Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Art Center Design Conference

This Thursday and Friday I'm going to be blogging from Serious Play, Art Center's third design conference. If it's anything like the last two, it'll be wonderful. This conference created buzz from the outset three years ago and has a devoted following. John Hockenberry will MC as he has done for the last two conferences. Not taking anything away from the stellar list of speakers, but Hockenberry absolutely makes the conference. He ushers us smoothly from one topic to the next, introducing each speaker and chatting with them in an informal session afterward. I don't miss the tired audience Q & A, waiting for runners with microphones to work their way through the audience, and I certainly don't miss dealing with unintelligible—or worse yet, ego-driven—questions from the audience. Hockenberry knows the right two or three questions to ask, and provides an elegant transition to the next speaker.

Highlights that come to mind from years past: Theo Jansen's fantastic creatures, Eiko Ishioka's magical visions, the conversation between Chee Pearlman and Jonathan Ive, and who could forget Sandra Tsing Loh's excoriating stab at the program director of public radio station KCRW? (Note to self: don't fire someone just days before they are to take the stage at a major conference!)

I also look forward to the "play" part of the conference. The first time out, we had palate-cleansing musical interludes by the Ditty Bops, a delightful pair of guitar-and-mandolin-strumming women who periodically treated us to a swinging song. I'm hoping guest program director Chee Pearlman has planned something equally sweet to liven the energy level this year. From her Cheshire-cat smile this afternoon at one of the planning sessions, I think she has.

I took a look at the room as they were setting up this afternoon. There will be the usual cushy ergonomic seats and lounge-lizard dens, same as last year (above), and the stage is at the center of the space, more accessible to the audience. I've already cased the joint and have located a choice spot near a power outlet. I'm ready to go.

Talk to you again Thursday morning....

No comments: