Who Comes To The Art Center Conference, Anyway?

After Ricky Jay’s sensational rundown of the radical craft of magicians–it read like an especially gory episode of “Carnivale,” tempered with Jay’s impeccable wit–then a demonstration of his remarkable card-hurling prowess (watermelons were pierced), the stage was set for spectacle. The conference emptied into the GE-sponsored tents, complete with retro rocketship, where blood orange martinis were the alcoholic equivalent of Art Center’s historic orange dot.

First we saw Jimmy Wales, Wikipedia founder, who we said an energetic “hi” to, thinking we were old friends, but realizing he only looked familiar since we had seen him at SXSW, where he was a speaker. We explained this to him and he was awfully nice about it.

Jessica Helfand and William Drenttel were observing design, but James “Celluloid Skyline” Sanders is officially covering the event for Design Observer. Portland architect Brad Cloepfil, of the controversial Columbus Circle project, was swept away from us by Holly Hotchner, director of MAD, Columbus Circle’s most (in)famous tenant. Sagmeister was as friendly as could be. Tucker Viemeister, VP of the Rockwell Group, claimed he was on vacation. AIGA 2006 Medalist Lorraine Wild was rushing home after a day teaching at CalArts and couldn’t stay to party. Dorothy Dunn of AIGA pitched the Aspen Design Summit to those not complaining of a TED hangover. ‘Tis the season for design conferences.

Rob Forbes of Design Within Reach admits he doesn’t know anything about design blogs, and we admire him for his restraint. Art Center’s Richard Koshalek, Erica Clark, Nik Hafermaas and Petrula Vrontikis hovered like perfect hosts. Program director Chee Pearlman said she was heading to the desert on Sunday after the conference for a personal debriefing. Also spotted: design conference moderator extraordinaire John Hockenberry, Ph.D’s Clive Piercy, Metropolis‘ Susan Szenasy and Andrew Blum, and IDEO’s David Kelley and Tim Brown.

LA design pioneer Gere Kavanaugh made us laugh the most with her story of meeting Deborah Sussman at a Herman Miller party in 1960. She was introduced to Sussman by a friend who yelled, “Hey, there’s another girl designer here!”