2018 Leaders Breakfast Series in Review

Long before the popularity of TED Talks, IIDA Leaders Breakfast, an international, early-morning event series across 8 cities in the U.S. and Canada, has hosted top speakers, entertained thousands of guests, and honored individuals making significant contributions to the world of design for the last 29 years.

With the support of international benefactors Herman Miller and Interior Design magazine, committees in chosen host cities, and additional companies within the design community that sponsor these events, Leaders Breakfasts are consistently raising the bar by encouraging collaboration and engaging new ideas.

Here is everything you missed, and then some, from this year’s successful series:

1. We went to Wakanda

IIDA  Leaders Breakfast 2018 held at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown Hotel in Los Angeles on Thursday, September 13, 2018.

© Chris Hatcher Photography, Courtesy of IIDA Southern California Chapter

We know Los Angeles sees its fair share of celebrities, but this September, members of the Southern California Chapter got the opportunity to have breakfast with one. Oscar-nominated costume designer Ruth E. Carter took to the stage to discuss her most recent work as the lead costumer on Ryan Coogler’s Black Panther and Reginald Hudlin’s Marshall. Carter’s presentation mapped out her process of extensive research and how she aims to tell authentic stories with her designs.

2. We saw the World’s Largest Connect the Dots

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© Denmark Phan Photography, Courtesy of IIDA TX/OK Chapter

After developing a hand tremor and being diagnosed with nerve damage as an art student, multimedia artist Phil Hansen decided to embrace his limitations and develop new approaches to art making. “Become limited to the limitless,” Hansen told the Dallas Leaders Breakfast audience. Recently, Hansen made it into the Guinness Book of World Records by creating the world’s largest Connect the Dots, of which a handful of audience members took a print home.

3. We heard this 17-minute acceptance speech

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© Linda Dove Photography, Courtesy of IIDA Illinois Chapter

While accepting the Leadership Award of Excellence in Chicago, Fred Schmidt, FIIDA, managing principal of Perkins+Will, not only acknowledged the people who have been a large part of his journey, but described their leadership lessons. Schmidt named the numerous principals, designers, and even members of the younger generation, who were instrumental in his success and urged the audience to “reject the notion that leadership is based on your DNA.”

4. We saw a famous hat

IIDA  Leaders Breakfast 2018 held at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown Hotel in Los Angeles on Thursday, September 13, 2018.

© Chris Hatcher Photography, Courtesy of IIDA Southern California Chapter

The Los Angeles audience was introduced to the word “craftivism” after Jayna Zweiman,  co-founder of the Pussyhat Project, took to the stage. Her now-famous design became a worldwide phenomenon at the 2017 Women’s Marches as one of the largest crowd-sourced art advocacy projects ever.  What began as a simple conversation in a California knit shop has turned into an iconic symbol of the modern-day women’s movement.

5. We watched a tech entrepreneur jump rope in heels

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© IIDA

Not only does Jessica O. Matthews, founder and CEO of Uncharted Power, know how to inspire a crowd of almost 600, she also knows how to put on a show. At the Chicago Leaders Breakfast, Matthews demonstrated her invention of a jump rope that uses kinetic energy to generate electricity. This small example comes nowhere close to the scale of Matthews’ larger projects, which use harnessed energy to power facilities and underprivileged communities. Her patents and designs are used globally, and she recently announced an undisclosed deal with Disney’s power grid system.

6. We made New Yorkers happier

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© Johnny Wolf Photography, Courtesy of IIDA New York Chapter

“770 New Yorkers can use a little happiness,” joked Carol Cisco, publisher of Interior Design magazine, as she introduced Nataly Kogan, “happiness expert” and founder of wellness app Happier to the largest New York audience to date. Happier promotes Kogan’s values of “mindful awareness” in order to improve happiness and reduce stress, and reminds us of the big and small things in life we can be grateful for.

7. We met the designer of the Microsoft Windows key

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© Sam Breach, Courtesy of IIDA Northern California Chapter

While limited in his physical mobility (a hospital mistake left him confined to a wheelchair), there is nothing that August de los Reyes has not been able to accomplish within the UEX tech world, having worked for huge names like Microsoft, X-Box, Pinterest, and now Google. The San Francisco audience was taken on a visual journey of de los Reyes’s presentation about designing for well-being and the importance of inclusive design. With the utmost generosity, de los Reyes donated his entire speaking honorarium to Project Color Corps, an organization he proudly supports.

8. We learned that building exteriors aren’t always brick or stone

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© Sly Works Photography, Courtesy of IIDA TX/OK Chapter

Socio-ecological architect and designer Mitchell Joachim visualized a new kind of building: a large-scale, double-skinned structure equipped with open plantings of milkweed and nectar flowers, serving as a breeding ground and sanctuary for the monarch butterfly, a threatened species. This project, shown to the Houston audience, is one of hundreds that Joachim’s design group Terreform ONE, a non-profit that promotes smart design and environmental planning, develops.

9. We met the CEO of Waffle House, y’all

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© Chuckyfoto, Courtesy of IIDA Atlanta Chapter

At the Atlanta Leaders Breakfast, Walt Ehmer, president and CEO of Waffle House, Inc. treated the audience with true Southern hospitality. Standing on stage in a Waffle House uniform, his everyday attire, the leader of the Southern staple discussed how maintaining company culture is key to keeping a business that is open 365 days a year running consistently and successfully for 63 years.

10. We caught a glimpse of Art Gensler in the audience

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© Sam Breach, Courtesy of IIDA Northern California Chapter

“Thank you, Art Gensler, for being so awesome so I can retire,” crowd favorite Bill Van Erp, a now-retired resource director and senior associate at Gensler, stated during his Leadership Award of Excellence speech. Van Erp’s humorous and meaningful speech had the sold-out San Francisco audience of 500 cheering and laughing, but he got serious when thanking all of the reps and designers for giving depth to his profession and allowing him to work with the best of the best.

Leaders Breakfasts will begin again in May 2019 and continue throughout the year in New York, Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Toronto. For more information, please contact Anastasia Gedman, director of outreach, at agedman@iida.org.

The Changing Face of Retail

Each day, millions of consumers and employees filter through countless retail stores, making design paramount to the shopping experience. But while interior design often takes center stage, the products that go into a retail space also play a key role in creating an experience that connects shoppers to the culture of a brand. With the rapid pace of change in the retail industry, how are product designers innovating to keep consumers coming back? Two past winners of the annual GlobalShop Product Design Competition shared their insights with IIDA.

Recognizing the Value of Product Design
It’s no secret that sales in traditional retail stores have been sluggish in recent years, and e-commerce growth is outpacing in-store growth by nearly five to one. But the new dynamic is creating opportunities for product designers.

“The visual impact and presentation of a space is an important part of what brings people into the store in the first place,” said David Naranjo, vice president of creative at Greneker, which was honored as the Best of Competition winner in the 2016 GlobalShop Product Design Competition for RUN Mannequins. “Brands now understand that they need to spend time, money, and talent on their retail locations.”

Ultimately, the bottom line for companies that invest in product design speaks volumes. “Smaller retailers have been hesitant to purchase mannequins due to the expense, but are now beginning to realize the importance of visual display,” Naranjo noted. “They see sales increase and can’t believe the difference remerchandising or redesigning can make.”

Playing a Role in Retail Theater
For retailers, one size does not fit all. Karen Andersen, marketing manager at Sedia Systems, maker of JumpSeat Collection, a fixed-seating solution for retailers as well as other industries, sees customization as the key. “Every store is looking for new and innovative solutions that grab people’s attention,” she said.

Naranjo agreed that retailers now understand that they need to make their spaces a destination. “People need to be wowed and have an experience that they can’t get elsewhere,” he explained. “Creating retail theater has become more important with the rise of online shopping.”

Naranjo knows that when a mannequin embodies a brand (think of a mannequin mid-stride or in the warrior one yoga pose at an athletic store) it creates a sense of excitement and realism.

Participating in the Design Process
The process of a store redesign has become more collaborative as retail companies realize that all aspects of a store—from branding to materials, technology to merchandising, and point of sale to furniture—must be integrated for a cohesive brand experience. “It’s about creating a harmonious environment,” Naranjo added. “We can help designers create the right opportunities for merchandising. Sharing our thoughts about what is needed, expressing that to them, and working together to figure it out is important.”

Having recently entered the retail market with the JumpSeat Collection, which was also recognized as a winner of the 2016 GlobalShop Product Design Competition, Andersen sees the design process as just that—a process. “We have to work together to create a customizable product,” she said. “We want the retail space that the designer has in their head to come to life, so we consult with them.”

Join IIDA at Globalshop 2017
This month, IIDA heads to GlobalShop 2017, the world’s largest annual show for retail design and shopper marketing. There, winners of the GlobalShop Product Design Competition, presented by IIDA in conjunction with Emerald Expositions, will be on display. IIDA will also host a panel of experts for the program “What Clients Want: Emerging Trends in Retail Design,” a thought-provoking discussion about the influence of retail design. The panel will highlight cutting-edge retail design case studies from the recently released “What Clients Want: Essential Conversations about Retail Design.” The latest volume in the renowned “What Clients Want” book series features 16 international retail design projects. For more information, visit iida.org.


This post was originally published in Interiors & Sources. Featured image: 2016 IIDA GlobalShop Product Design Competition category winner in flooring, Shaw Hospitality Group for their product, Noble Materials Custom.