Dwell on Design: Q&A with the man who runs the show

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Dwell on Design opens to the trade on Friday and to the general public Saturday and Sunday at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Earlier this week we checked in with the man behind the show, Dwell on Design Brand Director Michael Sylvester. We asked what it takes to pull off what’s billed as the West Coast’s largest design event.

Question: Dwell on Design involves more than 200 exhibitors, dozens of speakers and two days of home tours, among other attractions. How long does it take to organize each show, and how many people are involved?

We start planning next year’s Dwell on Design before the current one has taken place. Our 2010 exhibitors will re-sign for 2011 while the current Dwell on Design is still underway. Programming of onstage content and home tours takes shape about six months before show. Our attendee marketing ramps up over several months and hits full speed in the last few weeks before show.

The production of Dwell on Design involves everyone working at Dwell Media in some way or another. Our core event team is supported by our editors, who provide content programming; our design and production specialists, who produce a huge volume of print and online material; and our marketing department, which takes on a diverse range of communications and operations tasks. We also have a passionate network of sales reps around the country who are great at selling integrated advertising and exhibiting packages. It’s a team effort!


What’s the most difficult part to plan?

Managing the growth is a challenge. Our show has been growing rapidly, and making decisions about resourcing months in advance can be tricky. Also on another level, coordinating 120-plus presenters for a three-day show is a bit like herding cats. We have a small team dedicated just to that task.

The home tours are always popular. How do you go about selecting which homes will be featured?

I like to present a diverse selection of homes that represent thoughtful examples of modern design in a variety of aesthetic styles. In programming the tours, I like to develop some contrast, for example, by selecting a polished high-budget project that is starkly different from a more modest, small-scale home. Once I commit to one home, that house has an impact on the next selections. I like to balance new construction with remodels, if possible. There is so much great architecture in this city, it is sometimes challenging to keep track of all of the new work.

What are you most excited about this year?

I enjoy seeing Dwell Outdoor take shape -- the full-scale prefabs in a garden setting -- you can forget you’re inside the convention center. Also our Asia Now exhibit curated by designboom will be popular this year, I am sure.

When the show closes on Sunday, what’s the first thing you’ll do?

Start packing up the show, which takes a couple of days. Then I’ll go home and sleep for a week.

-- Craig Nakano