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My internal gyroscope was working overtime from start to finish during the Design Leadership Summit in New York City, and for days after!

The DLN met for their 8th annual Summit this year.  It was an ambitious and densely filled two day agenda that left the 150+ attendees enriched, inspired, and with their heads spinning!

The Directors of the DLN – Kate Kelly Smith (SVP and Publishing Director Hearst Design Group), John Edelman (CEO – Design Within Reach) and Peter Sallick (CEO Waterworks) looked to highlight some of the powerful forces in the world of design today – technology, art, fashion, branding and marketing, and real estate development.  I will some of the highlights here.

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New York Public Library – Celeste Bartos Forum, McKim, Mead & White (1911)  Photo: The Editor at Large

The Summit began with a memorable evening at the New York Public Library’s Celeste Bartos Forum – a magical early 20th century classical space filled with a multitude of great design industry talents.  Before dinner was served, legendary architectural critic Paul Goldberger sat with the internationally acclaimed architect Norman Foster for an inspiring armchair conversation about the world of Norman Foster, and architecture today.


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IAC Building, Frank Gehry (2007)

e-Commerce & More

Day one of the Summit started promptly at 8:30 AM, in an early 21st century setting – the IAC/InterActivCorp Building designed by Frank Gehry.  The venue should have been a signal to what the day would hold. Sukhinder Singh Cassidy ( – e-commerce website for women) was the first speaker of what was to be a full and very rich day!

Singh Cassidy was, and is, a force to be reckoned with!  She has held major positions at a number of rapidly developing companies including Google; has been involved in numerous start up tech companies, and sits on the boards of J.Crew, Twitter, TripAdvisor and in 2008 Fortune Magazine called her one of the “50 Most Powerful Women” in the world.  She was operating with “all pistons firing” as she spoke eloquently about the enormous and rapid changes in commerce, branding, consumer expectations and navigating the stream of changing technologies.  I was sitting captivated in the front row, hoping that even just some her focused energy, intense curiosity, enthusiasm, and intelligence are contagious!


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Augmented Reality?! 

As if reality isn’t challenging enough, we now have augmented reality – and its ‘real’!

Two different start-up companies operating in rapidly developing technologies presented their astonishing albeit competitive 3D imaging platforms – Augment and Sayduck.

Paris-based Augment offers an Augmented Reality Platform letting consumers and salespeople try or present any product in Augmented Reality, in their own home or workplace.

Sayduck, based in London & Helsinki, describes their software as “3D animation & Visualization”.

Fasten your seat belt – the future is now! And it is coming your way at the speed of light!


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 Oscar de la Renta and Bunny Williams

Design Icons Chat

Decorator Bunny Williams and her friend, world-renowned fashion designer Oscar de la Renta, had an engaging ‘one-on-one’ conversation. Bunny posed questions designed to bring out the more private Oscar that she knows, for all of us to witness, and share.  Mr. de la Renta was charming, funny, and open about his life and experiences. Among many stories, he related entering the New York fashion world just as ready-to-wear clothing was emerging as fashion, and American designers were being acknowledged and credited for their work for the first time.  Oscar de la Renta has ridden this wave with incredible elegance like no one else!


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Differently Think / Think Differently

Advertising, marketing and brand strategy innovator and Partners & Spade co-founder Andy Spade started his talk by quoting his daughter: “Don’t think outside of the box, there is no box!”.   Spade, in his clever wry manner, then proceeded to share his thoughts, life experiences, and stories revealing his distinctive views and process. Sharing some of his branding work for J.Crew, Warby Parker and others, Spade spoke about the importance of finding the right partnerships, remaining curious and finding people who inspire you.


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Richard Phillips

Is it Art, or is it Selling Out?

New York based artist Richard Phillips shared his obsessions with pop culture and his art-making process.  Phillips’s best known works focus on celebrities which have been shown with leading international galleries (Gagosian, NYC & White Cube, London).  His crossing of high art and commercial boundaries has generated a lot of controversy among the cognoscenti.  Phillips walked us through his creative process; his calm demeanor belied the very hot seat he sits in and the wide attention he has received – much of it negative; yet he has met with great commercial success and ever-expanding opportunities.  Phillips’ work is in the collections of MoMA, Tate Modern, the Whitney Museum and many other museums and prominent private collections.


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Delivering Shelter Content Today

The second day of the Summit was held on the 44th floor of the Hearst Tower – Foster + Partners (2006).  This epicenter of one of the largest media companies in the world was the perfect setting to hear from many leading voices in the print and online media worlds, offering in some cases divergent thoughts on what today’s consumer is looking for; the challenges but viability of print media, and the cross-fertilization of print and digital (and in some case e-commerce platforms)   In the end, everyone could agree on the importance of delivering inspiring content and keeping things fresh!

Some of the luminaries who contributed to the dialog were Michelle Adams – Editor-in-Chief Lonny, Michael Boodro – ELLE Decor, David Carey – President Hearst Magazines, Julie Carlson – Founding Editor Remodelista, Michelle Ogundehin – ELLE Decoration UK,  Maxwell Ryan – Co-founder Apartment Therapy, Clinton Smith – Editor-in-Chief Veranda Magazine, Newell Turner – Editor-in-Chief Hearst Design Group, Lucia Van Der Post – Financial Times – ‘How to Spend It’, and Marco Velardi – Apartamento.


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One 57 West 57th Street

The New Luxury

What are people looking for in residential properties in New York City today?  And who are these people who are paying such astronomical sums for apartments?  What are the richest of the rich looking for in travel experiences?  Sara Ruffin Costello – Designer, Stylist & Contributor to T Magazine – New York Times moderated a discussion between Roy Kim – Senior VP Design Extell Development Group, Elisa Orlanski Ours – VP Planning & Design Corcoran Sunshine Marketing Group, and John Vanderslice – Global Head of Luxury & Lifestyle Brands  Hilton Worldwide

New extraordinarily expensive residential developments in New York City are on par with other destination cities like London, Monaco, Dubai, Hong Kong and others. Bringing new investors from all over the world. With an enormous view to the East, many attendees couldn’t help but look over their shoulders once, or twice, at the direct view we had of One 57 – a prime example of these new developments in New York City.


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Soho House 

Old World / New World

Unlike many business people who presented at the Summit, the founder of Soho House, Nick Jones, does not seem to work from a strategic plan, rather seeking opportunities where others dare not tread.  Soho House is a private member’s club with locations in London, NYC, LA, Miami, Berlin with a few more locations to open in 2014.  Jones implied that intuition and out of the box thinking plays a major role in maintaining and developing the ‘vibe’, clientele and brand of Soho House – a mix of old school private club with full service 21st century amenities.


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Residential Development in Greenwich Village

William and Samantha Rudin of the Rudin Management Company presented a brief history of their now enormous  ‘family business’ with specific focus on the Greenwich Lane – a very large central Greenwich Village luxury residential development currently under construction that came under a lot of fire to be a good, and appropriately scaled neighbor in this historic neighborhood.  The five different buildings designed by FXFOWLE, with interiors by Thomas O’Brien, significantly raises the bar (and prices) for residential properties in the Village.

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Slowing Down

Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post Media Group, spoke at length on health and well-being in the 21st century.  As “plugged in” as she and her entire media group are, she is adamant about the importance of unplugging, the importance of real sleep, and that multitasking is a myth.  And in light of the intensity of our times, the importance of designers to create environments for people that are safe, calming and nurturing. However, what may have been most revealing of what could be a shift in cultural priorities, Huffington posited a new measure for success – beyond money and power – that is well-being, wisdom, wonder and giving. I bought in fully!


It has taken me weeks to digest and assimilate just some of the content of the 2013 Design Leadership Summit.  The divergent approaches and viewpoints of the many brilliant speakers took me, and continues to take me, outside my preexisting approaches to thinking and problem solving by making me acutely aware of alternate realities in the 21st century.

There is no going back now, so stay tuned for future discoveries!