Good luck fitting into designer Suzanne Kasler’s busy schedule. When AD PRO got ahold of the Atlanta-based designer, she had just landed in Nashville, Tennessee, for a project installation after having wrapped a panel at LCDQ Legends in Los Angeles, and next week, she heads to New York to make an appearance at the D&D Building’s Spring Market. Despite Kasler’s on-the-go agenda, there’s one trip she always makes time for: the Leaders of Design Conference, an annual international event gathering designers, architects, and manufacturing executives hosted by the Leaders of Design Council.
“As most every designer will tell you, travel is our biggest inspiration,” Kasler tells AD PRO. “When we travel, we step out of whatever place we’re in and we get into a different mind.”
In April, she was one of more than 100 LDC members who traveled to Prague for four days of industry-relevant programming, design workshop visits, and historically insightful tours, with behind-the-velvet-ropes access to a few of the country’s most significant architectural works, including the Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia, the Nelahozeves Castle, and the Strahov Monastery.
For fellow attendee and designer Elizabeth Krueger, of the eponymous Chicago-based firm, the conference’s curated content, and the “authentic conversations” it often sparked was among her favorite parts. “The challenges you encounter as an independent business owner can sometimes feel specific to you, but you find that most people are having the same issues or challenges, so [the conference] is a great place to talk through what solutions others have tried,” she says.
Learning how to demonstrate courage and vulnerability in positions of leadership was a lesson learned in the opening session presented by Tom Andrews, founder of TJALeadership, a consulting firm that helps businesses reassess their organizational and cultural strategies. From an industry perspective, says Krueger, the points translated well into the uncomfortable conversations that can arise between designers and an employee, client, or vendor. “It’s about taking the time to pause and say, ‘There’s a bigger story going on here,’” she says. “If you’re able to lead from that compassionate place, we’re all going to get better results.”
After a morning of touring Prague’s Jewish Quarter, attendees sat in as Jerry Wind, a professor at the Wharton School of Business, shared the keys to creating value for clients and welcoming industry shifts in his talk titled “The Five Forces of Change: Your Reflections + Intentions.”
“We’re all dealing with this change that’s happening in our work, and what [Wind] wanted us to think about was what disruption means in our business,” says Kasler. “How do you disrupt your business to make it be relevant and stay exciting?” The session’s teachings reminded the designer of her latest efforts in helping Keith Arnold, vice president of Suzanne Kasler Interiors, launch his own shop in Atlanta’s Ainsworth-Noah showroom. “It was, in a way, a new way of thinking for our business,” she says.
One thing both designers can agree on is that the conference’s longest-lasting takeaway are the new connections made. “When traveling with your peers, there’s another dimension that you share together that’s unique,” says Kasler. “We are able to translate the trips into real connections—like when I’m working on a project outside of my city, I can now call friends from all over the country for recommendations. It’s kind of continuing education for our community.”
Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest