It’s a wrap: Configura’s 9th annual CET Designer User Conference in Grand Rapids breaks attendance records
Configura announces that the 10th annual conference will return to Las Vegas
GRAND RAPIDS, MICH., USA—Oct. 31, 2016—Configura, maker of CET Designer software, recently wrapped its 9th annual CET Designer User Conference with record-breaking attendance from people all over the world. Nearly 350 global contract furniture manufacturers, dealers, designers and IT leaders attended the conference held Oct. 18 and 19 at DeVos Place in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
It was Ali Rogers’ first CET Designer User Conference. The designer with Haworth dealer Business Interiors of Idaho in Boise, Idaho, said, "I loved that they offered classes to drive the passion of design. And the way that Configura opened the conference with the nod to the Olympics – that was hilarious."
She’s referring to how team members from Configura – “Configurans” as they call themselves – were featured in a short film spoof in the style of The Three Stooges that showed them preparing for their own version of the Olympics. The film opened the user conference and, as the lights then came up in the large meeting hall, Configurans from the company’s Sweden, Malaysia and USA locations marched into the room bearing flags from their respective countries.
"We’re now a global company – but we like to have fun and reflect on how close-knit we really are as a community of partners, developers and users," Configura’s Vice President of Business Development Peter Brandinger said.
Paul Riches is one of those users – in fact, he’s used CET Designer for nearly a decade, first as a design manager for a Steelcase dealership and now for Workplace Resources, a Herman Miller dealer in Vancouver. He’s attended every user conference.
"In a very short period of time, Configura and CET Designer have gone from this little-known product that everyone was kind of scared / apprehensive / cynical of instituting to a global brand that has effectively and efficiently captured a corner of the market without losing a sense of who they are and why they are doing this," Riches said.
This year for the first time, Configura combined its annual CET Designer User Conference with its annual Developer Conference, bringing users and developers together for a number of sessions. Preceding the conference was Configura’s biannual Partner Meeting, with many partners staying on for the combined conferences. Partners who have invested in Configura’s solution include not only Steelcase and Herman Miller but also Haworth, Teknion, KI, Inscape, OFS Brands and others.
"We need to put the people who invest in, develop and use our software as close together as possible,” Configura CEO Johan Lyreborn said. “That’s what these opportunities to meet are all about."
At the Partner Meeting, Lyreborn announced sales growth of 30 percent during the first three quarters of 2016. One of Configura’s newer products, CET Developer – which makes it easy for external developers to create CET Designer Extensions – saw 70 percent sales growth since the beginning of the year. External developers now include those within some of Configura’s manufacturer-partners as well as software development companies.
Lyreborn also discussed Configura’s expansion beyond office/contract furniture in North America and into such industries as material handling/storage and healthcare/laboratory, as well as Configura’s expansion in Asia with the plan to open a China subsidiary.
"People around the globe are realizing the power of Parametric Graphical Configuration [the technology and philosophy on which Configura’s solution is based]. So the issue for us no longer is one of getting people to understand our vision; now, the issue is talent and how we go about recruiting the best of the best," he said.
He noted that Configura’s business model means one doesn’t have to literally work as an employee of Configura – or even be in a city or region where Configura, or even its current partners, has a presence.
"That’s the beauty of it – with our platform, you can be anyone, anywhere in the world, and be a part of Configura and what we’re doing. You don’t need to be in Silicon Valley; you can be in Iowa or China or wherever and be doing great things in software development,” Lyreborn said.
CET Designer User Conference and Developer Conference
The 9th annual conference began with an update and sneak peek at CET Designer 7.5 (releasing Nov. 21) presented by Configura Chief Product Officer Nicklas Dagersten.
With 7.5, users will be able to produce 360-degree renderings that can be viewed on various kinds of devices, including smart phones and Google Cardboard. Users will see more accessory options with 7.5, enhancements to CET Designer’s Movie Studio and virtual reality technologies, and an added dimension tool on the 2D toolbar (a feature requested by users).
Dagersten said Configura also is looking at ways the program can be customized depending on the user. For example, in 2017, the company will launch a beta version of CET Designer specifically for salespersons.
"The user interface will be simplified with functionality geared specifically toward the sales end-user,” Dagersten said.
At the dealership where Tami Shulsen serves as director of design, various users already are adapting CET Designer to meet their specific needs; CET Designer in turn has changed the way the dealership works. At the user conference, Shulsen led a session called “The Changing Role of the Designer” and talked about how her dealership, Midwest Commercial Interiors, has embraced evolving workplace roles.
"Tami’s session hit me hard because we just rolled out a new procedure in our company with designers taking on more of the (sales) responsibility. Hearing her presentation was very eye-opening," said Rachel Scholtes, design manager at Business Furniture, a Steelcase dealer in Indianapolis.
Scholtes had been to a previous user conference in Las Vegas and enjoyed her time in Grand Rapids equally as well. "The conference was excellent – a ton of breakout sessions, great info and I definitely feel more connected with the CET Designer user environment," she said.
In another breakout session, Configura’s "PGC prophet" – Göran Rydqvist – spoke to designers and developers alike on the absolute importance of quality.
"Quality needs to be driven all the way through – even where you’re never supposed to look – and especially in programming code. We must program for the user," said Rydqvist, who is Configura’s vice president of research and development. He, along with his father Sune Rydqvist and Johan Lyreborn, founded the company in 1990 in Linköping, Sweden.
Göran Rydqvist developed the original programming language on which Configura’s solution is based. He has mentored many other programmers and has been key to launching Configura’s CET Developer program around the globe.
Other conference presentations veered into both technical and design discussions. Steelcase dealer Atmosphere Commercial Interiors’ Jason Lund presented on IT best practices and how to integrate Configura’s virtual reality technology with live design. Atmosphere’s Kari Anderson and Configura’s Tracy Lanning expanded on the discussion of live design with hands-on tips and tricks for interior designers to implement.
Brigham Young University’s Julie McHood and Configura’s MayLee Lai talked about Configura’s RevLink Extension, which connects CET Designer to Revit. McHood is part of BYU’s facilities planning group where she uses CET Designer to plan spaces and specify furniture for campus remodels and new buildings.
One of the people attending these sessions was Visualization Architect Amy Edington, who joined Herman Miller earlier this year to help launch its CET Designer Extension in North America and across the globe. She started using CET Designer – and training others in CET Designer – as a team member at Configura where she had worked for a number of years.
"Having worked for Configura, I think they’re amazing, and that’s why I attended (the conference). I’m passionate about CET Designer and what it has to offer to the dealer community, to make dealers more efficient in the sales and ordering process," Edington said. "All of the conference sessions were very helpful not only from a manufacturer’s standpoint but also as a way to help our dealers prepare for the journey they’re about to go on as they transition to CET Designer."
All told, the user conference featured 41 presentations and sessions over the course of two days. Most of the sessions offered continuing education unit (CEU) credits with the Interior Design Continuing Education Council.
Most notably were presentations by two internationally known design leaders.
Laura Guido-Clark – Design for Change
Renowned designer Laura Guido-Clark keynoted the CET Designer User Conference. Founder of the eponymous design firm based in Berkeley, California, Guido-Clark specializes in the skin of products – their colors, materials and finishes. She’s designed for such clients as Toyota, Hewlett-Packard, FLOR, American Seating and Herman Miller.
At the conference, she spoke about how design creates change.
"We use design to create an emotional connection – it’s why we’re here [as designers] – and it’s why design matters so much," she said.
Much of her presentation focused the visual, particularly on the power of color.
"Color is a language that precedes words; it’s one of the most powerful languages," she said. "Within 90 seconds of viewing something, people make a decision, and 60 percent of that decision is based on color."
In 2011, Guido-Clark launched Project Color Corps, a nonprofit organization dedicated to painting urban neighborhoods with color and pattern to convey messages of optimism and hope. She calls the work "optical optimism. … We're taking neighborhoods and schools and places that look bleak and transforming them."
To date, she and her team of professionals and volunteers have completed eight projects in California and are looking at expanding to locations across the country.
Cheryl Durst – Design & Culture: A Global Imperative
Another renowned design leader – Cheryl Durst, executive vice president and CEO of the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) – spoke the following day at the CET Designer User Conference.
"Design is important because chaos is so hard. Without design, we live in a world of chaos," she said.
And yet, design itself is in tumult: "Why we design used to be about making a living, client satisfaction, building a project. Today, it’s about making a contribution, dream fulfillment, building a better world," she said.
Other factors are driving modern design, according to Durst: the need to feel connection and a sense of place, the continuing rise of cities (especially smaller cities), increasing polarity in the populace and need for the nostalgia in the midst of complexity.
She also described how design used to create experiences for consumers – but now, design creates experiences for tribes.
Configura has already intuited this design shift, said Paul Riches: "They have built something far more powerful than just a community of users; they've built a tribe … a dynamic collective that is so much more than just the superficiality of its parts … corporate allegiances are tossed aside and users truly exemplify the nature of collaboration. It's a gathering of curious minds who are constantly reaching, exploring, questioning and inquiring of themselves and each other: ‘What now?'"
The question might also be "What’s next?"
And next big event for Configura, its partners and users, is the 10th annual CET Designer User Conference, which Brandinger revealed would return to Las Vegas (site of the first five user conferences) after three conferences in Grand Rapids and one in Orlando. The 10th annual CET Designer User Conference will be held Nov. 8-9, 2017, at the Venetian/Palazzo in Las Vegas.
In conjunction with the 9th annual conference, Configura held its Best of CET Designer Awards. To learn the winners and see their work, as well as to view videos, photos and presentations from Configura’s 9th annual CET Designer User Conference, visit www.configura.com/userconference.
Configura creates intelligent space-planning software for manufacturers, dealers and designers in the Contract Furniture, Kitchen and Bath, Material Handling, Industrial Machinery, and Laboratory and Healthcare industries. The company’s software products, including CET Designer, are used by more than 10,000 people around the world. Configura Sverige AB, the parent company, is headquartered in Linköping, Sweden, with commercial operations in Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Founded in 1990, Configura is privately owned with more than 120 employees worldwide and annual sales of more than $13 million USD. More information at www.configura.com.
About CET Designer
Based on technology created by Configura, CET Designer is intelligent, highly visual and intuitive space-planning software that simplifies specifying and selling of products in a variety of industries. It’s a complete solution that quickly and accurately handles every step of the sales and order process. In CET Designer, components that represent manufacturers’ products look and behave like actual products. Users drag and drop components into 2D and 3D virtual environments; behind the scenes, the software tracks components, calculates pricing and prevents user errors. Users can create and generate layouts, quotes, photorealistic renderings, movies, installation drawings, reconfigurations and bills of materials – in other words, everything needed to propose on work and place orders. CET Designer is the future of space planning. More information at www.configura.com/cet.