGE WATCH?
The West Wing, Seasons 1-4
FAVORITE SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM?
FAVORITE FINE ARTIST?
Ben Shahn and Ray Lenor
The Creative School, The Boys Institute of DC, and Feeding South Dakota
FAVORITE FREE TIME ACTIVITY?
In A Minute, a drawing game invented with my creative director and eight year old daughter
JFK campaign collateral; drawings from my son; snapshots of Mount Rushmore under construction; the stories of ordinary people building extraordinary community; signatures of South Dakota Governors; books previously owned by cultural icons; and AIGA Medalist memorabilia
DOES PRINT HAVE A ROLE IN YOUR DESIGNS?
Human beings will always need something to hold onto or will be left cold, sad and alone. Sometimes paper goods are sufficient to keep us warm.
Carl Roose, Andrew Breitenberg, Aaron Draplin, Jessi Arrington, Kate Bingamin Burt, Nate Utesch, Ash Huang, Jason Murphy, Norman Bel Geddes, Raymond Loewy, Dian Holton, Jacinda Walker, Bernard Margulis, Molly O’Connor, Andrew Brynjulson, Ashton Hauff, Ben Brick, and Emerson Weber. Along with hundreds and hundreds of others working, alone and ambitious, in small shops and small towns, to change the world.
ADVICE TO A YOUNG DESIGNER JUST STARTING OUT?
Be kind. Don’t be fancy. Find a mentor. Make a mess. Do good.
IF YOU WERE NOT A DESIGNER, WHAT WOULD YOU BE?
A former Governor from South Dakota
A MANTRA OR SAYING YOU LIVE BY?
It’s a phrase from a speech President Kennedy gave in 1962 about the challenges of going to the moon and returning safely: “We Must Be Bold.” It strikes me as elegant, grand and perhaps the greatest understatement of modern times.
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