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.

Atlanta, New York Leaders Breakfasts Inspire Big Audiences with Big Ideas

The 2016 IIDA Leaders Breakfast series kicked off with a record number of attendees filling over 1,000 seats at the first two breakfasts in Atlanta and New York City. The inspirational events featured engaging keynote speakers and local honorees who offered the audience powerful messages in both cities. Here are a few of our favorites:

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Jake Barton, Principal and Founder of Local Projects, a media and physical design firm that creates groundbreaking experiences, gave a moving speech to an audience of 700 Leaders Breakfast attendees. Barton shared with the New York audience his most recent and recognizable project, the 9/11 Museum in New York City. The audience had the opportunity to hear about his creative journey from the museum’s initial concepts, to the strenuous approval periods, to the final product. Barton’s visuals showed installations as well as how all of his designs aim to make the observer an active participant in the exhibit. Other projects Barton featured during his presentation included the Cooper-Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum and the Cleveland Museum of Art.

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For over 30 years, Deirdre O’Sullivan, IIDA, LEED AP, President of Idea | Span, has been recognized by her peers as a leader in the interior design industry in Georgia. She accepted her award graciously, thanking the audience, which included her clients and teammates, for all they do as designers and industry members. “IIDA has such a huge influence in our community,” she said as she shared with the audience the importance of IIDA within the Atlanta design community. O’Sullivan has partnered with some of the most recognized global organizations such as General Motors, Coca-Cola Enterprises, Home Depot, Porsche Cars of North America, and Citicorp.

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After watching a touching video tribute composed by his colleagues, Julio Braga, FIIDA, LEED AP, accepted the IIDA Leadership Award of Excellence with a heartfelt thank you. Video participants, including David Bourke, Executive Director/Managing Principal of IA Interior Architects, Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, LEED AP, Executive Vice President and CEO of IIDA, and Ginger Gilden, IIDA, President-elect of the IIDA New York Chapter, shared their humorous experiences with Braga, from traveling to working with him. “The good news is, he’s only really getting started in his career,” said Bourke.

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Leaders Breakfast offers designers an opportunity to connect locally while gaining knowledge on global ideas. Each of the breakfasts begin with an hour of networking before the event begins, allowing clients, designers, reps, and other community members to interact with one another. At Leaders Breakfast Atlanta, Durst during her introduction to the keynote Celeste Headlee, encouraged the audience to start conversations about who they are and what they do as commercial interior designers to better represent the industry and educate the general public about the profession.

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NPR personality and Atlanta resident Celeste Headlee, host and executive producer of On Second Thought on Georgia Public Broadcast, spoke to the Atlanta crowd about how communication has suffered due to technology. “People listen to reply, but not to understand,” she said. Headlee provided the audience with 10 useful rules for having better conversations from her insightful TED Talk.


The IIDA Leaders Breakfast is an annual international event series that celebrates design’s importance in the global market place by honoring the people who are both the legacy and future of design. Each breakfast features a renowned keynote speaker to provoke and encourage new ideas, and recognizes a local honoree who has made significant contributions to the design industry. IIDA Leaders Breakfast series’ international benefactors are Herman Miller and Interior Design magazine

Upcoming Leaders Breakfasts will be held in Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, and Toronto. For more information about purchasing tickets in a city near you, visit the Leaders Breakfast page on the IIDA website.

10 Memorable Moments from Leaders Breakfast Fall 2015

“Know more, do more, and be more before 9 a.m.,” said Cheryl Durst, Hon. FIIDA, LEED AP, to the audience attending Leaders Breakfast San Francisco, one of this year’s six fall breakfasts. “The essence of Leaders Breakfast is about leadership and honoring leadership within and outside of our community.”

The IIDA Leaders Breakfast is an international event series that celebrates design’s importance in the global marketplace by honoring local contributors to the design community and hosting a renowned keynote speaker. The eight-city series has come to a close for 2015. More than 3,300 people attended this year, the largest number of attendees in the history of the 26-year-old event.

Here are a few of our favorite memorable moments from fall 2015:

1.  A Moving Speech by Tom DiRenzo, Ind. IIDA

(Photo by Sam Breach) Tom DiRenzo, Ind. IIDA, accepting the Distinguished Achievement Award at the Northern California Chapter's 2015 IIDA Leaders Breakfast.

(Photo by Sam Breach) Tom DiRenzo, Ind. IIDA, accepting the Distinguished Achievement Award at the Northern California Chapter’s 2015 IIDA Leaders Breakfast.

San Francisco – The 15th annual Leaders Breakfast San Francisco began with a packed house of 500 attendees on their feet when the Northern California Chapter recognized Tom DiRezno, Ind. IIDA, with its signature Distinguished Achievement Award. DiRenzo spoke to the audience passionately and humbly, encouraging them to get involved with IIDA and work together to continue to grow the community. “The voice of IIDA is only as strong as the members of IIDA,” said DiRenzo, who also urged the audience to not underestimate the scale of work they provide. “Design is not a commodity sold to the lowest bidder. Do not undervalue [the Interior Design profession].”

2. The CityHome

(Photo by Linda Dove) Kent Larson on stage in front of attendees at Leaders Breakfast Chicago at the Hilton Chicago.

(Photo by Linda Dove) Kent Larson on stage in front of attendees at Leaders Breakfast Chicago at the Hilton Chicago.

Chicago – Keynote speaker Kent Larson, Director of Changing Places at the MIT Media Laboratory and MIT Living Labs, surprised the Chicago audience with his scientific discoveries of the evolution and future of city landscapes, including how we can reinvent interiors of apartments to save space and money. Larson showed the CityHome, an affordable and “ultra-efficient” 200 sq. ft. apartment aimed toward a younger demographic. The “responsive urban home” features internal motors to eject each piece of the room, giving the user the ability to extend or compress a room. Larson’s other items included sharable cars that fold into themselves and smart offices that ensure workplace well-being.

3. Interior Design Media Donating Its Table to Students

(Photo by Shau Lin Hon, Slyworks Photography)

(Photo by Shau Lin Hon, Slyworks Photography)

Houston – Interior Design Media, a Leaders Breakfast International Benefactor, provided the Texas Oklahoma Chapter with a chance to give a group of 10 lucky students the opportunity to sit front and center at Leaders Breakfast Houston. As one of the only cities within the Leaders Breakfast series to do so, the chapter delivers all profits from the breakfast to the Texas Oklahoma Education Fund. So far, the chapter has raised over $125,000 from Leaders Breakfast to support three tuition reimbursement scholarships and one study abroad scholarship. For more information about the fund, contact chapter administrator Megan Romboletti.

4. Inaugural Leaders Breakfast Calgary

(Photo by Kelly Mulner) Keynote speaker Chris Fields, Senior Brand Strategist of Twist Marketing.

Calgary, AB – The inaugural Leaders Breakfast Calgary sold over 200 seats in its first series event in Alberta, Canada. Attendees enjoyed an inspirational morning honoring Adele Bonetti, FIDA, IDC, AAA, for her more than 40 years of volunteer service and commitment to the Interior Design profession, and listening to keynote speaker Chris Fields, Senior Brand Strategist at Twist Marketing. Fields touched on rising above the average and finding why we should be different and stand out. The audience’s minds never stopped moving as Fields shared ideas about how to live your life thinking differently.

5. A Long Line for an Autograph

(Photo by Sam Breach) Award-winning writer Cheryl Strayed signing autographs at Leaders Breakfast San Francisco.

(Photo by Sam Breach) Award-winning writer Cheryl Strayed signing autographs at Leaders Breakfast San Francisco.

San Francisco – A long line formed after the San Francisco Leaders Breakfast for attendees to get their hands on an autograph from Cheryl Strayed, author of the novel Wild and featured keynote speaker. Strayed spoke about her enduring journey on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) as told in the book and discussed the difficulty she had writing the novel. “We all live lives worthy of literature,” she said. The timing of the breakfast was the day after her 20th anniversary of hiking the PCT.

6. The Kick-off of North America’s First Architectural Biennial

(Photo by Lynn Dove) Sara Herda, Director of the Graham Foundation and Co-Artistic Director of the Biennial, accepting the Herman Miller Eames stool.

(Photo by Lynn Dove) Sara Herda, Director of the Graham Foundation and Co-artistic Director of the Biennial, accepting the Herman Miller Eames stool.

Chicago – The day before the city of Chicago captured the global design community’s focus with the first architectural biennial in North America, the largest international survey of contemporary architecture, Leaders Breakfast Chicago honored one of the biggest names within the celebration, The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts. The foundation makes project-based grants to individuals and organizations and produces public programs to foster the development and exchange of ideas about architecture. In a twist of fate, the keynote speaker Kent Larson received two grants from The Graham Foundation.

7. The Story of the Fogo Island Inn

(Photo from fogoislandinn.ca)

(Photo from fogoislandinn.ca)

Toronto, ON – Audiences stood to their feet after the speech given by keynote Zita Cobb, President and CEO of Shorefast Foundation, and founder and innkeeper of the Fogo Island Inn. Cobb’s story started with her childhood on Fogo Island, Newfoundland, through developing the Shorefast Foundation with her brother (who also attended). Her incredible speech was accompanied by breathtaking photos of the island. She spoke about investing in culturally rich, community-owned economic assets, including the world-class Fogo Island Inn, Fogo Island Arts, and Fogo Island Shop, which sells furniture and textiles hand-crafted on Fogo Island. Cobb told audiences, “Everyone who creates something has civic duty to contribute beauty.”

8. Advocating for Design

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(Photo by Chris Hatcher) Advocacy table at Leaders Breakfast Los Angeles.

Los Angeles – “This is the year of advocacy,” announced Robyn Taylor, IIDA, President of the IIDA Southern California Chapter. This statement rang true throughout the series as other chapters honored those who advocate for the profession. Southern California hosted an advocacy table during the coffee reception to further engage attendees with legislative and advocacy issues, such as stamping documents to obtain building permits from local jurisdictions and working with local coalitions. The Northern California Chapter honored two advocates, Arlene Blum and Judy Levin, for their ongoing commitment to passing laws to eliminate flame retardant chemicals in furniture. Watch Blum’s video that played during the breakfast to learn more about the cancer-causing chemicals and her fight to end their use.

9. A BuzzFeed Breakfast

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Houston + Los Angeles – Keynote speaker Jonathan Perelman, former Buzzfeed VP of Motion Pictures, gave audiences a chance to see how online content is forming conversations in our lives and that it is no longer just for consumption. Perelman taught attendees in Houston and Los Angeles why we share content online and how our daily lives are affected by social media. “Content is king, but distribution is queen, and she wears the pants,” Perelman reminded the audience. He discussed how to share your message and build a personal brand more effectively online, and engaged the crowd with entertaining BuzzFeed videos, “If it doesn’t spread, it’s dead.”

10. The Voice of Design in Toronto

(Photo by Yianni Tong) Shauna Levy, President of Design Exchange (DX), accepting the coveted Leadership of Excellence Award.

Toronto, ON – “Design is the bridge between culture and commerce,” said Shauna Levy, President of Design Exchange (DX), Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the pursuit of design excellence and the preservation of design heritage, in her Leadership Award of Excellence acceptance speech. In the Canadian design industry, Levy is regarded as a visionary leader, most known for her dedication to positioning the city of Toronto as an international design destination. “I saw that interior design was being overlooked and undervalued in the community, and I wanted to change that,” said Levy, who rallied the audience to pay attention to upcoming changes in Toronto’s political agenda and stand up for design as interior designers are “occupying an increasingly important role” in the world.


Learn more about the Leaders Breakfast series.

Meet Shauna Levy: Building Toronto’s Design Community

In the Canadian design industry, Shauna Levy is regarded as a steadfast and visionary leader. Appointed in 2012 as President of Design Exchange (DX), Canada’s only museum dedicated exclusively to the pursuit of design excellence and the preservation of design heritage, Levy is known for her dedication in positioning the city of Toronto as an international design destination. Established in inventive experience and expertise, Levy’s path to being honored with the prestigious Leadership Award of Excellence at this year’s Leaders Breakfast Toronto is a dynamic one.

Internationally versatile, Levy was born in Montreal, but grew up in Toronto. She moved to Paris after school where she found she had a passion for design and its influence on everyday life. Because of this influence, Levy believes that design should be accessible to everyone.

According to Levy, “Design is not luxury. It is, and should be, accessible and available to all, from fashionistas to families, coast to coast.” She also stated, “Design is ubiquitous. It touches each and every one of us on a daily basis. Design is the cornerstone of society… It is as much about addressing basic human needs, such as post-disaster housing or caring for an aging population, as it is about luxury goods and novel experiences.”

Her notions are proven in her efforts to renew DX’s programming. With a mission to capture and educate a vast demographic of supporters for the museum, she has secured renowned exhibits from Canadian and international designers, including a retrospective Design Museum London’s Christian Louboutin, as well as a guest curated exhibit by Pharrell Williams called This Is Not A Toy.

In addition to her role as President of DX, Levy is known for her contribution to co-founding the internationally acclaimed Interior Design Show (IDS) in 1998, which she developed into one of the largest contemporary design fairs in North America. By 2012, the show was bringing in over $40 million in sponsorships and sales and 600,000 visitors.

With her significant contributions to the Toronto design scene, the selection for the Leadership Award of Excellence was unanimous. “Shauna is a design evangelist,” said Susan Wiggins, CAE, Hon. IDC, CEO of Interior Designers of Canada (IDC). “Shauna is innovative, connected, and has been instrumental in cultivating Toronto’s design community. Given that our corporate headquarters are in Toronto, we are members of the community and create the growth that has been inspired by Shauna.”

“I am very grateful to be this year’s recipient of the Interior Designers of Canada and the International Interior Design Association’s Leadership Award of Excellence,” said Levy. “When I co-founded the Interior Design Show 18 years ago and built it into one of the largest contemporary design fairs in North America, I believed interior design was an oft-overlooked and undervalued design discipline, and I wanted to change that. I wanted to recognize the thoughtful and creative emerging and established individuals responsible for creating the spaces we live in, we work in, and we play in.”

As for her upcoming endeavors in the design world, Levy is carrying out her refreshing direction of DX, offering a roster of programs in 2016 that includes talks, workshops, competitions, and more. “[These programs] encourage critical thinking about how interrelated design disciplines offer innovative and tech-driven solutions for the most critical issues facing the world today. Keep your eyes peeled and ears open for a big announcement in January! I encourage everyone to sign up for INDX, Design Exchange’s weekly e-newsletter to stay informed,” Levy said.

IDC is in partnership with IIDA for the IIDA Leaders Breakfast. Few tickets are available for purchase until Nov. 22. Click here for ticket information. For information about Leaders Breakfast, please contact Anastasia Gedman, Leaders Breakfast and Special Events Manager, at agedman@iida.org

What Can an Interior Design Organization Do for You?

“It’s about what the profession has offered to me, rather than what I have done for the profession,” said Adele Bonetti, FIDA, IDC, AAA, this year’s Leadership Award of Excellence honoree at the inaugural Leaders Breakfast Calgary. “This award is something that I share with [interior design] associations because they have given me wonderful opportunities.” Having a presence within interior design associations for over 40 years, Bonetti was the perfect fit for the award. As a steadfast volunteer, she demonstrates the importance of being involved in industry associations and how supporting her passion has presented opportunities and opened doors.

Encouraged at a young age, Bonetti credits her university professors for engraining in students the importance of joining a professional organization for interior designers in order to attain a more global outlook. “We were educated to understand that as a professional, our lives would be much more than what we did at work every day,” said Bonetti. Without hesitation, she became involved with her local association, Interior Designers of Alberta (IDA), and her national association, Interior Designers of Canada (IDC) shortly after graduating college in the 1970s, and has remained an active member ever since.

Bonetti tackled her role as an interior designer by growing her own business while volunteering within her associations. She has served on the IDA Board, in various roles, for more than 25 years, including six as president. She also represented the IDA on the IDC Board on two separate occasions, serving both as treasurer and secretary. In addition, she played a role on a national task force that charted a new vision for the interior design associations in Canada and led to the recent restructuring of IDC and the roles and responsibilities of the member provincial associations.

Her passion for the profession was further fuelled by the inclusion of interior design in the architectural legislation that was enacted in Alberta in the early 80s and placed the legal definition and practice of interior design under the scope of architecture in the care of the Alberta Architects Association (AAA). She has since served on several tasks forces for AAA with a voice that has heralded not only the skill of interior design practitioners and their right to chart and administrate their own futures, but also the need for common representation and a link to the interior design community within the province, country, and internationally.

Bonetti’s years of work and dedication have not gone unrecognized. “In the association world, volunteers come and go, but there is that rare occasion when a really good volunteer – a passionate, dedicated, 100 percent committed volunteer – comes and never goes,” said Susan Wiggins, CAE, Hon. IDC, CEO of IDC, and former recipient of the Leadership of Excellence Award honoree.“Ask her to do anything and she is there.”

Bonetti continues to volunteer within IDA and IDC by working on by-laws and policies for both organizations so their standards are professionally recognized and updated. She currently serves as the IDA Registrar and still participates in advocating for more self-governing laws for interior designers. Bonetti recognizes that modifying legislation is a slow-moving process, but reminds all members that “we need to chart our own futures, and the only way to do that is to be involved.” She is currently the Principal of Concetto Interior Design Ltd. in Grande Prairie, Alberta.

IDC is in partnership within the IIDA Leaders Breakfast, encouraging designers across Canada to become involved in what they are passionate for. To become involved in IIDA, Dual Memberships are available for IDC Members, here. Tickets are selling fast for Leaders Breakfast Calgary. Purchase your tickets before Oct. 27.

Perfect Timing

With the perfect combination of timing and significance, Leaders Breakfast Chicago will kick off the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the largest international survey of contemporary architecture. The day before the city of Chicago captures the global design community’s focus with the first architectural biennial in North America, IIDA Leaders Breakfast Chicago will boast some of the biggest names in design at their annual headline-grabbing celebration.

The Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, one of the driving forces behind the biennial, will receive this year’s Leadership of Excellence Award at the breakfast. The foundation, which makes project-based grants to individuals and organizations and produces public programs to foster the development and exchange of ideas about architecture, is supporting the biennial in partnership with BP and the City of Chicago. The decision to honor the Graham Foundation came from the IIDA Illinois Chapter’s notion that the collective institution is a powerful force in the expanded role for leadership.

Leaders Breakfast committee member Neil Frankel, FIIDA, of Frankel + Coleman, recognizes the connection between the missions of the Graham Foundation and IIDA. “[The Graham Foundation’s mission] encourages our membership to expand the discourse of design beyond the practice of interior design,” he said. “The demands of client service and academic compliance often can limit the definition of the role of the designer. The scope of the sponsored grants advances new frameworks for investigating design and its role in contemporary society.”

With the profession of design relying on the continuous development of new information, the Graham Foundation’s avid support of academic research and discussion of the designed environment builds upon those needs. This year, the Graham Foundation awarded almost $500,000 in grants to 49 groundbreaking projects that chart new territory in the field of design by organizations and individuals.

The honor of the Leadership of Excellence award will serve as the invitation to all IIDA Members to actively participate in the ambitious agenda of the Chicago Architecture Biennial exhibition and lecture hosted by the Graham Foundation. The similarity between architectural and interior design practices encourages a ground for collaboration and cooperation, and this award builds a platform of communication between the Graham Foundation and IIDA.

Accepting the Leadership of Excellence Award on behalf of the foundation is Sara Herda, the Director of the Graham Foundation and Co-Artistic Director of the Biennial. Attendees at Leaders Breakfast Chicago will be able to hear about her work with the Graham Foundation and her behind-the-scenes take on the planning of the biennial.

To coincide with the theme of the biennial, The State of the Art of Architecture, Leaders Breakfast Chicago will also feature highly acclaimed keynote speaker Kent Larson, Director of the Changing Places research group at the MIT Media Lab. Larson will discuss his current research, which focuses on four related areas: responsive urban housing, new urban vehicles, ubiquitous technologies, and living lab experiments.

The Chicago Architecture Biennial will run from Oct. 3, 2015 through January 2016, and feature groundbreaking architectural projects and experiments through exhibitions and installations. Join the kick-off of this celebration by purchasing tickets to IIDA Leaders Breakfast Chicago on Oct. 2, 2015, at the Hilton Chicago. Few seats available.