More Highlights From Gain


AIGA’s Gain Conference brought together design and business last Friday and Saturday in NY. More coverage here.

Two duos of presenters had such remarkable chemistry, it was as if exemplary relationships between design and business were coming to life before our very eyes: Shane Brentham and Kevin Farnham of Autodesk and Method, and Henry Myerberg and Richard Smyth of the Rockwell Group and JetBlue, were quick, self-deprecating, and funny.

We heard from two stellar corporations on the secrets to their success. Scott Williams from Starwood gave a hilarious presentation which actually exposed the hospitality empire’s shortcomings–he showed video of a “preferred guest” whining because the hotel’s employee failed to recognize that he’d been promoted from gold to platinum status, then nearly lost it when they gave him a key to an unclean room. (“What you couldn’t see is that there was actually a dead body in there,” joked Williams.) Soft-spoken Sam Hecht of Muji gave a delightful overview of the value of “appropriateness” fueling our favorite maker of objects.

Probably most exciting were the two new design superstars minted at Gain. Bobby Martin Jr. killed it with five hot pink minutes about his job as director of the Lincoln Center design studio. Ji Lee brought down the house with a story about the Bubble Project, his viral graffiti project that lets ads talk back to consumers. In a telling moment, bubbles were handed out to the audience, but rather than slapping them on bus shelters themselves, many participants had theirs autographed by Lee.

IDEO’s Tom Kelley will likely have MSNBC calling him today after an exceptional first-time turn as moderator. Another highlight (for us, at least): spending all day backstage watching presenters interview with Steven Heller, the Dick Cavett of design. Although they’ll have to do a fair amount of editing to keep the interviews from feeling totally repetitive; almost every person’s answers began with, “That’s a really good question, Steve.”