Reflecting on the 2023 IIDA Leaders Breakfast

September 8 2023

Event Recap

Honoring Legacy and Inspiring Future Design 

Four Seasons Hotel, San Francisco

On the morning of Friday, Sept. 8, the design community of Northern California gathered in anticipation and excitement at the elegant Four Seasons Hotel in San Francisco. The occasion? The annual IIDA Leaders Breakfast, a prestigious international event series that celebrates the essence of design and recognizes those who have left an indelible mark on the industry, hosted by the IIDA Northern CA Chapter.

Keynote Speaker – Sloan Leo

Illuminating New Dimensions in Design

Sloan Leo, the Founder and CEO of FLOX Studio, commanded the spotlight as the distinguished keynote speaker at the 2023 event. Introduced by IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl Durst, FIIDA, Sloan’s presence embodied the essence of design theory, practice, and facilitation, casting an aura of inspiration that enveloped the audience.

Sloan shared an anecdote as a trans man, shedding light on the challenges they faced in finding a space where they truly belonged. “Nothing felt like I was invited in,” they confessed, highlighting the need for inclusivity and diversity within the design community. In a move to spark meaningful conversations about community design, Sloan initiated a space where individuals could discuss innovative design solutions. The response was overwhelming, with their apartment quickly filling to capacity. Since then, FLOX Studio has launched – a platform that offers a unique blend of strategic management consulting and design education.

Sloan’s vision extends far beyond personal experiences. They firmly believe in a promising future, stating, “The future is coming – there is a plan for me.” Their mission revolves around the power of collective gatherings, emphasizing, “We can figure out how to live forward together.” In a world marked by constant change, Sloan’s determination to foster unity through design shines brightly.

Following their illuminating keynote address, Sloan Leo engaged in a dynamic Q&A session, sharing insights with Cheryl, and responding to thought-provoking questions from the captivated audience. 

IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO, Cheryl Durst, FIIDA and Keynote Speaker, Sloan Leo
IIDA Northern California President, Katy Mercer, IIDA and Honoree, Joan Price with Scott Dunlap.

Honoring Joan Price

A Beacon of Connection and Contribution

“LOL” doesn’t always stand for “Lots of Love.” But according to Jane Price’s 92-year-old mother, it certainly does! There was no shortage of “LOL” – whether it was laughter or a little extra love.

At the core of the 2023 Leaders Breakfast was a tribute to Joan Price, a distinguished figure in Bay Area architecture and design. Scott Dunlap of Gensler took the stage to introduce this year’s honoree, highlighting Joan’s remarkable career and her dedication to mentoring women in leadership roles.

While Joan Price may not have been a designer or architect herself, her visionary leadership during her two-decade tenure at Gensler left an indelible mark. She served as the first Director of Business Development and co-managed the San Francisco office. Her impact was palpable, as evidenced by her establishment of Gensler’s Client Advisory Council and her instrumental role in creating the global industry event, Design Forecast Live.

During her heartfelt speech, Joan expressed gratitude to those who had supported her throughout her career, including former colleagues and her family. She humbly acknowledged, “I owe everything to other people.”

Regarding the term “LOL,” Joan shared a different interpretation. To her, “LOL” can also stand for “Leaders of Leaders,” a nod to the exceptional individuals in the room who are driving change in the design field.

Looking ahead, Joan Price is optimistic about the future of design. She firmly believes that despite media narratives, the Bay Area and San Francisco are not in decline. Joan recognizes the dedicated community members working diligently to effect positive change.

In closing, Joan left the audience with a piece of wisdom: “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” And in a more lighthearted moment, she emphasized this point by repeating “LOL” three times, signifying the importance of laughter, leadership, and commitment in the world of design.

Thank you to our dedicated committee for putting together another extraordinary breakfast!
If you are interested in being a part of the Leaders Breakfast committee for 2024, please reach out.

Event Photos

Full photo album