Marisa Marcantonio, who edits one of my favorite blogs, Stylebeat.com, recently quizzed me about the Design Leadership Summit, which took place in New York City, November 5 through 7. A three-day conference of design leaders from all over the country, this year it was held in great Manhattan venues like the Celeste Bartos Forum at the New York Public Library (where Paul Goldberger interviewed Norman Foster), the IOC Building, Lincoln Center, and culminated in a day at the Norman Foster-designed Hearst Tower.
MM What did you get out of the DLS?
BG Hearing perspectives from people in all different aspects of our business is fascinating. What do developers think? What are they looking for when hiring a designer? What are the editors keeping an eye out for? How do we incorporate new technology into our business? And how do we use it to expand our opportunities? How do we respond to the constant demands of the digital age?
I am under consideration to design a new restaurant. I am also a frequent diner at Maialino. I learned a lot hearing how David Rockwell and Danny Meyer worked together to create one of my favorite environments. There were several good nuggets of information applicable to my project.
MM What were some memorable moments for you?
BG I loved hearing Arianna Huffington talk about the intersection of neuroscience and design. I always enjoy hearing about the benefits of design, and she informed us how creating the right environment can actually significantly improve and extend our lives. She also spoke about shutting out our fast-paced world, and destressing so we can enjoy life and ultimately be better at our jobs.
She talked about the importance in life of taking a risk and quoted her mother as saying, “Failure is the stepping stone to success.” As designers, every day is a risk, as we are constantly presenting our point of view and putting it out there.
Another favorite quote from her: “We are only as original as our inspiration is obscure.”
MM What did you leave inspired to take action on in your life, business, or both?
BG While designing several different types of projects—both architecture and interiors—I have been evolving my brand with my own lines of products. I now have licensees in lighting, carpet, tile, and furniture. I found many of the speakers to be very empowering regarding taking risks, believing and defining your own point of view, and directing your own path. One speaker said, “Luck is opportunity meets preparation.” Luck alone isn’t enough to sustain a career without the goods to back it up. He also said that for designers “our currency is our imaginations,” and that is limitless.
MM A sense of community can be very valuable in this often fragmented industry- what does this community provide for you? Shared resources? Like-minded friends?
BG I am part of Designers Collaborative, a group of ten New York based designers and architects. We have been meeting for 20 years and have become great friends. We share resources, discuss professional issues, bring in speakers, go on field trips—and drink wine. We are all in the same field and I think people would be surprised at how much we share. Our talents and personalities are very different and we support and help each other. In a field that is sometime very solitary, we have a wonderful support group. The DLS feels like the same concept on a much bigger scale.
It was great to see people I have known and worked with for many years, more recent friends, and to make new friends from all over the country. We all share a love of design and have common goals, so there was an instant comradeship.
MM Who was your favorite speaker and why?
BG My favorite speaker was Andy Spade, since I’m focusing on product, as well as design projects. He was very clever and articulate. I liked hearing how he created the brands for his wife Kate Spade’s and himself, as well as others like J. Crew and Warby Parker. He created good product backed up by very smart positioning and a real relationship of the brands to the end users. When he effortlessly explained the strategy, you thought, “Of course, what other way would one conceive of that?”
I also loved hearing the venerable Oscar de la Renta say that the most important thing for him was curiosity: “Every single day is a learning process.” That has always been my motto, as well. It was also great to schmooze with the such design-world luminaries as Newell Turner, editor-in-chief of Hearst Design Group, Michael Boodro, editor-in-chief of Elle Décor and Clinton Smith, editor-in-chief of Veranda.