Lessons Learned After 11 Years and Five Hundred Episodes | 500 | Storytellers, Best Practices and Ideas to Make the Design and Architecture Industry Stronger

I’m Josh Cooperman and this is Convo By Design. Episode 500. Five Hundred!

In years past, I have stopped down to celebrate mile stones in a few different ways. Last year, we held a party at the Soho House studio in West Hollywood to celebrate 10 years of the show. Every hundredth episode, I would feature past guests. For this milestone, I wanted to do something a little bit different. Instead of talking about the past, I wanted to focus on the future, share a few past moments to galvanize the point and move on. With gratitude and love in my heart. I love this industry because of all the amazing people I have had the good fortune of meeting and hearing their stories. I am so fortunate to have been to some of the most amazing places and seen some incredible things that designers, architects, artists and makers can create. But the past 11 years have not been easy. It hasn’t been all fun and games. Our industry is one of the most diverse and rapidly changing from a business and operations standpoint. And I have some bad news for those hoping the changes will slow or stop. It’s not going to happen. But I don’t see that as bad news. I’m excited for the future. Before you can properly prepare for changes, you must be aware of what’s coming. Mark Twain is credited with the quote, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often rhymes.” 

Designer Resources

Pacific Sales Kitchen and Home. Where excellence meets expertise.

Monogram – It’s the details that define Monogram

ThermaSol – Redefining the modern shower experience. Without steam, it’s just a bathroom.

Design Hardware – A stunning and vast collection of jewelry for the home!

 – Where service meets excellence

TimberTech – Real wood beauty without the upkeep

To me, that means and for our conversation here, it means that if you look at how our industry is evolving, you will see marks and identifiers from the past reemerging in new and unique ways. Products being used differently, ideas being reimagined, and previously unthinkable technological advancements solving for past and new challenges. At the same time, there will be past issues that continue to rear their ugly heads. Things like: 

Tariffs and supply chain issues wreaking havoc with the financial structure of the business which affects us all directly. of course it also depends on which public officials are in office at any given time.

The issue of editorial credit, attribution, idea and IP theft and knock-offs – Why does that matter so much?

Tearing down landmarks and historical buildings – Who cares? This is a portion of my conversation form the1001 N Roxbury episode. If not familiar and you care about architectural preservation, you should be.

DEI – Policy and Practice –  In 2019 at the WestEdge Design Fair, I produced a panel about diversity in design featuring four creatives of color. It was not the first time I had conversations with creatives of color, different backgrounds, ideas or even who had differences in thought. I cast that program in June or July of 2019, it was held in October of 2019 and published in June of 2020. Shortly after the murder of George Floyd which ignited a powder keg in this country. It started a conversation about race, about equity and about fairness. Change is not a bad thing, without change, one becomes stagnant, societies cease to innovate and develop. It’s uncomfortable. I got a huge response to that episode. I have had many such conversations. 

But, something I have not shared with you was the DEI policy I have and have had in place since 2019. I believe in providing a space for new voices as well as the established. To be completely frank with you, that has, at times been a real challenge.

Inviting someone to come on the show now is pretty simple because if invited guests are not already familiar with the show, a simple search provides everything they would need to understand what I do. It was not the case back in the early years of the podcast. Most people to whom I reach out know the show and I cannot think of anyone I have invite that has declined. But there is a certain level of suspicion with some creatives of color who have been invited on the show. It took me a while to understand it. I think it is worth sharing. Ron Woodson, who was on that original panel in 2019 later said to me that after that episode was published, he began receiving numerous media requests to talk about that subject of race and inclusion in design. And, while he was a willing participant in the the conversation, he didn’t want that to be all people asked him about. I think it is fair to say there was, and still is the concern of tokenism and a patronizing approach to inclusion in the design industry. But I also think that having these conversations is important and I do long for the day when people don’t say things like here are the best Black designers or best asian designers or best female architects you need to know. There are just great designers and amazing architects you need to know. My reason for pointing this out is simple. I think that when you separate creatives by gender or race or sexual orientation, you minimize their contributions. I would like to see the conversation continue to evolve. 

This is a portion of my conversation in 2019 with Bridgid Coulter, Breegan Jane, Ron Woodson and Brian Pinkett

Showroom & Vendor Partnerships – The podcast was started with partnerships in mind. I wanted to be proud of the partners that I work with and share those partners with you. I stand by the partnerships on this show and when you hear me talking about them, you should know that I am working with them because I have done my due diligence and I know them, I trust them and I believe you can too. 

Design Hardware and Flooring in Los Angeles has been around since 1985. I have been working with Michele Solomons, Avi Balsam and the entire team for about 4 years and I have seen what they do for their customers. ThermaSol has been the title sponsor of Convo By Design for over 3 years. I have been to the factory, spoken with Mitch Altman, 3rd generation president, spoken with Murray Altman, 2nd generation president. I have seen their factory, watched them inspect every steam generator before it leaves the factory. They make the best steam generators in the wold. I believe that. Pacific Sales I have been to a number of their showrooms, I have personally seen their product selection and service to client in the design community. I have spoken with so many of their team members, most of those I spoke with have been there for over a decade! They know their product line, they know what designers do for a living and how to make sure their clients are happy. They serve up products like those from Monogram. If you are a design specifier, you know what Monogram has been doing and how remarkable their product line is. Same for TimberTech, theiy make an absolutely incredible outdoor decking product that is sustainable in nature, beautiful, easy to work with and long lasting. I mention this because we are living and working in a time when not all showroom partners have the same dedication to the design community. They shut their doors and leave designers and their clients in stressful and financially devastating situations. This business is a challenge and not all suppliers, vendors, manufacturers or even designers make it. Businesses close, that is part of life, but good parters and great partnerships are rare and that is why I am so thankful for these partnerships and why I am proud to share them with you. If you are not familiar with any of these, please check the show notes to links where you can learn more.

Lastly, there has been a major issue in media regarding attribution, credit and IP theft of all kinds. It is not unique to our industry, nor is it going to stop anytime soon. Most recently, there was a major kerfuffle surrounding a story in AD featuring Sofia Vergara’s home. The credit for design went to O’Hara Davies Gaetano, who was the last designer on the project, but not the first. That was Timothy Corrigan. There have also been others who it have reportedly worked on other portions of the project who too, went uncredited for their work. AD and all the industry media need to far better. Many years ago, 2017 actually, at the WestEdge Design Fair, I produced and moderated a panel featuring art rep Wendy Posner, designer and showroom owner Gary Gibson and IP attorney Emile Nicolaou with whom I worked at Playboy Radio. We talked about many of these very issues. This is what that sounded like….

So, there you go, Episode 500. Just a sample of the conversations we have had over the past 11 years. Real conversations, real issues and hopefully, real solutions to these complex topics in addition to sharing stories behind some of the greatest creatives working today. No celebrity fluff, no trendy fast-fashion dialogue, no frivolity. Real issues, real stories, real talent working on amazing projects and I could not be doing this without you. Thank you for listening to the show. Thank you to my incredible partner sponsors; ThermaSol, Design Hardware, Pacific Sales, Monogram and TimberTech for your continued support of both Convo By Design and the design community. 

Let’s keep the conversations going, you can email me with guest and show ideas, which I absolutely love. convobydesign@outlook.com and follow us on Instagram @ConvoXDeisgn with an “x”. Until next week, Be well and take today first. -CXD

ICAA SoCal Honoring Richard Landry + Ezrha Jean Black from Bergamot Station | 427 | Art and Architecture, the Richness of the Southern California Canvas

I’m Josh Cooperman and this is Convo By Design. Today on the show I’m going to take you back to an event honoring one of the best in the business today. It was the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art  Southern California Chapter’s annual Legacy celebration in honor of the incomparable Richard Landry.

What an absolutely spectacular night this was. t was raucous, loud, and incredible fun. I’m going to take you with me as I emceed the event that night at the California Club in Los Angeles. In this episode, you are also going to hear from Artillery Magazine’s Ezrha Jean Black. She is going to give you a walking tour with artist Peter Wallis within his installation at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, CA. This is an episode in celebration of art, architecture and those who create it.

Thank you Ezraha, Brian Pinkett, Richard Landry, ICAA Southern California, Bergamot Station, and everyone who played a part in this episode. Now more than ever, remember why you do what you do and for whom you do it. The design and architecture community single handedly makes the lives of those we serve better and it’s because of you. Thanks again for listening, we’ll be back next week with another story, so until then, be well and take today first.

Going Big Featuring An All-Star Guest List | 400 | Big Personalities and Big Design Celebrating 400 Episodes

I’m Josh Cooperman and this is Convo By Design. I’m starting to get a bit more reflective than I have been in the past. At the end of 2022, I will have been hosting and producing Convo By Design for 10 years. No, really. And this is a very special episode. #400

Designer Resources

ThermaSol – Redefining the modern shower experience. Episode 271 featuring Mitch Altman

Article, great style is easy. It’s the best way to buy beautiful modern furniture

York Wallcoverings – Designed to inspire for over 125 years

Franz Viegener – Finely crafted sculptural faucets

Moya Living  Beautiful, durable powder coated kitchen, bath & outdoor kitchen cabinetry

These 10 years have really flown by. In part because this is my second career. My first was in broadcasting, for those who have been listening to the show for a while, I will spare you from having to hear the story again. Suffice it to say, a lot has happened in design and architecture since 2013. I think the industry looks and feels very different now than it did then. 

Obviously, the last 3 years have been transformative, but even before the pandemic, the business was changing. In this episode, I want to share some of the incredibly talented people who have been on the show. I want to reshape some of their thoughts and ideas, share some of the places we’ve been over the past 10 years and take a look at the next 10. What will that look like for our business? So this is going to be a longer than usual episode because a lot has happened over the past 10 years and while I can’t cover it all here, I would like to share these ideas and excerpts from a few select interviews along the way. In no particular order and I don’t wish to leave anyone out, following are some of the things that really stuck with me along the way.

Before we get to some of the design talent, some thoughts on the future of the design business.

  1. Remote Design – The pandemic sealed it. Remote design is a permanent part of the industry. That is not going to change. Designers are not realtors. Realtors work a “farm” or a specific territory. Designers and architects need not do that and because of that, should be looking beyond the traditional borders and boundaries to develop a new clientele. As we have been discussing and exploring through the Remote Design House – Tulsa, the future of remote and virtual design is rife with opportunity and peril alike.
  2. Stellar Customer Service or Suffer the Consequences
  3. New Product Discovery – Specification and re-specification has fundamentally changed. 

Its so much fun to find new products. For me, that is the feel I get when I speak to new creatives. That is, those I have not yet spoken with. This first clip was from my conversation with  Julian Lennon, who has entered a new chapter in his life with a new album and a new collection of photographs that are offered at RH through General Public, Portia de Rossi’s company that represents emerging artists. I really loved my chat with Lennon, here is what that sounded like.

I wanted to share another Lennon connection with you. This time, with art furniture designer, Dakota Jackson. Jackson has an incredible backstory starting with his family, who were magicians and this is Dakota telling the story of a desk he was commissioned to build for John Lennon by Yoko Ono.

Back to some lessons learned along the way…

  1. You Must Market Your Brand – Take this to mean whatever you want, I have learned over time that since people hear what they want to hear, sometimes it is difficult to come to a universal conclusion. But I will be clear, if you want new or better clients, you must advertise or market your brand in better ways. Otherwise, and you are right in that ‘word of mouth’ can work, but if you are being shared client to potential client, you are still dealing with many of the same clients you wish to upgrade. Gone are the days when designers should be utilized for their knowledge base and trade discount. Designers are both creatives and futurists who solve the issues that most directly and deeply affect their clients. This is important. This is essential. This is valuable and requires proper compensation. There are virtual design services online that can provide designed spaces for $40 and there are “decorators” on Fiverr starting at $5. If this doesn’t concern you, it should. I’ll tell you a story, back in my broadcast days, I watched the radio and record industries lose control over the power to move music. First it was Napster, then social media, then Apple. Now, you can buy music online. When was the last time you bought an entire album? Unless you are into Vinyl, it has probably been well over a decade. The design business is no different. If a virtual design company can change the thought process as it relates to design from crafting curated and purposeful spaces to a simple space plan with furnishings that fit and in the right color palate, where does it end? It ends in devaluing the designer and I do this because I love what you do. Marketing you and your brand is crucial to the long term health of your design business and that of the industry.

Some designers who have paved their own way. Created a world around the design they create. One of those designers is the incomparable, Bunny Williams. Williams was always very clear in her focus and what her work and that of her firm means. She has always been crystal clear in her views on learning from others, I’ll let Bunny explain it.

From Bunny to another icon, Martyn Lawrence Bullard. I caught up with Bullard at the Lacienega Design Quarter Legends event in 2019. Martyn and his team were designing their showroom window to honor Tony Duquette. This provided him with an opportunity to get back to his theatrical roots and craft, in spectacular fashion. Fearless and fabulous. Listen.

  1. Trade Groups, Media, Trade Shows, Manufacturers and Showrooms… Step Up – The past three years have been draining on all of us, but that is no excuse to stop trying to elevate. I conduct many post-conversation interviews after I stop recording for the show. I ask designers, artists, architects what they see in the business, what the experience has been like, day to day and what they need from industry resources. The number one response is better customer service. Sending out samples does not constitute customer service. Nor does calling on designers to see what projects they are working on. Customer service is answering the phone, returning an email within 24 hours, dropping a less important activity to find out where that chair is and when it will be delivered. Customer service is following up, proactively on damaged merchandise and if it can’t be fixed, replace it quickly, if it was discontinued, offer a suitable replacement or provide credit, again….proactively not reactively because designers don’t have the time to chase you down. Trade groups and trade shows, I get that it is about the per foot display, ticket and advertising revenue. And it should be, but I would challenge you to offer a deeper engagement, a better experience for those attending. There are some that do it right. Salone, Maison, WestEdge… But there are others who don’t put a great deal of pride into the experience of those who attend your events and I think there is a tremendous opportunity here. And media, ours is a billion dollar industry and as such, deserves a far more robust media platform. I have had a very good working relationship with the shelter publications over the years. It pains me to say this but it is time for you to step up your game. This is not directed at everyone… Bring back the contributors and editors. You can’t cover a diverse industry like ours with a handful of writers covering everything with fewer word and images on fewer pages of edit. Paper costs have caused some publishers to make difficult choices, cutting editorial staff and circulation. I encourage you to learn from radio and don’t allow digital to take all of your readers and advertisers. I am a tactile person, I love design magazines, I want you to be around for a very long time. 
  1. Diversity in Design, Cultural Recognition and Creative Attribution Is Inextricably Tied to the Business of Design… And that’s a good thing. It’s more work, it is. Knowing the back story of all the materials used in the work is a significant amount of work to document but it also provides an incredible opportunity to elevate the narrative of the work and the byproducts that make the sum of its parts.

In 2019, I produced a conversation at the WestEdge Design Fair. This was a fantastic conversation. Here’s a bit from that encounter. First you will hear from Brian Pinkett of Landry Design Group, then Brigid Coulter, Ron Woodson and Breegan Jane closing it out.

  1. Rise of The Work Room. They are here to stay.
  2. Wellness is the Most Important Function- It has become and inextricable part of design since March 13, 2020. It’s both incredible and stunning to attribute a major movement to a specific day, but the entirety of the US and the world can look back at the day the US closed. What happened next was a terrifying, confusing and disruptive time during which the pandemic taught all of us that our homes were not designed to function in times of universal turmoil. Following that, the creative community does what it always does and looks for ways to fix problems. These fixes came in the way of functional redesigns, rethinking what “home” is and how it can better serve those living there. Wellness in design… Air, water, sound, experience. These four concepts represent a wholesale change in design thinking, and location thinking as well. 

In Southern California, it was March 13, a Friday and I thought if this is going to happen, might as well get it all down to see what we can learn from it. I started a series called, Designing for Disaster. The next two clips feature guests form that series. First up is 

Thomas Kliggerman who shares a personal story of being locked down while in the midst of designing his own personal new home.

Joe Berkowitz joined me for an episode of Designing for Disaster and shares some truly valuable design advice about space planning and ways to keep everything in scale.

It would be a mistake not to mention that while all this is going on, we were all worried about catching this new virus. Worried about our friends and family dying from it and this podcast kept me connected to the design industry. My friends, old and new. Being confined to a small beach bungalow in Southern California wasn’t completely horrible. As a matter of fact, the connection with my family during this time is something I will forever cherish. The uncertainty was awful. But, I was home with my family and through this show I was able to keep the conversation going. I hope it was useful for you too.

Throughout the pandemic, actually before and most certainly after, wellness has been at the top of every priority list. Because of that and because I so appreciate my partnership with ThermaSol, I want you to hear from Mitch Altman, 

DIEM – 2014 with Roman Alonso partner with Commune Design and Mayer Rus, West Coast Editor of AD talking about the creative freedom that California, and more specifically Los Angeles offer creatives. Moderated by Mallery Roberts Morgan. This conversation was a simple creative comparison between New York and Los Angeles. What is so interesting about this, to me, is that as you listen, it is a binary conversation about cultural and artistic relevance in the United States. I enjoyed listening back to this conversation from 2014 and I hope you do as well. A look back at the halcyon days between the turmoil of the great recession and civil war. Before a global pandemic and record setting financial and business disruption. A time when we could afford to have a simple conversation about who does it better.

Loved listening back to that but at the same time, while it seems so long ago, it really wasn’t. But some things have changed. The design fly-overs have emerged as a place where some factors have converged at an important time. Designers who are doing incredible things in Oklahoma, Colorado, Kentucky and Texas. Speaking of Texas, I was so fortunate to have a conversation with friend Kyle Bunting who invited some of his friends, Lauren Rottet, Jan Showers and Fern Santini for a really fun conversation about design in the lone star state. Here is what that sounded like.

Susan Ferrier… On achieving the shared desires of her clients. She first wants to understand desire and then listens to gain nuance.

The Architects… I have had the opportunity to speak with some of the greatest architecture minds working today. Here are just a few, Roger Seifter from Robert AM Sterns Architects talking about a  Southern California John L. Woolf home and the thoughtful, loving restorative process that goes into all their projects. This is a distinguished list and in no particular order, except that their ideas are exquisite and their work is the physical manifestation of this ideas for all to see and a lucky few to enjoy. They include, Paul McClean, Dan Brunn, Woods & Dangaran and Jamie Bush

Thank you, All as well as those not included in this episode for taking some of your time to share your story. Your stories are what make American design and architecture true art form.  Special thanks to CXD sponsors and partners ThermaSol, Moya Living, York Wallcoverings, Franz Viegenr and Article Furniture. Thank you for taking some time out of your busy schedule to listen to Convo By Design. I produce this show for you. Those in the design industry to hear what others are doing and hopefully provide you with some inspiration to do that thing you do. Remember why and for whom you craft and create. Please subscribe to the show so you don’t miss an episode, you can find us everywhere you get your favorite podcasts. Thank you, have a great week and take today first. -CXD

Design Diversity | 274 | Crafting Our World The Way it Should Be

Following is a panel conversation that took place at the WestEdge Design Fair in 2019. I am always honest with you, and this is no exception, I lost sleep in advance of recording this panel last October and now in publishing it because I wanted to approach this topic with the respect it deserves. I feel now, as I did in prep for this, that we have some incredibly challenging issues as evidenced by the headlines today. We were witnessing similar issues a year ago, and 10 years ago, and 50 years ago. This is a conversation about the lack of diversity in design. It speaks to the broader issue that, and you will hear from the get-go, that the lack of conversation about this issue is a big part of the problem.

You are going to hear a conversation about diversity, or the lack thereof, racism, the great divide, and lack of opportunity. You will hear front line stories about issues at play but you are also going to hear from four highly successful creative designers who bring the fight to the forefront every day. Let’s be clear, this conversation is not going to fix the societal issues we have regarding race nor is it going to equalize the level of diversity in design and that is not why we had this conversation. Let this be the beginning of an open dialogue. I believe the only way we eventually fix societal issues is by having very challenging conversations, conversations that make us uncomfortable but ultimately that is the only way we can understand a foreign perspective. You are going to hear from four individuals who have achieved success in their fields and with that accomplishment comes a recognition of what it took to get there, how they can offer a hand to help others, and how you can too. 

I think one of the most important issues to understand and you will hear it for yourself is that there is room for everyone. This is not about bumping anyone out but making space where there is plenty of room for different voices and new perspectives. That, in turn, makes the industry stronger. It makes our society stronger. This panel is packed with amazing talent and I am so thankful that the agreed to participate. Thank you, Breegan Jane, Bridgid Coulter, Ron Woodson, and Brian Pinkett. In this episode, you will hear about: Exposure, Opportunity, Education, Mentorship, Internship, Availability, Inclusivity, and Outreach. I am extremely thankful for the opportunity to present this conversation from the WestEdge Design Fair, recorded in October 2019 called, Design Diversity: Crafting our World the Way it Should Be. The take away from this is that there are more conversations needed, we need to be able to have honest exchanges of ideas without fear of saying the wrong thing and while we are not there now, my hope is that by having more conversations like this, we will be, soon. Thank you Walker Zanger and Thermasol for your support fo Convo By Design and thank YOU for listening to the show, subscribing to the podcast, and coming out to our events. There are more on the horizon and there will always be diversity in the voices and stories you hear. Thanks for listening and until next week, keep talking, listening, and creating.