Lately I’ve been helping the AIA California Council plan this year’s Monterey Design Conference, putting in my two cents during discussions of whom to invite as speakers. So far, Thom Mayne, Gilles Saucier, Michel Rojkind, Rick Joy, Nader Tehrani, Monica Ponce de Leon, Neil Denari. Steve Luoni, and Francine Houben have said they’ll come and make presentations when the event takes place at the Julia Morgan-designed Asilomar Conference Center, October 9-11. This year’s title “Rethink, Renew, Reboot” captures the general tenor of the profession right now—how to pick up the pieces after the recent crash.

Because I’ve become hooked on “Mad Men,” I pitched the idea of inviting Dan Bishop, the production designer for the TV show, to talk to the Monterey crowd. Luckily, the rest of the organizing committee indulged me and said, “Sure, send him an invite.” I Googled his name, found the agency that represents him, shot off an e-mail, and followed up with a phone call. Within a day, I got an e-mail from his agent. A few days later, I got an e-mail from Bishop himself saying he was “interested and flattered” and planned to come. He said he would like to talk about how he and his team start their work by imagining “who is going to occupy a space and what they will do there.” Of course, they have a written script to work with, something architects usually don’t have. But architects can learn from this process, perhaps writing “scripts” with their clients or end-users as “characters” in a narrative.

Bishop also mentioned that his team keeps copies of Architectural Record from 1960, ‘61, and ‘62 nearby to help them design the offices, restaurants, bars, and homes of the show’s characters.