IIDA Headquarters to Host Designers and Architects Talk

I am excited to welcome the design and architecture community of Chicago to the International Interior Design Association (IIDA) headquarters this spring for a superb series of talks.

IIDA, together with AIA Chicago in a first-ever collaboration, will present a series of Wednesday evening talks called “Designers and Architects Talk: A Series About Design and its Impact on Client Success,” that will address commercial interior architecture and design. Both architects and commercial interior designers will learn from the provocative discussions about projects, firm leadership, and design strategy.

March 20 – McDonald’s Headquarters: Impact on a Company, a City, and a Neighborhood

Speakers are Tish Kruse, principal, IA Interior Architects; Primo Orpilla, FIIDA, principal, Studio O+A; Scott Phillips, director of workplace management, McDonald’s; Neil Schneider, Assoc. IIDA, principal IA Interior Architects; and Grant Uhlir, FAIA, co-regional managing principal, Gensler. I will be moderating.

April 17 – New, Bold, and Entrepreneurial: Design Firms Changing the Face of Chicago

Speakers are Jason Hall, principal, Charlie Greene Studio; Ami Kahalekulu, partner, Twofold Studio; Sarah Kuchar, IIDA, creative director, Sarah Kuchar Studio; and Deon Lucas, AIA, NOMA, director, Beehyyve, E.G. Woode. The moderator is Chicago-based architect and AIA national board member Peter Exley, FAIA.

May 22 – Women Leading Hospitality Design in Chicago

Karen Herold, principal, Studio K; Jackie Koo, AIA, IIDA, principal, KOO; Laurie Miller, AIA, principal, Anderson/Miller; Meg Prendergast, principal, Gettys Group; and Patricia Rotondo, Assoc. AIA, IIDA, senior principal, Antunovich Associates. IIDA EVP/CEO Cheryl S. Durst, Hon. FIIDA, will be the moderator.

Ticket sales have begun for all sessions, and advance purchase is necessary to reserve a seat. Members of IIDA or AIA have a special ticket price of $10/session or $25 for a seat to all three sessions. The public is welcome at $20 per session. Student members of IIDA, AIAS, or AIA Chicago are free.

Sessions allow for 1 IDCEC-approved CEU for interior designers and 1 AIA-approved LU for architects.

Order your tickets now.

Thank you to Host Sponsor Corporate Concepts, Inc., and Champion Sponsors: Bernhardt Design, Mohawk Group, Mortarr, Patcraft, Shaw Contract, Steelcase, Tarkett, and Wilkhahn.

Cultivating a More Diverse Design Profession

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 2018 IIDA Student Roundtable series looked to the future of design with a focus on diversity. Interior design students and key speakers, including some IIDA International Board Members, participated in conversations that took place in New York and Los Angeles. The following is a summary of those discussions. A full in-depth report about the series will be released by IIDA in March.

As the world becomes increasingly diverse in terms of culture and ethnicity, the interior design profession faces a distinct challenge: how can practitioners create environments that support and celebrate these rich differences? And how can the design profession better reflect a more diverse world? In fall 2018, IIDA presented the IIDA Future of Design Roundtable Series—two roundtable events in New York and Los Angeles—where a total of 35 interior design students and 11 educators and practitioners gathered to discuss this issue. What emerged in the series, sponsored by OFS, was an unqualified call for change. Specifically, to successfully design for diverse audiences, there must first be a push to cultivate diversity within the interior design profession. For this to happen, it is up to all, in every level of the profession, to take action.

Diversity itself is a complex issue, encompassing different expressions of race, religion, sexual preference, income level, cultural background, generational affiliation, and one’s stage in life as well as geographic location. As expected, the conversations in New York City and Los Angeles sounded quite different, as would those in any other city. Nevertheless, both roundtable discussions echoed common themes that offer broader lessons about diversity’s essential role in the future of the interior design profession.

Promoting Change

The many advantages of diversity in the workplace—including greater innovation, better decision making, and increased financial performance—have been well documented and, on the whole, widely embraced within the design community. Yet, many individuals and organizations remain unclear on how to cultivate and fully utilize diversity. Here, the presentations by renowned practitioners and educators proved invaluable.

At the Los Angeles discussion, Gabrielle Bullock, IIDA, FAIA, NOMA, principal and director of Global Diversity at Perkins+Will, and 2018–2019 IIDA International Board President, highlighted Perkins+Will’s Diversity, Inclusion, and Engagement program, an initiative she spearheaded and now directs across the firm’s 2,200 employees. Annie Chu, FIIDA, FAIA, 2018–2019 IIDA International Board Vice President, principal at Chu-Gooding Architects, and professor at Woodbury University’s interior architecture program, emphasized the current need within the profession to making different voices heard and underscored each designer’s personal duty to position themselves as a leader.

In New York, Jon Otis, IIDA, 2018–2019 IIDA International Board Vice President, Pratt Institute professor of interior design, and the founder and principal of multidisciplinary design studio Object Agency, discussed his recently launched Diversity By Design Foundation (dxdf), a nonprofit initiative dedicated to increasing awareness of design careers among people of all backgrounds.

The ensuing rich discussions with the roundtable participants generated concrete and manageable ideas to guide all students, educators, and practitioners on the crucial path toward achieving greater diversity within the profession. These practical next steps as well as additional insights regarding diversity in the interior design profession will be described in the detailed report about the discussions.

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Participants of the IIDA Student Roundtable in Los Angeles.

Moving Forward with an “Activist Mindset”

With rising frequency, design firm clients are younger, more diverse, and demanding design teams that echo the demographics of their own organizations. Likewise, firms are seeing more community-related projects, which require designers who reflect and understand these communities’ specific cultural and socioeconomic issues. Bullock notes that all practitioners have a role in cultivating these designers. Professionals have a duty to inspire individuals with different backgrounds to enter the profession, engage with global content and society’s shifting demographics, and to foster diverse workplaces where all contributions are valued.

The roundtable participants—students, educators, and practitioners—agreed that, while discussion is encouraging and must continue, action must happen now. “We are currently in an advocacy role. And it’s time now to shift into an activist mindset,” said Angie Lee, IIDA, AIA, 2018–2019 IIDA International Board Vice President and principal and design director of interiors at FXCollaborative in New York. “Advocacy works within the established structure and rules, and we do everything possible to leverage the power we have. But when we adopt an activist attitude, we start to rewrite the rules. The work we do along established paths is important, but we also need to break out of the comfort zone and just do what’s right.”


The Student Roundtable series brings together interior design students and local practitioners to engage in informal discussions on both the current state of the profession and the future of design. Learn more about other topics discussed from the previous roundtable report.

IIDA Southwest: Building a Grassroots Advocacy Campaign

This post was contributed by Nicki Jensen, Assoc. IIDA, vice president of advocacy for the IIDA Southwest Chapter.

In the spring of 2018, HB 2532 was introduced to the Arizona state legislature. This bill would have stopped any municipality from imposing any licensing requirements or occupational fees on a variety of occupations that didn’t require much education or training, including interior design. Arizona’s current legislative temperature is anti-occupational licensure/registration, even for those professions already holding licenses. This can make it incredibly challenging when newer professions are wanting to achieve registration.

When the IIDA advocacy team made us aware of the bill, our local IIDA and ASID chapters had just begun a partnership. The bill had already passed state House and was on its way to the Senate. With the help of a lobbyist and dedicated members from IIDA and ASID, we were able to change the course it was set to take and educate our legislators. The bill effectively jump started our grassroots campaign.

In collaboration with our local ASID chapter, we immediately began planning for a joint fall event called STRIDES 2018 Advocacy Fall Breakfast. Abigail Rathbun, advocacy and public policy manager at IIDA Headquarters, updated our members on the recent events with the bill and spoke about being an advocate. Jason Schupbach, director of the design school at Arizona State University and former director of design for the National Endowment for the Arts, served as keynote speaker. He gave a rousing presentation about the design industry and where it’s headed. After four months in the making, the event was a hit.

And our sights didn’t stop there. This year, we’ve been awarded financial support from the IIDA Catalyst Grant to host another speaker event — this time even bigger and better! In the long-term, we want to achieve legislation to become Registered Interior Designers, which will require us to keep a close relationship with ASID, NKBA, and other aligned organizations. With the Catalyst and Advocacy grants, we’re able to continue hosting events while making strides in educating the public about what we do and how to become the best advocates for the profession.


Get access to tools and resources to help you become an advocate for interior design. Visit advocacy.iida.org.

From Concept to Reality: How One IIDA Student’s Booth Design Made it to Orgatec

In October 2018, more than 63,000 visitors from 142 countries descended upon Cologne, Germany, for five days to attend Orgatec, the biennial commercial interior design trade show dedicated to the modern office.  The show offers a broad international scope of work that some of us stateside very rarely see and a wider platform to share one’s design vision. It seemed only fitting that we use our presence at the future-facing trade show to showcase the skills and talent of IIDA student members.

We were proud to have IIDA Member Sana Khan, former student of the New York School of Interior Design now design professional at HOK, design the IIDA booth at Orgatec. Her concept was chosen as the winning submission of the IIDA Student Booth Design Competition at Orgatec by a jury of design experts including Todd Heiser, IIDA, creative director and principal at Gensler, Eileen Jones, IIDA, SEGD, AIGA, principal and global practice leader at Perkins+Will, and IIDA International Board President James Kerrigan, IIDA, design principal of interiors at Jacobs.

Using product from Vitra, the competition sponsor, Sana’s booth offered a fresh and modern interpretation of the space with opportunities to provide an engaging experience for Orgatec visitors.  We spoke with her about the project – the inspiration, challenges, and lessons learned.

Sana's Booth Concept

Sana’s concept for The IIDA Cloud. “Seeing something that only existed in my head in real life is a pretty incredible thing, and I was overwhelmed with joy looking at the booth I designed. My father owns a construction firm and since my childhood I wanted to become like him. It was my first design that became a reality and it was no less than a dream come true.”

A Hub for Design Ideas

“The inspiration was really IIDA itself,” said Sana. “The idea of connectedness, standing out and creating a network struck me as a great concept for the booth that would represent IIDA and its ideology to a layman in the best possible way.”

To reflect that network, Sana found inspiration in clouds, even titling her project The IIDA Cloud. “Just like how a real cloud plays an important part in atmospheric circulation, the IIDA Cloud would be the hub of circulating design ideas around the world,” she explained. Sana also unpacked the meaning of the digital cloud. “Today’s fast paced generation exchanges information through a storage cloud. Similarly, the IIDA Cloud would be the hub for exchanging design thoughts and talk about designing for the future.”

booth ceiling

Look up. “The idea of the cube is to reflect the purpose of IIDA, to make designers come together under one cloud – or roof – and extol design.”

Understanding the Client

Designers typically communicate with the client throughout all phases of the design project, but for this competition, students had to be resourceful when gathering information. Sana approached this by trying to understand IIDA as a brand before designing the booth itself. “I felt it was important for me as a designer to understand what the client profile was,” said Sana. “The biggest challenge was creating a design that represents IIDA as an organization and to do justice to its brand.”

orgatec group shot

Sana (far left) with select members of the IIDA International Board of Directors, IIDA staff, and her mentor inside the finished booth.

Balancing Aesthetics and Meaning 

For the competition, students were given a design brief that outlined what products needed to be in the booth and what features should be accommodated to allow for collaboration, engagement, and recharging throughout the show. What students didn’t get was a budget. As a result, value engineering the winning design concept was inevitable. Where some would see this as a setback, Sana saw it as lesson in the booth’s essential purpose: to connect. “During the competition, I learned how to design something that is practically and economically feasible to construct. The design should not only have an aesthetic value, but it should have a concept that people connect with.”


Follow Sana’s journey to Orgatec by checking out the Orgatec 2018 highlights on the IIDA HQ Instagram account.

Jon Otis Gets Real About the Future of Interior Design Education

Many of us can name the first teacher who made us feel truly heard or inspired us to pursue a longtime passion. We don’t always get the opportunity to thank these teachers the way we want to, but sometimes we do: In 2017 Jon Otis, IIDA, tenured professor at Pratt Institute and founder and principal of Object Agency (O|A), was recognized as the IIDA Educator of the Year.

Jon’s clients are varied, from the Sundance Channel to the National Basketball Players Association, and his credentials impressive (he is both a Fulbright and Lusk Fellowship recipient). He has had a distinguished teaching career with over 20 years at Pratt and a 2009 Most Admired Educator award from Design Intelligence.

We checked in with Jon to get his thoughts on what drives him as a design educator, how the IIDA award has helped him start his new diversity in design foundation, and his hopes for the future of interior design education.

IIDA: What do you see as your primary purpose as a design educator?

Jon Otis: Our primary purpose as design educators is to connect and to inspire. To install a passion for learning, to prepare our students as best we possibly can for a career in design, and to encourage them to think, to be discerning, to be critical and even, perhaps, to be humble.

Digital technology has been the most radical change since I started teaching in the late 1990’s. That has been the most critical innovation, and for the most part it has facilitated many things, but it has also impacted education in many negative ways. With that being said, it means that I’ve got to try and fill the gaps that technology has created, while staying abreast of the things that I can’t control so that my teaching remains relevant and interesting to my students.

IIDA: Can you tell us what it meant to you to be named the recipient of last year’s Educator of the Year Award?

JO: It was an amazing feelingan acknowledgement that is largely overlooked in our culture. Educators are most often the forgotten heroes. I say that not because of how I view my own abilities, but because of how my teachers have been the most important people in my life and how they have shaped it more than anyone, other than my parents. To be part of that heritage and to be honored for it is a dream come true.

IIDA: Has being named an IIDA Educator of the Year influenced your career? 

JO: Something that I’ve learnedand it has taken many years to do sois that a lot of teaching is about accepting humility. You must let go of the ego if you really want to reach your students. [Since winning the IIDA award] I’ve continued along this path feeling good about the acknowledgment and the honor. It’s perhaps instilled more self-confidence that I’m doing something right.

IIDA: You mentioned in your acceptance speech that you intend to dedicate part of your award to a diversity in design education initiative. Can you tell us more about that?

JO: We’ve been moving forward with the diversity in design initiative, dubbing it “dxdf” for “Diversity by Design Foundation.” The purpose of dxdf is to foster more diverse and inclusive environments in the field of design. dxdf will ultimately focus its efforts on targeting the pipeline from early education to practice, funding initiatives that encourage people of all backgrounds to see a career in design as a viable path for their lives. We recently incorporated as a nonprofit and are awaiting our tax ID for fundraising purposes. For now, we are working to raise awareness.

IIDA: If you had to choose the next Educator of the Year, what qualities would you look for in a candidate?

JO: I would want that person to be aware of, and interested in, helping our field to be more diverse. Whether that happens in the community or in the university, I do believe that it should be on any candidate’s agenda.

In terms of teaching interior design, I’d look for someone who is truly committed to the field, passionate about how critical it is to improve peoples’ lives, and having a diverse pedagogical approach.

One of the things I’ve been thinking about is how design curricula needs to evolve and how we must devise new curricula because, from a design education perspective, we’re teaching the same way since I was in school (aside from the use of new technologies, materials, etc.). A young Hispanic interior design student expressed frustration that nothing discussed in her classes is geared towards her culture or her economic strata. Another student from India indicated how Eurocentric the “canon” of design is, as if no design exists outside of Europe and the United States. I believe that design curricula need to broaden and consider other cultures that have quite a lot to contribute to a more comprehensive view of design.

My former mentor, Ettore Sottsass, was deeply engaged in exploring different cultures. He spent a lot of time in India and Africa, traveled around the world, and brought back what influenced him, which is what shaped his work. He lived life fully, and in living life that way, he expressed a global view of design rather than a “studied” one. We should all be asking: What’s happening in India? Vietnam? Ghana? Chile? What are they doing that’s a response to their culture, or a response to global culture and re-informed by their local cultures? The new paradigm ought to be a reevaluation of how we teach design and what we emphasize.


Learn more about Jon and his work by visiting the O|A website

Connecting the Dots in Experience Design and Community Engagement

This year’s IIDA Power Lunch at the Healthcare Design Conference revolved around the idea of “community” and the design of healthcare settings. The event, hosted by IIDA and sponsored by Construction Specialties, featured an industry roundtable, which explored the intersections of design, patient outcomes, and community experiences.

Healthcare environments are evolving to keep up with shifting paradigms of comfort, wellness, and corporate humanity. This means that healthcare systems are reconsidering how their spaces look and feel and what they offer the communities they serve.

Here’s what the experts had to say:

Healthcare Design and Community

Organizations are fast becoming more community-driven, and healthcare facilities can be designed as community hubs. “Through intentional engagement with a broader audience of community representatives and stakeholders during the design process, as well as enhanced program offerings, healthcare facilities can become destinations for health, wellness, culture, and education,” said Edwin Beltran, IIDA, Associate AIA, IIDA International Board vice president and design principal at NBBJ.

To ensure the complementary nature of the different programs and their successful viability as destination hubs, healthcare spaces need a balanced combination of civic, sports, cultural, and health offerings. Programmatic amenities could include locally-focused retail outlets, meeting rooms for community groups and civic organizations, wellness centers, healthy-eating demonstration kitchens, food outlets, and farmers markets.

Integration can also take on the form of “blurred boundaries” between patient communities and host town communities. Environments that are developed to embody the unique cultural identity of a community are those that provide true belonging and a sense of place. An example of this could be a healthcare facility with playgrounds and parks as part of its campus design. This helps present the paradigm of healthcare spaces as favoring socialization instead of isolation.

Wayfinding and Messaging
DM_Healthcare_Wayfindings

In order for a community to feel comfortable inside of a healthcare space and become truly integrated into its built environment, designers should consider how wayfinding and messaging affect visitor experiences. Sensory elements can be utilized to make a healthcare space feel inviting and welcoming: Pictures and symbols to assist with language barriers, calming colors that take into considering visual impairment, sounds that consider the hearing impaired, and words that are easy to understand and visually accessible.

Clinical spaces should also be committed to reducing the fear and anxiety that can often accompany a healthcare visit. “Community events and use of the facilities when the community is not in need of medical assistance is one way to make members of the community feel more comfortable in the space,” said Richelle Cellini, visualization specialist at Construction Specialties. “Retail spaces, yoga classes, or coffee shops within the medical space can also help reduce fear and disorientation.”

Humanizing Space

Healthcare architects and designers must walk in the shoes of patients, families, and caregivers with empathy, though this can be challenging in a world where schedules and budgets rule our frame of thinking. To create more humane, civilized healthcare spaces, designers should remember that a clinical environment does not have to look clinical. “Designing for the senses is one of the first steps to humanizing a healthcare space,” explained Suzen L. Heeley, IIDA, executive director of design and construction at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Through the integration of sound domes, holistic fragrances, tactile materials, and specific colors, clinical environments can become more comfortable and healing-driven.”

Integrating Community

Embracing community means taking on new approaches to delivering services, such as working directly with members of the wider community. “Creating partnerships between health service organizations and health professionals, clinicians, patients, families, caregivers, and consumers is viewed as a fundamental precondition for effective delivery of healthcare,” said Amy Sickeler, IIDA, design principal at Perkins+Will. “Studies have demonstrated significant benefits from such partnerships in clinical quality and outcomes, the experience of care, and the business and operations of delivering care,” Sickeler explained.

The clinical benefits that have been associated with better patient experience and patient-centered care can include decreased mortality and readmission rates, and improved adherence to treatment regimes. Partnerships could look like free public health screenings, public health forums, free literature and written information, and health and wellness programs.

Facility Resources

DM_Healthcare_Rethinking_Facilities

Rethinking the standards of a healthcare facility and the kinds of resources it can provide is important in understanding how medical spaces can better serve their communities. Healthcare facilities should be designed to provide top-notch security and function while maintaining external approachability, comfort, and visual appeal.

Healthcare designers should ask themselves: How is a healthcare facility equipped to deal with unforeseen emergencies like natural disasters? Does the facility have communal, family spaces? Does it have multiple accessible entrances? Do places that allow for relaxation and breathing room beyond the waiting room exist? “Facility resources should be closer to the point of care for the patient and not just in the lobby,” said Stasia Czech Suleiman, IIDA, principal/senior project interior designer at HOK.