Why mDesign Live?


 An Interview with the Founders of the Event

A first-of-its-kind materials event for North America was developed by Surface & Panel magazine and the management of the International Woodworking Fair (IWF), the largest North American wood industry trade show.

mDesign Live is the new materials-centered conference created for interior architects, designers, and the fabricators who make those designs happen. Featuring twenty presentations by trending designers and developers of new materials and processes, the event is planned for Monday, October 28 and Tuesday, October 29 at the DeVos Conference Center in Grand Rapids, Michigan.


We sat down with Kevin Holtzclaw, the CEO of the International Woodworking Fair, and John Aufderhaar, the publisher of Surface & Panel magazine, to talk about the idea behind mDesign Live and what attendees can expect from the inaugural event.

why mDesign Live?
Where did you get the idea for this event?



 Kevin Holtzclaw: At IWF, our exhibitors of composite panel, hardware, and surface materials and coatings — who take up nearly half the show — were telling us that other events for interior architects and designers tracked design trends very well, but that visitors to these events never got the whole story: How do we get the effects we’re seeing? Who can do them? IWF has an entire hall devoted to sources for materials from around the world, but we’re aimed at manufacturers more than designers.

John Aufderhaar: Exactly. And from our perspective, we were hearing from designers who were tracking materials development through our magazines. But there was no event that really connected the dots between great design and the materials, technologies, and processes that make them come to life.

Kevin: So when we looked at the landscape of events for this market, we saw that on the production side of architectural interiors, the industry relies on the International Woodworking Fair as a clearinghouse for education and technology for furniture and cabinetry manufacturers, millwork firms and interior finishers. But designers speak a different language than woodworkers. So our two teams came up with mDesign Live.

Who is it for?
Who can we expect to see attending mDesign Live?

 John: mDesign Live will gather designers and the fabricators they have been working with for an inspirational immersion in what’s new and what’s next in all of our industries.

Kevin: Attendees will hear presentations about leading-edge developments in décor design,

hardware, lighting, coatings, adhesives...and of course surface materials. There will be information about the unique machining applications that make these things possible. Things they would see on the floor at the IWF 2020 in Atlanta, but mDesign Live will talk about the end result that machine processes and advanced materials can yield.


What’s the structure for the event? Is mDesign Live a trade show?


John: No – it’s not a trade show; it is principally a conference, with on the order of 100 informational areas in the break and meal areas. Attendees, both designers and fabricators, will enjoy a fast-paced two-day agenda loaded with several really revelatory presentations, delivered in 15-minute bursts, plus internationally renowned keynote speakers like Todd Bracher and Karim Rashid.


What kind of things will attendees hear and see?


 Kevin: A major part will be presentations by designers and architects who have tapped cutting-edge technology and manufacturing, in inventive ways.

John: Design-centered keynotes will anchor each day — including two of the best-known names in design — Todd Bracher and Karim Rashid. Rashid is, hands-down, one of the most prolific designers of his generation, with over 3,000 designs in production. Bracher is all about helping companies realize strategic differentiation through design, and leveraging design to achieve growth and elevate their brand in the marketplace, so he’ll have some great insights. 

The event will also include presentations by Formica’s VP Design Renee Hytry Derrington on “Blurred Spaces” and impacts of the “resimercial” trend combining work and living spaces. Masco Cabinetry’s Design Lead Sarah Reep will talk about wood grain and color surfaces “trading places” in residential and commercial environments. We’ve got Bruce Wright of X-Rite/Pantone, and Bill Munyan of R & M Group. Those are just a few names — we’re in the midst of finalizing our programming as we speak — but there will be plenty of top-tier presenters from BIFMA, AWI, and more. 

Bracher PRofile-01.png