This post was contributed by Krista Sykes, a writer and editor with a background in architecture and design. She has worked with many practitioners, institutions, and publications in the industry, including Contract magazine.
The following is a condensed version of the 2019 IIDA Educators Roundtable. An in-depth report on this roundtable event will be available on iida.org in June.
Educating the Future Design Professional with Enhanced Focus on Culture, People, and Research
To empower the design profession, educators and practitioners must embrace increasing diversity, expand established modes of thought, and champion education and research as invaluable, interlinked components. That was the primary outcome of an invigorating dialogue between educators, practitioners, and students from across the country at the 2019 IIDA Educators Roundtable. Presented by IIDA and hosted by Milliken at its Roger Milliken Campus in Spartanburg, South Carolina, the two-day event in March 2019 engaged participants in a series of lively, in-depth discussions on how best to equip the next generation of designers for success.
What knowledge and tools do emerging designers need to excel and enrich the profession as a whole? Over the course of the roundtable, moderated by IIDA Deputy Director and Senior Vice President John Czarnecki, Hon. IIDA, Assoc. AIA, 10 educators/practitioners, four practitioners, and three students shared experiences and brainstormed ideas for how all members of the design community can collaboratively support today’s students. Their insights hinged on a critical factor: the next generation of designers will be increasingly diverse. “In a global context, as travel, communication, and the means of conducting business have become easier internationally, the education of the future design professional has to accommodate a broader scope and context,” said Czarnecki.
Depending on their school and location, many Roundtable educators noted high numbers of international, first-generation, and non-traditional students. For interior design programs, there is no longer a “standard” student type, and to advance the profession in line with changing student demographics, schools and educators must rethink the way they support students of myriad backgrounds. Drawing from their own classroom- and studio-based experiences, Roundtable participants united around this topic, highlighting critical aspects of the educational experience that can empower emerging designers, those who educate them, and the profession as a whole.
At all levels, from the institution to the department to the classroom, a lack of adequate and clear communication is a major issue that the educators noted. Schools need to initiate conversations across and within departments about demographic shifts and the resulting impacts, for both the students and the institutions themselves.
“Educators have to completely change the way they teach,” said Liset Robinson, IIDA, associate chair of interior design at Savannah School of Art and Design (SCAD) in Atlanta. “Educators have to review fundamentals, terminology, and methodology for students who have received their education from other countries. This allows them to work off of the same page and then fly.” While Robinson refers to international students, her comment applies to all students.
Professionalism encompasses a combination of hard skills and specialized knowledge, educators noted, as well as soft skills such as self-regulation and competence. Soft skills may be hard to measure, but they are nonetheless vital for an emerging designer’s success. As director of strategic projects at Gensler, Darris James, IIDA, a senior associate at the firm’s Washington, D.C. office, spearheads initiatives to strengthen the skills, knowledge, and leadership abilities of the firm’s employees worldwide. James says soft skills—namely emotional intelligence—are highly important for new hires. “Emotional intelligence is absolutely critical,” said James. “The ability to cultivate relationships with people, have some level of self-awareness and social awareness, and be able to manage emotions and relationships are fundamental skills designers must learn before they go into the workforce.”
As evidence-based design expands beyond the realm of healthcare to inform all project types, from workplaces and schools to hotels and restaurants, designers and educational institutions are increasingly prioritizing design research. many firms increasingly focus on research-based practices, they will seek out designers who are well-versed in design research—who think like researchers, can undertake research projects, and translate their findings into actionable results.
In response to demographic shifts, top educators are evolving their teaching approaches to empower today’s emerging designers. Yet, the profession depends not only on its emerging designers, but on the next cohort of educators.
A worsening shortage of well-qualified interior design educators may be an issue in coming years, participants noted. To counter this pending educator shortage, students must be exposed to design education as a viable career path. Current educators can consciously mentor and encourage students who show an aptitude for teaching.
Coupled with the need for more educators overall, the composition of interior design faculty at many schools is not nearly as diverse as the student populations that they teach. A concentrated effort must be made across interior design programs to hire ethnically and culturally diverse educators, especially those that mirror institutions’ student demographics.
Educators and practitioners must work together to champion diversity, strengthen connections between education and practice, prioritize design research, and promote greater public appreciation for interior design.
2019 IIDA Educators Roundtable Participants included:
MODERATOR, FROM IIDA
John Czarnecki, Hon. IIDA, Assoc. AIA, Deputy Director and Senior Vice President, IIDA
Ryan Ben, Student Engagement and Advancement Manager
Aisha Williams, Senior Director of Industry Relations and Special Events
Krista Sykes, Ph.D.
Michael Eckert, Director of Marketing and Strategy
Robin Olsen, Customer Experience Concierge
Leslie Roberts, Product Launch and Customer Experience Manager
Mark Strohmaier, Vice President of Marketing
Allison Brown, Assoc. IIDA, Interior Designer, Perkins+Will
Darris James, IIDA, Senior Associate, Director of Strategic Projects, Gensler
Ana Pinto-Alexander, IIDA, Principal, HKS
Felice Silverman, FIIDA, Principal, Silverman Trykowski Associates, Inc.
Katherine S. Ankerson, IIDA, AIA, Dean, College of Architecture, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Amy Campos, IIDA, Founder and Principal, ACA, Tenured Associate Professor, Chair of Interior Design, California College of the Arts
Pamela K. Evans, Ph.D., IIDA, Director, Interior Design, College of Architecture and Environmental Design, Kent State University
Amanda Gale, Ph.D., IIDA, Assistant Professor, Interior Architecture, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro
Jane Hughes, IDEC, Assistant Professor, Interior Design, Western Carolina University
Jon Otis, IIDA, Founder and Principal, Object Agency (OlA), Professor, Pratt Institute
Michelle Pearson, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Texas Tech University
Liset Robinson, IIDA, Associate Chair, Interior Design, Savannah College of Art and Design
Virginia San Fratello, Associate Professor of Design, San Jose State University
Hepi Wachter, Professor and Chair, University of North Texas, College of Visual Arts and Design
Ying (Crystal) Cheng, California College of the Arts
Shelly Gregg, Western Carolina University
Xinchun Hu, Pratt Institute
Learn more about the IIDA Educators Roundtable and read the previous roundtable report.
Once again, the interior design profession is in the crosshairs of two pieces of legislation that seek to deregulate a variety of professions in the state of Florida. These proposals, HB 27 and SB 1640, have the support of a popular governor and the Florida Speaker of the House of Representatives. For several months, ASID and IIDA staff, member Government Affairs Representatives/chapter leaders, the profession’s contracted Florida consultants, and both organizations’ chief executives have been preparing for this moment and the forthcoming effort to make sure that at the end of the legislative session, interior designers are recognized by the State in an appropriate way befitting the professionalism of the practice.
HB 27 and SB 1640, which were introduced on March 1, 2018, will do several things. They would:
- Stipulate, “A license or registration is not required for a person whose occupation or practice is confined to interior design or interior design services”;
- Remove the interior design members from the current Board of Architecture & Interior Design and rename it as “The Board of Architecture”;
- Remove “interior designer” from the definition of “Design Professional” in statute leaving only architects, engineers, and landscape architects;
- Amend the definition of an interior designer under the “Qualified Expert” in the Building Construction Standards statute by deleting “an interior designer licensed under chapter 481” and replacing it with “An interior designer who has passed the qualification examination prescribed by either the National Council for Interior Design Qualifications or the California Council for Interior Design Certification.”
Additionally, as the result of IIDA and ASID’s proactive efforts in Tallahassee this year, unlike past deregulatory bills targeting Florida interior design, this year’s bills attempt (in theory) to maintain the ability of interior designers to independently submit interior design documents for permit by:
- Stipulating, “Interior design documents submitted for the issuance of a building permit by an individual performing interior design services who is not a licensed architect must include written proof that such individual has successfully passed the qualification examination prescribed by either the National Council for Interior Design Qualifications or the California Council for Interior Design Certification” and,
- Stipulating these documents, “must be accepted by the permitting body for the issuance of building permit for interior construction…”
IIDA and ASID Headquarters, in conjunction with ASID Florida chapters, IIDA Florida chapters, and unaffiliated designers, are jointly fighting to defeat or positively amend these bills to the best of our abilities.
To combat any harmful effects from these bills, IIDA, ASID, and our Florida teams, to date, have:
- Assembled a biweekly call of leaders from Florida IIDA and ASID chapters to keep them apprised of our efforts and how members can assist;
- Created an advocacy communication plan for Florida chapters concerning this issue;
- Created new advocacy materials for use in Florida;
- Retained Nortelus Roberts Group, a lobbying firm in Tallahassee, Florida, year-round and retained additional counsel to assist in the effort;
- Created a synopsis of the two bills for chapters, similar to what has been laid out here;
- Created a defensive narrative for chapter use in op-eds and letters to the editor across Florida;
- Organized a Phone2Action Campaign so members may easily contact their legislators to voice their disagreement with the bills;
- Testified before both the House and Senate.
As of April 8, Senator Joe Gruters of Florida’s 23rd district sponsored an amendment to remove interior design from the deregulation bill. The amendment was adopted and passed in the Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee. However, the industry is not in the clear yet since the bill still has to complete the legislative process and eventually go the to the governor for signature or veto. IIDA and ASID remain hopeful that interior designers will stay out of the bill, and staff and lobbyists continue to work on a compromise to appease both the design community and the legislature in Florida.
Stay up to date on all advocacy issues and alerts. Text “interior design” to 52886.
2019 has already proved to be an eventful and inspiring year for commercial interior design advocates. The hard work, passion, and ongoing efforts of the people within our community have been palpable, as we work towards legislation, build and sustain relationships, and bring important attention and understanding to the profession.
Here are the bills, efforts, and measures that have affected interior design across the country this year, and everything interior design advocates have accomplished:
In Iowa, a proposed bill that would have deregulated Iowa’s interior design law died in committee in March. IIDA and our lobbyists opposed the legislation and IIDA Great Plains president Leann Pederson, IIDA, had an editorial published in The Des Moines Register.
IIDA and ASID, on the national and local levels, teamed up to introduce legislation that adds state certified commercial interior designers as registered design professionals in Utah. This bill was passed by both houses in the state legislature and was signed by the governor.
In an ASID-led, IIDA-supported effort in North Carolina, advocates are continuing to push for permitting privileges in the state, based on previous years efforts. Currently, the proposed legislation would create a registration for interior designers that would allow them to stamp their documents for permits. In 2018, the bill received a house committee hearing.
In an IIDA led, ASID-supported effort in Ohio, advocates are planning to introduce a bill for voluntary certification of commercial interior designers with the ability to sign their drawings. In 2018, despite some political obstacles, HB504 was passed out of the Ohio House and received a Senate committee hearing.
In Massachusetts, advocates are continuing to push for voluntary certification with permitting privileges that would also allow designers to be majority owners of design firms, in an IIDA-led, ASID-supported effort. In the previous legislative session, the bill gained dozens of cosponsors.
In a Pennsylvania-state coalition led effort, advocates are continuing to push for a state registration with permitting privileges.
The Rhode Island governor introduced a budget that included taxing services such as interior design. IIDA and ASID, on the national and local levels, have teamed up to fight this effort. We have presented testimony about the detrimental effect the tax would have on our industry.
The Connecticut governor introduced a budget that included taxing services such as interior design. IIDA, ASID, and NKBA are working together to fight the tax.
In Texas, the state coalition filed two bills—one that would allow RIDs to file a lien on intellectual property and one that would add interior designers as registered design professionals in the government procurement bill. Both have been passed out of committee.
To learn more about the current state laws that regulate interior design, visit advocacy.iida.org.
Thanks to the IIDA Foundation’s Designing for the Future Campaign, five IIDA Student Members from across the U.S. attended IIDA SHIFT, the IIDA Texas Oklahoma Chapter’s Student Conference held in Dallas. This annual student conference brings together an array of top students, educators, and design industry professionals for a multi-day professional enrichment experience that includes project and firm tours, mock interviews, and a variety of other networking opportunities. More than a recap of the event, we wanted to know what parts of the experience made an impact on these students as emerging designers: from how to conduct themselves in a portfolio review and in a professional setting with their peers, to finding the motivation to begin a career in design.
Standing Up for Myself
I give credit to the SHIFT Conference for essentially reinforcing and reassuring me of the education path I have chosen. Over the past years, I have constantly been interrogated by my architecture peers, questioning why I had chosen to study interior architecture in addition to architecture. Admittedly, the questions had made me even start to doubt my education path and myself. However, all my concerns and uncertainty dissolved after hearing the keynote by IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl Durst, Hon. FIIDA. I felt as though Cheryl was talking directly to me and promoting me to make my own decisions and not to second guess myself.
While at the conference, I also attended the campus center roundtable, which was particularly beneficial to me as I am the current co-president of the Lawrence Tech University Campus Center. I was able to hear about what is working and not working for other campus centers and gain valuable insight from different perspectives. After hearing about other campus center leaders’ struggles and successes, I felt inspired and poised to return to my campus center and make further improvements to my campus center!
Curtis Bac, Student IIDA, Lawrence Tech University, Michigan Chapter
Looking Through the Lens of a Hiring Manager
Michael Horton and Harry Vicci from CallisonRTKL went through their interview process at their office and how to best prepare for interviews. They gave so many tips on how to present yourself and what kinds of questions to ask the company. It helped me to realize that I just need to be myself and find the perfect fit for me and the company. After going through the mock interview process, I now have an idea of how to conduct myself during a professional interview and what questions to ask as an incoming entry-level designer—once again teaching me how to be calm and confident and let my personality show through. The feedback I was given from my portfolio review helped me to view my projects through the lens of someone in a hiring position.
Jessica Payne, Student IIDA, Belmont University, Tennessee Chapter
Finding My Community
I’m in the final phase of my interior design and architecture program through UC Berkeley’s extension program and SHIFT was exactly what I needed at this point in my education. School is a safe bubble and as the transition into the “real world” looms before me, it honestly feels a bit daunting. Having the opportunity to meet such a huge range of my peers at SHIFT was truly motivating.
I really enjoyed the firm and showroom tours but my favorite aspect of the day was getting to know the other students. . Learning about their programs, chatting about what aspects of design resonated with us the most, and how each of us came to be on the same path was fun and settling somehow–as though I was finding my community of like-minded individuals. I also enjoyed hearing the work histories of our guides; being able to visualize transitioning from student to the beginning stages of working in the interior design industry was becoming more and more tangible.
Tessa Poppe, Student IIDA, UC Berkeley Extension, Northern California Chapter
Expanding My Network
In the Northeast, with the concentration of a number of major cities, we can become immersed in our own little realm. As a student, I have taken as many opportunities as were made available to me to involve myself in the design community. From a mixture of networking opportunities provided by Jefferson University, IIDA, and my various internships, I have grown familiar with the network in my region. However, I understand that as an emerging design professional, my work and experiences will not be limited to the Northeast as they have been in the past.
The IIDA SHIFT Conference provided me with the opportunity to exchange knowledge and experiences with other students and professionals from across the county—and a much welcome break from the snow in the North! In traveling by myself, I was put in a position where I had to represent myself and my university in a respectful manner without relying on the company of my classmates. I was given the chance to meet with representatives from firms and manufacturers that do not have a Philadelphia office, such as Cannon Design and Perkins+Will. The connections I have made, I hope, will last further into my design career.
Deanna Hagman, Student IIDA, Thomas Jefferson University, Pennsylvania/New Jersey/Delaware Chapter
Connecting with Firms that Inspire
My favorite part of IIDA SHIFT was the design Expo. Here, I was able to network with designers who work at the firms I’ve looked up to for years. It was incredible to hear about their experiences working in the industry and make those connections. The expo has actually led to three interior design interviews!
The last day of the conference, I participated in portfolio reviews, mock interviews, learned about negotiating a salary and experiential graphics. Each workshop left me even more inspired, motivated, and excited to graduate and join this wonderful industry. To finish off the day, we heard from IIDA Executive Vice President and CEO Cheryl Durst, Hon. FIIDA. By the end of her talk, I was on cloud nine. I was so uplifted and proud to be a part of such a wonderful industry and organization.
Marissa Keller, Student IIDA, Savannah College of Art & Design – Savannah, Georgia Chapter
To learn more about IIDA student membership, including professional development and leadership opportunities, visit iida.org.
The 2019 IIDA Industry Roundtable, held in January in Chicago, culminated in a lively, facilitated discussion with designers and industry representatives on the topic of communication best practices. Drawing on a few of the hot topics from the broader Industry Roundtable conversation, including learnability, flexibility, and artificial intelligence, the following are key takeaways and excerpts of the discussion.
Of-the-Moment Versus Enduring
With the transference of “fast fashion” consumer expectations into our own industry, clients are questioning why furniture needs to last 20 years. While designers work hard to educate clients about responsible product specification and the advantages of well-made, warrantied furniture designed specifically for the workplace, this wisdom can sometimes fall on deaf ears. Designers are navigating this challenge by specifying a balance of timeless and timely product in interiors—but often feel conflicted in so doing. Here are some key thoughts from designers on the topic:
“The ‘fast-fashion’ product model doesn’t stand up, but there is a market for it, unfortunately. It’s more of a startup mentality: How long is something going to last relative to things needing to change?”
“We are responsible for considering the embodied energy of the products we are huge consumers of. A very finite life span isn’t helping the world. Products that are flexible, reconfigurable, and that offer multiple solutions will become more important.”
“In Scandinavia, companies make furniture with parts that disconnect and can be sent back for reupholstery. In fact, the government mandates buying furniture that can be updated. Will our country one day move in that direction?”
“In the environments we are creating, we treat some furniture elements as more permanent and infrastructural, and specify others that can be changed out in response to needs or trends.”
Teach, Don’t Preach
Look beyond box lunches, 15-minute cookie breaks, and PowerPoint presentations when creating CEUs and education materials targeted at younger designers. Or any-age designer, for that matter:
“Ditch the PowerPoint and create video stories that seduce and inspire emotions—stories that showcase the beauty, simplicity, and sustainability of your design in simple ways.”
“It’s a myth that millennials only want two- to three-minute sound bites. If the information is pertinent and I’m engaged, I can sit rapt for an hour.”
“Consider restructuring how you’re putting together and synthesizing information. Tech rewired out brains: Once I get a point, I don’t want to hear it for 10 more minutes; I got it!
“I read recently that brands are not telling their stories in a linear manner because of their customers’ experience on the internet. The example given outlined that people don’t just watch one video or read one blog post but jump to various channels when exploring a brand or product.”
As technology automates the design process and frees up time for more conceptual thinking, practitioners are recasting themselves as “creators of emotional experience.” Manufacturers can support this phenomenon by promoting their product’ experiential side:
“Our premise is about elevating the human experience; we lead with that in every presentation and external communication vehicle. A client talk starts with a discussion about the ability of space to elevate the human experience—and to do the opposite if it’s not carefully calibrated and catered to the intended end user. Space is not a resource or a consumable or an overhead expense; it’s a strategic tool that can influence how we feel.”
“The workplace has done a 180-degree turn, customized to the DNA of the company. It doesn’t matter what we as designers think; it’s about how we are crafting an experience for this client specifically. That’s a shift in our critical thinking.”
Corporate Culture Trumps Cool Café
Millennials are more interested in a transparent, communicative, and egalitarian office culture than they are in gimmicky furniture or amenities:
“I don’t need beanbag chairs; I want to work at a place with a leadership team that is reflective of the industry and the broader populace.”
“At my firm, we don’t have amenity spaces—but we do have an open door policy. I’d rather have a good office environment and easy access to leadership than a fancy cafeteria.”
Emotions are the New Ergonomics
Yesterday, it was all about height-adjustability; today, designers and their clients want products that promote mindfulness and support emotional well-being. Furniture that’s responsive, context-aware, and environment-adaptive will play a starring role in the future:
“Could our furniture be collecting different kinds of data than just occupancy and movement? For instance, information about a user’s state of mind?”
“The psychology of space and neurological considerations will become more primary to how we design interiors. Systems will be able to ‘read’ who we are—and what our needs are—based on smarter architectural infrastructures.”
“Several emerging technologies in the smart building arena—including smart materials, displays, and surfaces—have the potential to fundamentally alter our approach to the design of workspaces.”
Words to Live and Work By
In what was a very buzzword-heavy conversation, the following terms were mentioned repeatedly in reference to the design of furniture and product; take them to heart:
- Head’s down
- Residential blur
2019 IIDA Roundtable Participants included:
INDUSTRY EXPERTS AND SPONSORS
Jennifer Ruckel, 3Form
Mark Shannon, Ind. IIDA, Crossville Inc.
Julia Ryan, ESI
Michelle Boolton, Assoc. IIDA, Gunlocke
Anjell Karibian, Haworth
Alan Almasy, Ind. IIDA, Herman Miller
Meg Bruce Conway, Humanscale
John Newland, Ind. IIDA, ICF
Roby Isaac, Mannington Commercial
Jackie Dettmar, Ind. IIDA, Mohawk Group
John Stephens, Ind. IIDA, Shaw Contract
Catherine Minervini, Ind. IIDA, Sunbrella / Glen Raven
Jennifer Busch, Hon. IIDA, Teknion
Adrian Parra, Ind. IIDA, Vitra
Teresa Humphrey, Ind. IIDA, Wilsonart
Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA
John Czarnecki, Hon. IIDA, Assoc. AIA
DESIGN EXPERTS AND IIDA INTERNATIONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Gabrielle Bullock, IIDA, FAIA, NOMA Principal, Perkins+Will
Susana Covarrubias, IIDA, Gensler
Edwin Beltran, IIDA, NBBJ
Annie Chu, IIDA, FAIA, Chu + Gooding Architects
Jeff Fenwick, Ind. IIDA, Tarkett
James Kerrigan, IIDA, Jacobs
Angie Lee, IIDA, AIA, FXCollaborative
Marlene M. Liriano, FIIDA, IA Interior Architects
Jon Otis, IIDA, O|A Object Agency
Doug Shapiro, Ind. IIDA, OFS
Sascha Wagner, FIIDA, AIA, Huntsman Architectural Group
Members at Large
Christine Dumich, Gensler
Mike Johnson II, IIDA, AIA, Perkins+Will
Kelie Mayfield, IIDA, MaRS
Patricia Rotondo, IIDA, Antunovich Associates
Smita Sahoo, IIDA, bKL Architecture LLC
Neil Schneider, Assoc. IIDA, IA Interior Architects
Learn more about the IIDA Industry Roundtable, an invaluable “brain trust” session for manufacturers and a quality opportunity for designers to exchange dialogue on issues addressing the built environment.
After a recent opportunity to sit in on an undergraduate design critique, Susan Fireside, art director at IIDA, recounts the lessons to be learned from student design portfolios.
There’s something about design students. They’re at that point in the road where they’ve been in school for long enough and are now truly ready and willing to start their professional careers. Feedback and constructive criticism are still welcome because they’re hungry for the real world.
And hungry is what I saw when I recently had the opportunity to be a guest at a Portfolio for Interior Architecture class at Columbia College Chicago. Taught by Tom Marquardt, IIDA, president and founder of marquardt+, the class combines curating a substantial body of work with learning about professionalism and the business side of the industry.
Marquardt is their instructor as he was mine in a branded environments class I took when I was getting my master’s. While I’m not an interior designer, I am an art director, so branding, visual storytelling, and finding ways to express a design story is what I do. I was happy to offer my guidance to this group as they put together a physical book to show potential employers.
Here are some key takeaways from that critique session:
- Carry your visual story through everything. The cover should connect with the inside, which should connect with your website, social media channels, and resume.
- Digital and print are two different mediums. If you’re doing anything for print, be sure to print out your work at 100% while you are in each phase of the project. From your initial concept to your work in progress layout, what looks small on a screen can look oversized when printed.
- Be consistent and streamline. Watch how many typefaces and font you use. Type and color tell a story as much as graphics and copy.
- Use images purposefully. When building your portfolio, think carefully about what you show and if it’s reflective of the kind of work you want to do.
- Edit. Curate. And then do it again. Your portfolio is an ever-evolving work in progress. Even if it’s your first, it will not be your last.
- Research. Look at which companies you want to work for and see how they showcase their work. What are they including? What are they leaving out?
- Technology is your friend. In today’s world, there are many different ways to showcase your work. Don’t be afraid to market yourself and show off what you are capable of.
- Make sure it can stand on its own. Will someone understand what they’re looking at when you’re not there to talk about it?