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Design Leadership Summit Recap: Highlights and takeaways
Nov 20, 2013

The eighth annual Design Leadership Summit (DLS) was a whirlwind of inspiring and educational information spread across three days and four locations. Spanning topics from technology, art, culture, media, marketing and real estate, designers left with plenty of new ideas to explore and share with their staffs.
This reporter covered each presentation individually* and asked designers about the presentations and ideas they found most inspiring. Below are highlights from top interior designers who attended the Summit.

“I thought Sukhinder Singh Cassidy was one of the most inspiring speakers,” said Shawn Henderson. “I love the intersection between technology and commerce and her ideas and concepts made me think of new and different ways to approach my business and clientele.”
Cassidy shared tips on how to create a successful commerce model by covering three key areas: trust and curation, value and ease, and entertainment and experience. She also outlined major trends making an impact in the world of ecommerce.
Libby Langdon also found Cassidy to be the most interesting. “She said ‘take the brand you’ve created offline and recreate that online’ and believes that online video now is all about ‘story-selling.’ Her ideas spoke to the product design and promotion end of my business and I so appreciate the specific tools and information she readily shared that I can actually use,” said Langdon.
“I found [Sukhinder’s] accomplishments and her desire and push—so to speak—to stay on the track of bettering her companies and always in pursuit of a better business inspiring,” added Jamie Herzlinger.
Attendees also enjoyed technology demonstrations: Talk Esquire, Sayduck and Augment, as well as a “moment of inspiration” from architect and designer Alexander Gorlin.
“I particularly loved the ‘moments of inspiration’ interwoven throughout the two days—from Nina Campbell to Jamie Drake to Alexander Gorlin—all of them amazing people both in talent and personality,” said Laura Kirar. “It was a treat to be given a window into their work and minds.”
Chairman of TEDMED Jay Walker closed out the morning at IAC with the future of technology and design in one word: Data. The afternoon focused on fashion, art and culture with presentations from Oscar de la Renta, Andy Spade, Glenn O’Brien, Richard Phillips and Tyler Florence.
“The iconic Oscar de la Renta was profound when he said ‘the most important part of the design process is panic, if there is no doubt there is no creativity’,” said Tobi Fairley.
“One of the most touching moments was when Bunny Williams asked her close friend, Oscar de la Renta, what he would want a woman who buys one of his dresses to know about him. He quietly answered, ‘I want her to feel like I know her and that I love her.’ He is an amazing man with an incredible spirit,” said Langdon.
Next up was Spade, the founder of many successful companies including Kate Spade, Jack Spade and Partners & Spade, who began his talk by quoting his daughter, “Don’t think outside of the box, there is no box.”
“I absolutely adored Andy Spade, he was hilarious, irreverent and brilliant! He offered his ‘What-the-heck-go-ahead-and-give-it-a-try’ attitude mixed with his uncanny ability to get to the root of exactly what his clients and their companies need to do to stay relevant. His fearlessness was inspiring,” said Langdon.

DLS attendees at the New York Public Library
That afternoon, designers also heard from GQ’s Glenn O’Brien, artist Richard Phillips, and celebrity chef and restaurateur Tyler Florence, who recently designed “the kitchen of the year” for House Beautiful magazine.
“Celebrity chef Tyler Florence certainly gave me a nudge to continue looking for unique influences for my work when he reminded me that ‘one is only as creative as your most obscure inspiration’,” said Fairley.
“Tyler's talk was all about looking inward and setting your intentions for your life and business,” said Bella Mancini. “He talked a lot about visualizing his success and the impact that has had on his career. I am going to spend some time in the next few weeks evaluating my business and personal goals, finding that intersection and creating a roadmap for my future.”
After a full day of discussions, DLS attendees headed uptown to Avery Fisher Hall at Lincoln Center for dinner and panel discussion with Lisa Phillips, director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City, who moderated a conversation between real estate tycoon Aby Rosen, artist Tom Sachs and architect William Georgis. The group touched on art versus design and pushing the limits.

DLS attendees at Avery Fisher Hall
Day two of the DLS opened on the 44th floor of the Hearst Tower built by Norman Foster. Smith introduced the morning’s program, which would include a presentation by Hearst Magazines president David Carey, an international editors panel moderated by HL Group partner Hamilton South, a moment of inspiration from Jamie Drake, a digital media panel moderated by Hearst Design Group editor-in-chief Newell Turner, and a presentation by Arianna Huffington.
Some designers felt that Huffington’s discussion was the most inspirational of the Summit.
“Arianna Huffington truly inspired me,” said Drake. “Her advice to live your eulogy and take time to recharge was a great reminder too find ways to de-stress, or avoid it.”
“I was very inspired by Arianna Huffington and her balanced approach to a busy life, including prioritizing sleep,” said Fairley.
“I do believe in Arianna's question of ‘Are we living our resume or our eulogy?’ When I think about it I have always unconsciously lived my eulogy and often to my personal and professional detriment which has made me question some of my choices,” said Amanda Nisbet. “However, to me kindness empathy and unconditional love and or support are the mainstays of any relationship and that is how I have and will always connect.”
“Arianna Huffington was funny and uber-magnetic as usual,” said Kirar. “She never disappoints!”
The final portion of the DLS programming included a look at commercial architecture and design across New York City, and how residential designers could break into that field.
Attendees heard from real estate developers William and Samantha Rudin, Elisa Orlanski, Roy Kim, David Wine and John Vanderslice, Nick Jones founder of the SOHO House, and learned about restaurant design from Danny Meyer and David Rockwell.
What had designers buzzing however was the final “moment of inspiration” from interior designer Nina Campbell.
“My favorite speakers were Arianna Huffington and Nina Campbell,” said Nisbet. “It was so inspiring to hear the thoughts of successful articulate intelligent and witty women. I of course adore men, however, I think as women we definitely have more to do to empower each other. As I mature in my career and personally I am making that mission one of my mandates.”
So, after hours of intense content what did designers take away?

DLS attendees
“My take away was a reinforced belief in the power of abstract thinking and clear messaging,” said Kirar. “On the surface many of the topics discussed addressed different business models than my own design business e.g.: publishing/e-commerce/NY real estate development strategy etc. However, the main current for me was the speaker having an organized message, either on stage or in the exhibited strategy of their businesses. That was very useful to me on an abstract level and something I'll continue to address at Laura Kirar.”
“The entire conference really reignited my love for what I do, but also has made me think a ton about the importance of trying to achieve a healthy work/life balance,” said Mancini.
“I’m going to stop fiddling with my IPhone all the time,” said Drake. “As Arianna Huffington pointed out, while it may seem that we’re double tasking, in fact our brains are often so torn and we’re less efficient!”
“I left the three days seeing the impact that technology is having on all aspects of the design industry and ways to harness it to understand and appeal to the customer that I want to buy my furniture, rugs and any other products I may design,” said Langdon. “I’ll definitely apply the tips and tactics that so many speakers so generously shared.”
“The most resonating takeaway is really more of intangible but highly intrinsic branding,” said Herzlinger. “And making sure that all facets of my business are always about the brand I am building...from my business card to how the client sees me. It is a constant, to keep on track of ones brand. And of course! Don't be afraid. The quote that Tyler Florence said is my new mantra, even when you are outgunned, out manned and out financed, keep going.”
“My major takeaway from the summit was that we all have to be open to new concepts, new ideas and new ways to communicate because the landscape of the world is changing,” said Henderson. “Plus, we all have to start wearing pajamas (thank you, Andy Spade) so we can take naps (thank you, Arianna Huffington).”
*Related articles: DLS Recap: Norman Foster and Paul Goldberger, DLS Recap: Innovations in technology and design, DLS Recap: Bunny Williams interviews Oscar de la Renta, DLS Part: Icons of art and culture, DLS Recap: Aby Rosen, Tom Sachs & William Georgis, DLS Recap: Marketing and media at Hearst Tower, DLS Recap: Arianna Huffington offers a new measure of success, DLS Recap: Intersection of Residential and Commercial Design

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