Certain events make the local New York design community prove its dedication to design more than others, and the annual IIDA Leaders Breakfast is certainly one of them. This is not intended to be a disparaging remark; creating a path through our current economic climate is not an easy task, and dedication is required for one’s efforts to be truly successful. If you were one of the over 450 attendees to the sold out breakfast last Friday, you proved your commitment to design by arriving at 7:30 in the morning to network with your colleagues before the event, which honored the work of designer Michael Graves and featured an inspiring talk by trend strategist and author Robyn Waters.
Occurring at a new venue this year, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, perched high atop Columbus Circle and overlooking Central Park, the majestic views provided the perfect metaphor for an urban leader’s perspective. Taking place annually for twenty-two years, the Leaders Breakfast is held to a higher standard than other design industry events throughout the year; it showcases the potential of the profession that any of us, with dedication, can reach. Everyone that appeared on stage that morning was leading by example, providing a template for younger generations to follow.
After a brief introduction by Mark Strauss, publisher of Interior Design Magazine, Ms. Waters took the stage to present her ideas on how trends influence design and the importance of connecting with a client on an emotional level. It was clear from the beginning that Ms. Waters had researched her audience. “Unfortunately, I am not a designer, I am a trend master,” she said. While it is understood that many designers would prefer to hear from one of their own instead of those outside their profession, in many ways, Ms. Waters re-framed some of the most pressing issues that occur with creative companies and their clientele today and showed the audience a fresh perspective on design. As a trend master, Ms. Waters tracks and translates trends into sales and profit for her clients. “Translation is the key, and profit is the desired objective,” she said. As vice president of trend, design, and product development for discount giant Target, she built the store’s reputation on a paradox: expect more, but pay less. The key is leveraging trends to business objectives. “By using trend as a business strategy, it allows businesses to tap into the customers’ emotional needs, their latent desires, and things they don’t know they need or want but can often make their lives better.”
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