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y conference

We Adore Dora Drimalas

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Dora Drimalas throws a Nike logo up on the screen at the Y Conference and says, “Does everyone know what this is?” The audience nods. “Well, this is what we call bread and butter.” That’s right, Hybrid Design’s extra-spectacular work for Nike is just their side project–what they do to fill the time when they’re not running one of their several empires. Just to give you the rundown, we’ll need to start another paragraph.

There’s Drimalas’ and husband Brian Flynn’s Hybrid Design, Nike wonderfactory. There’s Hybrid Home, manufacturer of that cool “Reservoir Dogs”-looking pillow. There’s Super 7, which is a SF store and a magazine celebrating Japanese toys. And there’s Neo-Kaiju, a limited-edition toy company where they collaborate with people like Tim Biskup.

Drimalas dresses cooler than any designer we’ve ever seen, and speaks with a bubbly earnestness that combines equal parts fascination and modesty. When talking about the popularity of their endeavors, she’s as giddy as a kid. Seeing Naomi Campbell on a couch with one of her pillows: “There’s supermodel ass on my pillow!” When hackers correctly predicted the SKU numbers for a limited-release toy, effectively purchasing all 50 toys online before they were actually available: “Of course toy geeks would be computer nerds. Awesome!”

By the way, Drimalas offered a free pillow to anyone who could name all the “shapes” in the Super 7 t-shirt pictured above. We’re guessing the offer still stands.

Mick Hodgson’s Terms and Conditions

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As the first post-lunch speaker of the 2006 Y Conference, Michael Hodgson faced some technical difficulties that would have been disastrous were it not for one thing: every time his Keynote presentation failed, he’d have to quit out and press “play.” So on some subconscious level, audience was continually reminded of the conference theme (“Play”), and its ability to remedy almost any design problem.

Hodgson’s work at Ph.D has served surfer-chic Quiksilver, rocker David Byrne and knockout LA restaurant Father’s Office, but it’s the Ph.D Brit-pop personality that really offers its clients a unique design perspective. The essential tenets of this philosophy are gathered in a tiny book that Ph.D produced, Terms and Conditions.

Through Hodgson’s presentation, you see that his clients fit perfectly within his collection of hobbies–the cycling enthusiast sympathizes with Quiksilver’s athletes, the former DJ is drawn to music packaging–and Ph.D’s personal investment paired with visual wit infuses each piece with exceptional clarity. Hodgson keeps it casual like his idol Steve McQueen, aims for classic with a twist like his dear friend Paul Smith, and always, always makes time for tea.

Y? Because We Like You.

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Michael Hodgson called the Y Conference “the little conference that could,” but this little conference has been chugging along for 11 years now, becoming so popular that this year, it sold out, prompting them to offer 100 additional seats in a Satellite Lounge. Although over a third of attendees were from outside the state, it’s a very Southern California conference: diverse and blonde; young and pretty–owing much to the lower-than-usual ticket prices that attracted local students.

Hodgson, along with Thinkshop instructors Petrula Vrontikis and Stefan Bucher, had taken the train from LA with Art Center students, but Bucher was regretting the decision since he had left behind the framed original artwork from the February issue of HOW which was to be entered in the silent auction.

Speaker Debbie Millman had presented earlier in the day but simply glowed after her live on-site broadcast of Design Matters, although guest Art Chantry had been puzzled about the time difference between St. Louis and San Diego and had called in with just minutes to spare. But Millman said her backup plan would have been easy: “Run the Milton Glaser show!”

The charming Doyald Young, who was teaching a Thinkshop on scripts, told us about attending Hermann Zapf’s 87th birthday last summer at a castle in Germany. Speaker and Midwestern belle Ann Willoughby sketched dutifully throughout the sessions on a gorgeous brown leather-bound book that matched her outfit perfectly. Eric Baker made his presence known by guffawing loudly during Dora Drimalas’ presentation, then when his phone rang–to the shock of all around him–he answered it while Drimalas was speaking!

At the close of the first day, after bum rushing Tim Biskup, about 400 participants stepped from utter auditorium darkness into the garden at the Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice, where well-deserved wine flowed, pinwheels twirled amongst the boxwood and a giant orange ‘Y’ faced a thrilling view of the Pacific. Iconic birds depicted in the conference materials dipped and sailed through the brilliant blue sky, almost as if they’d been hired by conference planners.

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