05/04/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011


Charles Cohen, owner of the Pacific Design Center, sat with Shepard Fairey, graphic designer, and Matthew Rolston, celebrity photographer, after hosting the 15th annual STARS of DESIGN evening. He asked them about the how they're changing business for this economy, what's inspiring them now, and why LA beats out New York.

Shepard Fairey: I grew up in South Carolina. My dad, he was the captain of the football team, and my mom was the head cheerleader.

Charles Cohen: Wow.

SF: So yea, the apple rolled a bit away from the tree. Except my dad is a total perfectionist and that is what we do have in common. But I didn't develop that until I was much older. He always called me a 'procrastinating hedonist', when I was younger... sounds good to me (laughing). I aced that one.

CC: Why did you choose LA for your headquarters?

SF: Growing up in South Carolina I idolized all the punk bands and skateboarders from Los Angeles. I also realized that all of the good work was in LA.

Once I realized how to get around I thought, 'LA's incredible.' It's got the entertainment world, a great design scene, all these different neighborhoods with different cultural influences. It's like five awesome cities in one.

It's unlike New York. You can be right in the middle of things, part of the action, over stimulated, or you can withdraw, the weather is great. So, I just think I'm going to be in LA until I die, probably because it's that great.
CC: Matthew Rolston -- an LA native -- what kept you here?

Matthew Rolston: I don't think I chose LA, I think it might have chosen me, fashion and entertainment are all parts of what I do. What better place to be than Los Angeles? Although, I do travel quite a lot to New York.

In New York you have accidental meetings. In LA, it is very intentional. You get in your car and you go some place and you see the people you are going to see.

The privacy LA offers is the ultimate luxury. And that is something that you can't actually have in the New York.

CC: LA chose me too. The Pacific Design Center and LA, together, drew me in and now I have a home here.

When I came out here I was just blown away by the architecture of the Pacific Design Center. So one thing led to another and that was 12 years ago. At the PDC I've focused on building a community for designers to exchange ideas, study design and be the best at their game.

It's all very different from Real Estate Development but I'd always had a passion for design.

CC: How are you each adjusting business for the changing economy?

SF: I'm juggling two different things. My fine art career has been on an upward trajectory. But my design firm has some clients scaling back.

We are using this opportunity to do a lot of pro-bono altruistic projects and also to work on re-branding the studio. Everybody is used to sort of wearing many hats and running lean.

MR: I would say bling is definitely out. And luxury is even a little bit of a dirty word at the moment. Yet, beauty and the desire to dream a little bit will never go away.

"Masstige" ... the Targets and Kohl's with their designer lines, is where the fashion world is migrating. In the last 10 years people have become more and more sophisticated about design. They just don't want to spend a great deal of money on it right now.

SF: The internet has really accelerated peoples access to design trends whether it's fashion, music or anything. The idea that trends used to start at the coast and then like 2 years later used to finally reach to the middle of the country is no longer the case. I have a clothing line and the target is 15 to 30 years. They are up on what's cool incredibly quickly.

CC: What is influencing you now?

SF: Optimism, optimism under Barrack Obama. A lot of the work I do has a social or political commentary in it. Having to be negative for the last eight years is, um, was anger. Anger is an energy, and that fueled me. But to be fueled by optimism I think is very inspiring.

I like a lot of the Vietnam era posters, and things that were trying to look on the positive side of how humanity could relate to each other in direct opposition to the Vietnam War.

CC: It was great to have you here tonight.

SF: There are good parties here! No seriously. It's funny I've been to a lot of great events that seem to attract a lot of interesting and creative movers and shakers and maybe I should look further into why they choose to do it here. Maybe there is something to that! (laughing)

STARS of DESIGN - Pacific Design Center
2009 Winners

• Lifetime Achievement: Ray Kappe
• Interior Design: Peter Dunham
• Product Design: Blackman-Cruz
• Art: Miriam Wosk
• Architecture: KAA Design Group
• Urban Design: John Chase
• Graphic Design: Shepard Fairey
• Photography: Matthew Rolston